Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 12: Laredo-Güemes. (29 km)

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It was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

It had been a long 2.5 months since my last day on the Camino in July, and I was ready to hit the road again.  My goal for 2015 was to arrive to Santander, and thankfully, the cranky Cantabrian Sea (perhaps jealous of nearby cousin Mediterranean Sea?) decided to bless me with an opportunity before I headed back to work on Oct. 1st.

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Morning selfie

On Saturday morning, I awoke at 6 in the morning, was out the door at 6:30 to catch a taxi…who told me “I’ll be right back.” 10 minutes later, he came back, and I was a bit worried about catching the bus on time. I should know that Alsa has not once been on time at Termibus in Bilbao (they are usually pretty punctual elsewhere in the peninsula, but the Ruta del Cantábrico runs into traffic problems or something all the time). I found someone in my seat. It was still dark out, which I hadn’t realised being on holidays and not having to get up so early.

At 7:45 the bus arrived to Laredo, and I made my way to the beach. They were having a medieval festival, which I wish I had known about as I would’ve spent the night there. Everything was closed, so I couldn’t get my café con leche before hitting the road.

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Laredo

The Camino I chose (there are two that leave from Laredo) went along 4 km of beach. About 1 kilometre into it, I realised that my mobile phone was missing. I searched my backpack to no avail. I wondered if it had fallen out when I put in new batteries in my camera, so I went back to the beginning of the beach. No luck.

I tried to put it at the back of my mind and not worry. I mainly have my phone for Whatsapp (a texting app popular in Spain), Facebook and Twitter, but I have a lot of important contacts via Whatsapp. I eventually found the Zen of the Camino. I can’t change it, and I can accept that I can’t change it. Wherever my phone is, I hope it’s enjoying itself.

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Cantabrian morning.

I had a café con leche at the end of the beach 4 kilometres later before catching the ferry to Santoña (2 Euros). The ferry was quick, and when I arrived to Santoña, it was instant like.

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Ferry to Santoña

The town of 11,000 is quite nice, and I had my breakfast of tostada con tomate with a second café con leche. They gave me a shot of orange juice and a small piece of cake to go with it. 2 Euro. I love Cantabria!

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Santoña

I took off my hoodie and applied sunscren before continuing on my way.

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The day is warming up.

The Camino passes the wildlife reserve park…and a prison. I knew the building was quite big and strange, but when I found out it was a prison, I was kind of shocked.

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The Camino passes between this…and a prison.

I arrived to another beach, and I admired it. I took the sidewalk/pavement along the road instead of doing more beach walking, and before I knew it, the Camino turned. It was hard to know where the Camino went on the beach, and two very nice strangers pointed out the way to climb Brusco (which had red sandy paths!)

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El Brusco

The mountain wasn’t so hard, and as I was climbing I saw an arrow painted on a rock that I should’ve been able to see from the beach.

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That missing arrow

Before I knew it, I was descending from Brusco to the endless Noja beach. I have several Basque acquaintences that go to Noja often, so I was expecting a bit more. The beach was lovely, but outside of a nice Plaza Mayor and church, the town left a bit to be desired in my opinion.

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Playa (Beach) de Noja

It’s been warned that it was easy to get lost, and after a small lunch of a pintxo de tortilla (it was too early for Spanish lunch, being 13:00), I indeed got lost. I went back to the tourist office, where they pointed me in the right direction. “Sigue recto recto recto” (Continue straight ahead, straight ahead, straight ahead.)

The next arrow was quite a blessed sight, needless to say.

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Iglesia (church) de Noja

After leaving the residential areas of Noja that never end, I passed a church and a lot of fields. The fields reminded me a lot of my old home Ohio, although Ohio does not have mountains in the distance. Some cornfields had recently been harvested, and I got that feeling of autumn that I love so much. Ohio also doesn’t have the church of San Pedro in Castillo in the distance either.

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Ohio with a medieval church or Cantabria? You be the judge.

I saw a lot of peregrinos, but as I like to walk in solitude, listening to the Camino and nature, I let them pass ahead. Some of them I would later meet at the albergue, but that’s a different entry.

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Barato means “cheap”, so…Bar Ato…barato? It was closed.

