FOR MANY Brits, foreign holidays started in Spain with Benidorm’s high rise hotels and full English breakfasts. However, the country has far more to offer besides the south coast’s expat colonies and booze-fuelled nightspots which many people associate it with. In June this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to two very different Spanish destinations; Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands and Cantabria in Northern Spain
Closer to Africa than Europe, Fuerteventura lies just sixty miles off the coast of Western Sahara. This location provides the island year round sunshine and a barren desert landscape in the interior. The coast around Corralejo, however, is a different story, with sand dunes and palm trees flanking beaches leading to a crystal clear sea, giving the impression of a tropical paradise.
With little in the way of sightseeing to do here, relaxing on the beach and enjoying the warm waters is the order of the day, although those who like getting active on their holiday can enjoy watersports, such as surfing and windsurfing. Bearing the heat and rough terrain, I hired a bike to cycle the trails around the volcanic landscape which borders the resort.
For those who wish to travel a little further afield, neighbouring Lanzarote can be reached by ferry in around thirty minutes. While not geographically close to Spain, the island feels distinctively Spanish, with its tapas bars and late mealtimes. The food here is delicious, with strong influences from the New World; steak features heavily while the Canary Islands potatoes cooked in salt water and served with tasty Mojo sauce are to die for. For those in search of sun, sea and relaxation on a real life desert island, Fuerteventura certainly fits the bill.
In complete contrast to Fuerteventura, Cantabria, on the Northern Spanish coast, is a green pastoral landscape, which could be associated more with the Alps than Southern Europe. I sailed to the city of Santander by ferry from Plymouth in Devon, with the relaxing mini cruise lasting around eighteen hours each way.
Upon arrival, a grand city awaited, with its imposing buildings and piazzas providing a distinctively European style. My hotel faced Sardinero Beach, a long stretch of golden sand on the Atlantic Ocean, which evoked an era of faded seaside holiday elegance.
Leaving the city behind, an excursion to the fairy-tale village of Santillana del Mar, just twenty miles away, provided a chance to see traditional rural architecture and sample some of the region’s local cider. Food wise, seafood is the order of the day in these parts, with fishing fleets landing fresh catches on a daily basis, providing restaurants with specialities such as octopus, squid and langoustines. The tapas in these parts is also very good, with a wide selection of traditional venues located throughout Santander. It’s, therefore, clear to see that for a city break at the seaside, this Spanish city is a real winner.
These visits have shown me that there are many aspects to Spain, with each destination different from the other and all certainly worth exploring.
Fuerteventura: I travelled on a British Airways Holidays package, which cost £240 including return BA flights from London Gatwick and seven nights self-catering accommodation in the resort of Corralejo. www.britishairways.com
Santander: Brittany Ferries sails regularly between Plymouth and Portsmouth and Santander, with packages including accommodation available. Check the website for special offers. www.brittanyferries.co.uk
There are lots of other possible travel options out there on the internet to find, including some great deals so keep your eyes peeled.