One of last year’s biggest box-office hits, “The Kids Are Alright” invited us to travel by train through the green landscapes of Asturias, although the protagonists of Santiago Segura’s film enjoyed the surroundings rather less, considering that they were looking for their children from train to train.
To avoid surprises and enjoy a real “slow travel”, we give you the keys on how to organise a relaxed itinerary through the Principality of Asturias, well-stocked with narrow-gauge railway routes (FEVE) that pass through some of its most beautiful corners.
The Orient Express of the Cantabrian
Who hasn’t dreamt of a film journey on the Orient Express? After watching one of the versions of Agatha Christie’s novel (most recently Kenneth Branagh’s), it’s easy to imagine adventures on rails across Europe.
In Spain, there are several similar luxury trains offering itineraries in the south and north of the country. A fantastic option for touring not only the Principality but the entire Cantabrian coast is to board the Transcantábrico Express or the Costa Verde Express. Seeing the beautiful landscapes of Euskadi, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia on board a historic train with luxury hotel status is one of those journeys dreamed of by many.
However, if time or money is not enough, there are other options that allow you to take a day trip in a relaxed way, enjoying the views, the places and the gastronomy of each town, village and city. If you add to that the incentive of following in the footsteps of great productions, the ideal plan for your next trip is guaranteed.
The main characters of “A todo tren” looking for their children / Asturias Film Commission
“Asturias is a good place to «torrent»”
Travelling along the Asturian narrow-gauge routes
In addition to the conventional gauge tracks on which the fastest trains run (the ones we know from RENFE), the narrow gauge railways (FEVE) are still in operation in many parts of Spain. These trains, which are more modest and slower, can run through more winding and difficult terrain, offering us the chance to contemplate some exceptional views.
Asturias is one of the Spanish destinations with the most travel options on FEVE. From east to west or vice versa, it is possible to visit many of the most charming seaside towns along the Cantabrian coast. The idea is to choose a starting point – it could be Oviedo or Gijón – and a coastal destination. Along the way, proposals for screen tourism will emerge to complete a perfect trip.
Some of the stops we suggest are these.
From Gijón to Ribadesella
The best place to take a selfie is at the sports dock / Asturias Film Commission
If you’re spending a few days at the beach in lively Gijón and would like to get to know Asturias better, a three-hour drive will take you to Ribadesella, one of the most seaside towns in the Principality. You will probably be familiar with it as the finishing point of the International Descent of the Sella, the most important canoeing event in Spain. And if you haven’t yet enjoyed this experience, you should put it on your bucket list. Water, nature, fun and sport for everyone -children, adults and pets- in a canoe trip lasting a few hours, with frequent stops to recharge your batteries with a cider and some pastries. Memorable.
Once in Ribadesella, which you will have reached by train, take a tour of its many casas de indianos (mansions built in the 19th-20th centuries by Spaniards who made their fortune in America) and visit one of the sanctuaries of Spanish prehistoric art: the Tito Bustillo cave. Nearby is the Cuevona de Ardines, where an episode of “Alma”, the horror series by the former screenwriter of The Orphanage, was filmed and which you can watch on Netflix. Another place to visit in Ribadesella is its fishing port, which can be explored along a curious route of ceramic murals that narrate the history of Ribadesella from prehistoric times to the present day. The design of the murals is the work of the well-known humorist Antonio Mingote.
The river Sella as it passes through Ribadesella / Asturias Film Commission
Back in Gijón, the leisure options are as varied as the city itself: stroll leisurely along its long seafront promenade, starting at the Roman baths of Campo Valdés and ending in an area known locally as “el rinconín”, full of lively restaurants and beach clubs; go for cider and tapas in Cimadevilla; visit the spectacular Universidad Laboral (the setting for films such as “Mortadelo y Filemón” and “Fuga de cerebros”) and the fantastic Botanical Gardens (opposite each other) or take the youngest members of the family to the Aquarium. Gijón offers experiences for all tastes. Also cinema. From the legendary “Volver a empezar” to the more recent “Si yo fuera rico”, these films were shot in almost every possible location in this beautiful city. If you want to know everything about cinema and Asturias, we recommend a visit to the CICA – Centro de Interpretación del Cine de Asturias.
From Oviedo to Cudillero
You don’t need any special reason to visit the Asturian capital. This medieval city never bores its visitors as it has many gastronomic and cultural offerings, such as its cathedral or its bustling market squares. For a screen tourist, it is obligatory to greet Woody Allen’s sculpture, who described the city as “a delightful, exotic, beautiful, clean, pleasant, quiet, pedestrianised city; it is as if it did not belong to this world, as if it did not exist…. Oviedo is like a fairy tale”. The American filmmaker was here in 2002 to receive a Prince of Asturias award and returned to film “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona”.
“Oviedo is a delightful, exotic city… it’s like a fairy tale”
Panoramic view of Cudillero / Asturias Film Commission
Cudillero is one of those picture-postcard villages that looks like something out of the Amalfi coast. In fact, when it appeared in “Back to the beginning” in 1983, some people thought it was a set. Approaching its entrance, walking along the estuary that leads to it, is a unique experience. It is also one of the liveliest towns in the Asturian summer. Dining in its port, drinking cider in its cider bars and shopping in its nautical shops is a tradition for many travellers and foreigners.
We hope we have given you some ideas for organising your slow travel experience in this natural paradise in northern Spain. Thanks to its people and landscapes, Asturias Film Commission continues to attract filming year after year -some on board a train- and others, touring its towns and villages. So, don’t hesitate, travel to Asturias and remember, live what you see!
By María Parcero
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