The Pantheon Chapel and Palacio de Sobrellano, which comprise the Ensemble of Sobrellano in the Cantabria town of Comillas in Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_spain-24

Finding Palaces in Green Spain

The vehicle pulled up to the impressive Palacio De La Magdalena which overlooks the famous Bay of Santander. This allowed a brief glimpse of the Sardinero Beaches and the lighthouse on the Isle of Mouro. Dilemma; explore a magnificent, modern palace constructed in early years of the last century or get a better view of a bay which makes it onto a list of the most beautiful bays in the world.

I hope you like this image of the Bay of Santander?

The Bay of Santander in Cantabria in the region known as Green Spain or Secret Spain in the north of the country on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain 007 (2)

A worthy distraction

Palatial Green Spain

However, the palace is an impressive building, and the reason for visiting this part of northern Spain, also known as “Green Spain” or “Secret Spain” was to experience the palaces and wineries of the region.

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The Palacio de la Magdalena )Palace of Magdalena in the Cantabrian region of northern Spain known as Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain 006 (2)

Palacio de la Magdalena

It may come as a surprise to discover that the Basque Country and Cantabria have many palaces, and that it is possible to even stay overnight in some of them. In this part of the world palaces come in a variety of shapes and sizes, like the castles of Scotland or Wales, unlike castles however, some of them even include a vineyard; now that’s my kind of palace!

The Marqués de Riscal might just fit the bill perfectly, designed by Frank O. Gehry, known as the “City of Wine”, with its flowing metallic architecture and surrounded by row upon row of sun ripened grapes grown to produce wine it is an ideal combination. An extravagantly designed hotel, comparisons to another O.Gehry creation, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao are obvious, it is a palace of modern design.

The Frank O, Gehry designed Marqués de Riscal hotel and winery known as the City of Wine near Laguardia in the Basque Country of Green Spain in the north of Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain 001 (2)

Marqués de Riscal or the City of Wine

Located close to the City of Wine, is Laguardia an attractive town in the Rioja Alavesa region. A few hours earlier, I had been walking the narrow, quiet streets, before enjoying lunch in Hospederia Los Parajes, a great little restaurant in the town. Exploring the charming villages of Europe and Green Spain in particular with a camera in hand is one of my favourite pastimes and Laguardia was an idyllic couple of hours idly passed.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to escape even a palace”

Producing wine in the vineyards of Green Spain the region of wine producing country in northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain montage9

This is wine country

Wine of Cantabria at a winery in northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain 003 (2)

Secret Spain for wine

An Ensemble of Palaces

In Comillas, a special treat, two palaces for the price of one, including the Antoni Gaudi designed “El Capricho de Gaudi” and the “Palacio de Sobrellano”. Gaudi was commissioned to design El Capricho in 1883 as a summer villa to the nearby Palacio de Sobrellano del marqués by Máximo Diaz de Quijano. I wasn’t too surprised to discover that the English translation of capricho is whim as the building is eclectic to put it mildly. The initial motivation behind building the palace and the design itself seem products of whim.

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The Antoni Gaudi designed El Capricho in Comillas, Cantabria in the northern Spain region of Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_spain-22

El Capricho

The Antoni Gaudi statue at the El Capricho palace in the Basque Country, Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_spain-23One of Gaudi’s early creations, with a tower known as the Persian Minaret was built to suit the tastes of a musician. There are numerous references to music, notes around the minaret, and of course a capriccio is a flowing, free-form composition, while the Capricho árabe is a classical piece for the guitar by the Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega.

Musical instruments feature on some of the stained-glass windows, but the most charming windows were on the upper floor, chiming melodiously as they are lowered. A pleasant surprise, which brought a smile to the face of all within earshot.

The Pantheon Chapel and Palacio de Sobrellano, which comprise the Ensemble of Sobrellano in the Cantabria town of Comillas in Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_spain-24

The Ensemble of Sobrellano

The much larger neo-Gothic Palacio de Sobrellano was designed by Modernista architect Joan Martorell. Completed in 1888, several years after it’s summer villa and is now a museum owned by the Cantabrian government. Between the two palaces, there is a grand chapel, the Pantheon Chapel,  which completes the Ensemble of Sobrellano. These impressive buildings are stacking up, we now have three!

My favourite spot was a quiet, little corner outside El Capricho, where a statue of Gaudi himself sits staring up admiring his creation. Maybe he is considering whether he was too conservative or possibly it would look better in pink.

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A leg of Serrano ham at Hospederia Los Parajes in Laguardia in the Basque Country in the Green Spain region of northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_Spain 005 (2)

Waiting to be carved; Hospederia Los Parajes

The region has a rich history, with a scattering of these spectacular buildings and some less grandiose palaces. Every reasonably sized town seems to have at least one palatial construction and for those that enjoy tracing the history of a destination through its architecture, there is plenty to explore.

Filled with ornate, antique furniture, and fine art, many have been converted into museums, so it is possible to explore them inside and out. Plenty of the smaller palaces have been converted to boutique hotels, so now it’s possible to even stay in a palace!

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A small palace of a returning "Indiano" in Cantabria in the northern Spenish region of Green Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure travel, photography, travel Iain Mallory_spain-19

One of the regions smaller palace museums

I was grateful our group also fitted in a visit to the Altamira Cave and Museum, a favourite of this site and a must visit when visiting Cantabria, Green Spain. The kind of art I prefer to contemplate, though a glass of wine would be most welcome too.

I was welcomed to this region of Green Spain by the relevant tourism boards but as always all opinions are my own.

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Comments 11

  1. same day agra tour by train

    Great post! Spain has been on my bucket list! It is most beautiful destination to visit and enjoy there. You shared awesome pictures in your post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  2. Golden Triangle Tour 4 days

    Wow! These are really very amazing places thanks for sharing this post. Spain is the country which wants exploration and here it is proved.

  3. Jennifer Grey

    Thought Gaudi’s Master works are unique and takes prominent position in building Barcelona. I never heard about all the places mentioned in the post, the title ” Green Spain” is really interesting. Thanks for sharing such informative blog.

  4. ANJANA

    Wow, these places are breathtaking…
    all images are stunning and beautiful…
    Marbella is another exotic place to visit in Spain…
    thank you for sharing this amazing article…

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