I stopped for a quick refreshing drink at the albergue in San Miguel de Meruelo, and I was so thankful to see only an hour more awaited me to the famed albergue de Güemes. I’m going to say I arrived at a bad time, as they were serving lunch to the pilgrims staying there, but I really didn’t feel welcomed there. So thankful I had planned to stay in the albergue in Güemes and was on my way after finishing a cold drink and checking wifi/emailing about my phone/uploading pictures to Instagram. (No mobile for 4G ahhh!)

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Waterfalls

Another six kilometres later. I tried finding a Roman church that was advertised to be 400 metres away, but after 400 metres and mean barking dogs…I turned around and missed it. I did see some beautiful views and more and more cows.

I was dying to rest, but I soldiered on to Güemes. I was excited when I checked Google Maps and it gave an estimated 15 minutes. I wasn’t sure I was following the right arrows, but I had been. The Camino was going along a road, and I was ready to leave the road behind. Asphalt walking is ugh.

When I saw the turn off for the albergue 800 metres away, I was ecstastic. It had been a long 29 plus kilometres, and I was ready for a rest.

I was also nervous about staying in an albergue, even if it is one of the most famous albergues on any Camino. With that said, I’ve decided to give an entire entry (look for it next Thursday) dedicated to my experience at this albergue, as it was also my first Camino albergue. This experience has been a fantastic one.

A continuación….

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Día del Camino: 26-septiembre-2015
Kilometres walked: Officially 29, but definitely more with the backtracking.
Book I was reading: Pues, me largo by Hape Kerkeling (a German (translated to Spanish) account of the Camino Frances.

Previously on:

Camino Día 1 
Camino Día 2
Camino Día 3
Camino Día 4
Camino Día 5
Camino Día 6
Camino Día 7
Camino Día 8
Camino Día 9
Camino Día 10
Camino Día 11

 

 

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Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 11: Castro Urdiales-Laredo.

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I have a confession to make. I took a shortcut today. Granted, the guidebook (which I want to throw out because it only has the shortcuts) told me to take it, but I still feel guilty and may have to return to do the Magdalena part another day. For now…onward to Santiago poco a poco.

The 11th day on the Camino got off to a rough start. I had originally planned on taking the 8:30 bus to Castro, but as I woke up on my own before 7, I rushed off to be at Termibus to get there in time…arrived at about 7:45…and waited. And waited. And waited. On Saturday, the first bus is at 8:00, but I would find out that as it was festival time in Castro, they had been having buses since 4:30 or so, and the 8:00 bus was very late. In fact, I boarded the 8:30 bus when it arrived at 8:17. The 8:00 bus arrived as the 8:30 bus was leaving.

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Selfie leaving Castro

I’ve been to Castro a few times before, so I had a quick pintxo de tortilla and café con leche to get me going before having my credenciales stamped at the Oficina de Turismo. I found the yellow arrows, and at first I thought I was never going to get out of Castro. I did get to see my favourite rocky beach inlet and found a new beach. However, the Camino takes you through the town instead of by a gorgeous beach. I guess they hope people will buy stuff.

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My fave part of Castro

The Camino goes by the bull ring and through a camping.

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The Castro Plaza de Toros

I am glad I looked back as there were just as many beautiful views looking back as there were going forward. I know Anna Kendrick keeps singing “I will never look back” in my current anthem “I Can Do Better Than That” from The Last Five Years, but she is referring to life.

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One of the many views from looking back

As I passed a few small villages (Allendelagua, Cerdigo) without any bars for a second café con leche, I took the time to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery around me along with the beautiful mountains. I also enjoyed the village and the barking dogs.

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Silencio, porfa!

I didn’t go by the albergue in Islares despite it advertising “beach” in English. I’ve heard a lot of bad reviews about it, by the way. I caught up to a group of about 20 Spanish high school students on Camino excursion, and I walked quickly to get around them. I teach Spanish teens and am on summer break! ¡Por favor! I stopped at the (expensive) Islares camping bar to allow them to get ahead of me. 1,50€ for a café con leche con hielo (iced café con leche), 1,15 for a can of Aquarius de Naranja (orange European sports drink). Meh. And then came across a group of non-pilgrims…10 or so!

