Ladies and gentlemen,
As the Royal Endeavors travel adventures in Basque Country appear to be slowly coming to an end, I would like to welcome you to this very special edition, exclusively dedicated to the lovely coastal town hosting our 7 nights residence – the wonderful Comillas, one of the most beautiful towns in Cantabria, located at about 50km west of Santander, elegantly highlighted by its cobbled streets, open squares, picturesque beaches, historic buildings and a fine selection of Modernista residences, including the incredible El Capricho summer vila designed by Antoni Gaudí.
If you are wondering about the unusual Catalan Modernism touch of the town as compared to its surroundings, that is due to the emigrants who came back from America with a different architectural vision. Amongst these was the future Marquis of Comillas, who was rewarded this title for his valuable support in the Cuban conflict. He comissioned the majestic Neo-Gothic Sobrellano Palace, where you can admire Gaudí furniture as well, and its chapel – is now the Museum of the Marquises. Moreover, his son build the Pontifical University, which he offered to the pope, gaining the pontifical title in return.
We will start our short tour by introducing the mesmerizing El Capricho, the 19th-century Gaudí-designed chalet with its Mudejar-style tower covered in sunflower tiles, that became the centre of my interest as soon as we could enjoy some spare time to invest in local sightseeing. Don’t get me wrong but each day was dedicated to an organized visit to the representative cities of Basque City therefore leisure time to explore Comillas was rather short. The truth is we couldn’t have had a better residence than this lovely little town with its fascinating tourist attractions – so many architectural masterpieces concentrated in such a symbolic place!
Barrio de Sobrellano
Every day from 10:30 to 21:00; last access at 20:30. Prices may vary from 5€ for an individual to 2,5€ for children between 7 and 14 years old.
The entrance is free for those under 7 years old.
T: +34 942 720 365
F: +34 942 720 842
El Capricho, the authentic treasure which belonged to Máximo Díaz de Quijano, brother-in-law of the Marquis of Comillas, was designed by Gaudí when he was just 31 years old. Its simple and traditional structure marked by an outstanding facade does not yet display many of the construction techniques which would characterise his later masterpieces yet it still bursts with the energy and color which outlines the master’s great originality and fantasy.
The name “El Capricho” was received in reference to, and drawing an analogy with, the free and capricious style of the musical work with the same name, that does not follow the rules and consists of variations of pace according to a personal caprice. The Moorish influences are highly outlined and quite evident in the intense combination of materials such as brickwork, tiles and wrought iron, while the sunflower main decorative motif depicts the enthusiasm, optimism and poetry of a young Gaudí who had just been accepted to the prestigious order of La Sagrada Família.
Gaudí was clearly inspired by the Pier Station project (1876) that he had done in University, with the difference that in El Capricho there is only one tower instead of two, while it also presents similarities to the Vicens House, which the architect was constructing simultaneously in Gràcia, close to Barcelona, between 1883 and 1888.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the fabulous neo-Gothic Sobrellano palace commissioned by Antonio López, the first Marques of Comillas, standing on the hillside parkland, whose Modernista architect Joan Martorell truly managed to out-Gothic the real Gothic, that is only available with guided tours for large groups but I still need to mention it was the first building in Spain to ever use electric light and that is fabulous.
The grand lounge, featuring ornate wood-carved fireplaces with Gaudí-designed dragons; the elaborate dining room with its gold-wood artesonado (ceiling of interlaced beams with decorative insertions); beautiful stained-glass windows, exquisite chandeliers and vibrant original murals detailing the marquis’ story are one of the few impressive artworks to admire in Sobrellano. Martorell also designed the marquis’ majestic family tomb, next door.
After a short half-day visit to Santander on my birthday, on a rather cold and almost rainy day, we had arrived back to Comillas to the sun brightly shining so we decided to enjoy a generous meal along our trip colleagues and hit the restaurant a local taxi driver recommended to be the best in the town. I was impressed by the lively atmosphere inside Filipinas restaurant, where I could finally enjoy “pulpo frito con puré de patatas” (grilled octopus with mashed potatoes). They had several options for the menu of the day, consisting of two courses and home made desert with a glass of wine included, which actually meant a full bottle for a family of two. I’d say not bad at all. The sangria was a delicious choice to complement my choice, while my mum was also impressed by “navajas” (razor shells). Everybody in our rather large group who came out for dinner was impressed by its variety, taste, quality and not to mention fast service, including the most pretentious of the guests.
I definitely recommend a visit to Comillas if you are around as there is definitely much more to see that I was not able to cover so it does not disappoint. Any restaurants you could try during your stay would be a wonderful choice and the exquisite vibe and oustanding architecture of the little town are marvelous and not to be missed at all.
I hope you had a pleasant time enjoying my travel adventures and I promise to see you soon for the last episodes (probably two), in which I plan to present other fabulous location I touch ground in Basque Country. Prepare yourselves to be astonished.
More is more.
Your Beloved Majesty,