Travel black book: Spain for all seasons

Travel black book: Spain for all seasons
Award-winning architect Chang Yong Ter with his one-year-old daughter Reiwen at Hotel Torrecerredo in Asturias.

Who: Chang Yong Ter, 44, founder of Chang Architects. The Singaporean won 12 local and international design awards last year, a number of them for his design of Lucky Shophouse in Joo Chiat.

Favourite place: Asturias, Spain

Why: Asturias is located on the north-west coast of Spain, a green, mountainous region of the Iberian Peninsula.

My family and I were there for the first time in 2010 after attending the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. After two days of listening to architectural ideologies and presentations, featuring the latest modernistic and urbanised design schemes, Asturias was a breath of fresh air. In contrast to the culturally vibrant and well-connected city of Barcelona, Asturias is geographically diverse and remote. In the hotel where we stayed, we were told that we were the first guests from South-east Asia.

Best place to stay

My wife does most of the planning and hotel booking for our family trips. So far, her picks have never disappointed.

In Asturias, we stayed at the Hotel Torrecerredo (Vega de Barrio, 33554 Las Arenas de Cabrales, tel: +34-985-846-640) located in the town of Arenas de Cabrales. This was a two-storey house that has been converted into a hotel.

It gets its name from its strategic location - the backdrop of all the rooms is the spectacular Torrecerredo, the highest peak of the Picos de Europa and the Cantabrian Mountains.

The breathtaking views were one of the reasons for our subsequent return visits; the other reason was the personal level of service and the special relationship that we had built with the hotel owner, Pilar Saiz.

My mother had been suffering from deep-vein thrombosis for a week in Barcelona without us knowing the actual reason for her discomfort. When we arrived at Pilar's hotel, the owner was quick to identify my mother's symptoms. She drove us to the nearest hospital, which was 45 minutes away in a town called Gijon. After examining my mother, the doctors were puzzled as to how she had survived that long. If not for Pilar's decisiveness and initiative, the consequences would have been dreadful and I would have deeply regretted taking my parents along on that trip.

Rooms start from €39.95 (S$68) a night.

Favourite restaurant

It is Cafe Cares (Carretera General, Arenas de Cabrales, tel: +34-985-846-628). The restaurant decor is generally simple and unpretentious, but it adds to the whole gourmet experience. A must-try dish is the Fabada Asturiana, or simply Fabada. This is a rich Spanish white bean stew, cooked with shoulder of pork, black pudding, chorizo and saffron. This is typically served with crusty bread and best eaten with cider or red wine.

A seasoning that adds to the distinctive Spanish flavour of the dishes is the paprika. Every time we visit Spain, my wife brings back some paprika for that magical touch to her minestrone soup.

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