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Leaving Islares

At this part of the Camino, I had to walk along the N-638 (I believe) road, which was quite busy. I wanted to spend some time at the beach near Islares (Playa Arenillas) as it was amazingly beautiful. Almost as spectacular as Urdaibai in Vizcaya.

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Playa Arenillas

I came across a solitary peregrino like myself at the junction of the shortcut and the traditional Camino through Magdalena at El Pontarrón de Guriezo. He opted for Magdalena, and I opted for the shortcut as I wanted to ensure I had a bus back to Bilbao. We wished each other well and I stopped for a tostada con jamón and second Aquarius de naranja for an early lunch (I eat at Spanish times). I knew it would be a while before reaching another place with food.

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La carretera del infierno

The road was hell. A ton of cars whizzing past me at top speed and very little shoulder space (still better than that bidegorri). I walked on grass when possible, but it wasn’t very possible. (I think I just broke a grammar rule with “very”.) At least there was a spectacular mirador (lookout) de Antonio Ruiz offering a magnificent view of Lienzo.

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Lienzo

Two kilometres later, I found the Camino Camino again and was grateful. It goes through some people’s yards around Lienzo and offering more spectacular views and goes past some ruins of the San Julian ermita.

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Ermita de San Julian

Every time I looked back I saw a more impressive view. Then I got to the top of the hill and saw Laredo in the distance looking as beautiful as Hawaii.

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Laredo

I also found a perfect walking stick today near Lienzo. I don’t usually use one, but I had fun with this one. I left it outside of Laredo for someone else to encounter. Laredo has a few rutas de senderismo (hiking/trekking paths) and someone may be able to use it.

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The Camino to Laredo

I had been to Laredo on a cloudy day in November (Nov. 1, 2013 to be exact), and I hadn’t been too impressed. My first impressions were totally wrong. I fell in love with the city today due to its Parte vieja. The beach is nice, and after arriving and having my crendenciales stamped at the Oficina de turismo, went to wade in the cool sea.

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El mar Cantábrico

This time for sure, I will be staying in the albergues the next time around. (I thought the trip back from Laredo to Bilbao, capital of the world, was more expensive than it is). I think I may go to Laredo and do a short afternoon to Colindres, then Colindres-Güemes, then Güemes-Santander at the end of July to celebrate the last of my July class. I will have to overcome my fear of albergues (I’ve stayed in albergues before when I first arrived in Spain, but not Camino ones.)

I had a great day of soul-searching and am ready for whatever life is going to throw my way.

Día del Camino: 4-julio-2015
Kilometres walked: 25 supposedly. It felt like more.
Book I was reading: La última confidencia del escritor Hugo Mendoza by Joaquín Camps

A continuación.

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Read more:

Camino Día 1
Camino Día 2
Camino Día 3
Camino Día 4
Camino Día 5
Camino Día 6
Camino Día 7
Camino Día 8
Camino Día 9
Camino Día 10

Camino de Santiago (Camino del Norte) Etapa 10: Ortuella-Castro Urdiales.

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I’ve arrived to Cantabria, and then some.

Saturday, June 20, has been my longest day on the Camino in terms of kilometres (there have been days that have seemed longer with a lot less kilometres). 38.4 of them. That’s 23 miles for the people from the United States reading this. I really didn’t mean for it to be so many, but I have reached a good “stopping point”, should I need to take an extended break and come back to the Camino later: Castro Urdiales (Castro).

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Selfie

It started out innocently enough. I arrived in Ortuella, had a café con leche as there were no pintxos de tortilla at the early hour of 9, and walked back to the fork in the Caminos to walk the one on the itinerary from Eroski. It was the bidegorri from hell (bidegorri is Euskera for bike path). It went on and on and on and on and on and on and had been going on since Sestao on the previous day. And it being a Saturday morning, a ton of people were out and about getting their morning exercise in as it was a beautiful day, about 25ºC (mid 70s F). I walked on.

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The bidegorri from hell

The bar along the way that is said to give stamps for credenciales was closed this Saturday morning. Grrrr. Then I came to a fork in the road where one path went away from the bidegorri, and the other path didn’t. I opted for the one that didn’t as I did NOT want to deal with more bikes.

