Eating and Drinking like a local

By Ilbra Yacoob, Protravel International Luxury Travel Agent

Day 1 - Welcome to Asturias!

As your plane descends from the hour-long flight from Madrid, your aerial view becomes greener by every drop in elevation. You’ve arrived in what is known as Green Spain, Asturias. Given the small size of Asturias Airport, claiming your luggage and renting a car is quick and easy.

Just a 35-minute drive from the airport stands the charming, boutique hotel where you’ll check-in, La Ermita de Deva. Tucked in among the rolling green hills of Gijon, this quaint establishment retains its historical façade that dates to 1701. Once a chapel built by 2 monks for Saint Antonio, now a family owned heirloom. Every room opens its windows to astoundingly beautiful views of green mountains and the well-maintained landscape of the property.

Mara and her team are known to spoil their guests with superb hospitality and home-cooked culinary delights of Asturian cuisine. Adjacent to her dining room, you can enjoy refreshments and spirits in the beautiful covered patio lined with terracotta tiles. It goes without saying that there is lots of love and effort put into running this little paradise. Take a stroll through the tiny crooked streets and beautiful countryside for a taste of rural life before turning in for the night. 

Day 2- Touring A Spanish Cider House, Mastering the High Pour, Drinking & Eating like a Local with Begoña of Cidertour Spain

A family tradition dating to 1925, “Casa Trabanco” is known to produce the finest Asturian Cider, better known in these parts as “Sidra”. On these grounds, aromas of fermented apples and spectacular views of green apple orchards make their presence known at every turn. The climate here is the perfect setting to grow apples. It’s no wonder you’ll find traditional Sidreria’s dotting the streets of Asturias. Today you’ll discover the art of traditional Sidra production. Navigating your way through cider tunnels you’ll pass enormous silos housing thousands of liters of fresh, tart Sidra. Keep an eye out for the gigantic wooden apple press. Concluding your tour with a lesson in the “High pour”, you’ll taste Sidra directly out of wooden barrels along with Asturian Cheeses. For lunch, you’ll be dining at Restaurante Casa Trabanco where the buzz of local’s conversation ignites a sense of excitement. 

Day 3 -On the Drive up to Tielve

A pleasant 2-hour drive from La Ermita de Deva, the road leads you towards mountain canyons winding in and out of lush green pastures. A place easily mistaken for the Swiss Alps. Except you’ve reached a hidden gem situated within the Cabrales municipality of Asturias, Tielve. With vast green hills and rocky granite peaks all around, you’re quickly reminded of how little space we occupy on this planet. One can’t help but be in awe of the greatness that surrounds. At the foothills, you may catch a glimpse of die-hard hikers with trekking poles in hand preparing for their climb ahead.

Your scenic drive may be interrupted by a herd of goats that went off their daily grazing path. Perhaps it’s their milk that’s used in the making of Cabrales, Spain’s King of blue cheeses. One that’s aged within caves tucked into the same mountains edging these serpentine roads. With the abundance of pastures here, it makes sense why animal husbandry has become the common agricultural activity.

At your destination, the Valfriu family, traditional shepherds and cheese makers, will be awaiting your arrival. Salud, mother and wife, proudly holds the champion title of the 2018 “Best Cabrales in the World” award. You’ll hop into a 4X4 for a short drive up the narrow dirt road towards the area that marks the beginning of your hike. As you start your trek up towards the cheese cave, father Aquilino, and son Juan will lead the way all the while herding their 70 cows, 170 goats, and 98 sheep.

Trekking Tielve with Shepard's and Exploring a Natural Limestone Cheese Cave

Every step of the way, your senses are heightened! Your ears filled with the sound of cowbells, your nose picking up the scent of the fresh green grass and rich soil beneath your feet. Your eyes capture the vastness that towers over. Perhaps you’ll witness the beauty of wild horses trotting these stunning opulent green hills.

The location of these natural cheese caves guarantees an internal moist ambiance with temperatures of 48° Fahrenheit. Don’t forget your head lamp! It's dark in here. Once you arrive at the entrance of the cave, Juan will lead you inside where you’ll discover wooden shelves stacked with wheels of cheese. Older one’s are rustic and dotted with blue mold, and younger ones silky white. On a weekly basis, Juan and father Aquilino transport wheels of Cabrales that Salud makes. Often by foot, and in the depths of winter, by horseback. Lined with natural blue mold, the walls of these limestone caves aide in the maturation of Cabrales. No, inoculating the wheels is not necessary, as the persistent mold penetrates the wheels from the outside to their very core.

After exploring the cheese cave, you’ll make your way back down where you have the option to purchase Cabrales from the cheese maker herself, Salud. Or simply toast to a glass of wine while ripping pieces of bread to slather with a hefty chunk of Cabrales cheese to conclude your experience. Salut!

LUNCH OPTION:

on the way back from the hike, Restaurant Casa Niembro- Big advocates for the Slow Food Movement. Gluten Free options available. Must have: Their Lamb!

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