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Between the cloudy northern coast and the sun-drenched plains are Spain’s mountains, the Picos De Europa. Thanks to the creative art known as geography, they are the seeming gatekeepers of the country’s precipitation. Taking a drive through the narrow foggy forest lanes is a ghost train & rollercoaster in one. Being from China, we used the technique known as “goodbye brake hello horn” and cruised along without harm save for a few dagger-eyes.

Ascending through layers of fog and rain following a local friend’s rough instruction and exactly around the hairpin bend as described we emerge into a curiously beautiful village; Malleza.

The English translation of the story goes that the locals were amongst the first returnees to Spain in the 17th century. They were also amongst the most opulent and brought with them a taste for distant architecture. The result is a hamlet of painfully and ornately panelled houses and halls, each with a take on detailed execution.

There’s enough for a stroll around the triangle of roads that circles the village to catch them all. Then down to the Palacio Conde De Toreno for a night in an almost Ghibli-esque bastion turned hotel from which the views over the valley are utterly marvellous.

After Leon, Polvazares and Cudillero, would here be the knock-out meal to prove Spain’s gastronomic prowess? On a local friend’s recommendation we were whisked over to Casa Mama on the outskirts of the village. Seated in the best table in the restaurant (in front of the TV!) we were led joviantly through Mama’s rendition of croquettes, fried cheese, fried calamari and plenty of fries. If only the Al Son Del Indiano had been open!

Fortunately we had another good tip-off and descended into Sales to the Casa Del Profesor for some rather phenomenal and clearly historical cookies.

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