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Agur, bidegorria 😛

I later found myself in a neighbourhood where the señoras were nice enough to tell me which way to go when I was confused and there was no arrow. Vizcaya may have 500 arrows to get out of Termibus, but they seem to have no arrows at some confusing places. They said just go to the beach, so I did.

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A Cantabrian arrow. More of these in Vizcaya outside of Termibus would be nice 😛

I’ve been to the beach in Muskiz, La Arena, before, and it’s quite nice. I wasn’t sure how far I was going to walk. I stopped for my pintxo de tortilla and a wifi check as I had to answer some important emails. It was 10 kilometres (6 miles, that one’s easy!) from Ortuella, and it had gone by fast. I wasn’t ready to end my day, and I wanted to arrive to Cantabria, which is very Spanish. So I continued past the bridge and up some stairs to some incredible views of Pobeñas. I wanted to take more picture, and the guy at the snack bar kept saying “El Camino por allí!” (The Camino goes that way). I was like “I know, I know!” Leave me alone to admire the beauty. I ran into some Spanish peregrinos who had been swimming in the beach, and I am mad I didn’t stop for a dip in the sea. I wonder how far they got.

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Muskiz-Pobeña

I’m not sure at what point the Camino entered Cantabria, but I was planning on stopping in Ontón and catching either the 1:30 or 4:30 PM bus back to Bilbao. Alas, God was laughing at me for my plans. Oh how he was laughing. I was so impressed with the stretch between Pobeña and Ontón and planning on a menú del día en Ontón. Ontón had some beautiful ruins and a closed bar and some yellow arrows I mistakenly followed. Oh, just a little bit more to a bigger town with the bus stop and food!

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Santiago 630 km or so away!

By the time I realised my mistake of following the traditional Camino and not the shortcut, it was too late to go back, and already 2 PM, time for lunch. Had I looked at my guide, I would’ve read about the shortcut and arrived to Castro in a short 8 miles, making the day’s total of 27. The next village, Baltezana was having a festival, and it was a small town festival and I felt like an intruder (though I know if it were a typical Spanish festival, they would’ve welcomed me and gave me vino, but there’s that fobia social thing I have. As I have crossed into Cantabria, the typical Spanish stereotypes of being friendly and welcoming apply.)

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Ontón

So I continued on. Even here, I could’ve backtracked, but I still hadn’t broken out the guide. As I began to ascend La Helguera, I decided to see what villages were around I could take a bus on to Castro or back to Bilbao. This is when I read about the shortcut along N-634. (The shortcut does have the more impressive entrance to Castro, as I was on it during my last visit to Castro. However, the traditional Camino is beautiful. For those staying in Pobeñas, I recommend this Camino. For those wanting to do Portugalete-Castro, take N-634).

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Cantabria Infinita

The vías verdes (old train tracks converted into walking paths) took me through some beautiful mountain scenery. Otañas looks quite nice too, although I only admired it from the path. I ran into some cows and some donkeys running away today.

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¡Voy a Santiago! (Y no como una hamberguesa)

I also found three four-leaf clovers in one place while resting a bit. I suppose I’m about to run into better luck.

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Will my luck change?

In Santallún, I finally had a quick lunch, another pintxo de tortilla (my diet starts this week) and some M&Ms. I also finally got a stamp in the bar in the credenciales.

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Santallún

I debated about catching the next bus to Castro and coming back to this point the next day, but as there wasn’t another one for an hour, I went ahead and walked the last 5 km to Castro. Sámano has a nice church. I saw the sign that said Castro 2 KM and said “to hell with the arrows” as I was tired! It happened to be the Camino.

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Cantabria Infinita

I arrived to Castro and a walk along the beach before catching the bus to Bilbao just as it went away. I’m not sure when I’ll continue with the Camino (hopefully soon) as now I’m getting to a point where I’m going to want to stay in albergues and such, or kill my bank account with buses from Laredo and Santander to Bilbao.

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Castro Urdiales

According to one guide, I’ve hit the 200 km mark. I’m not sure if I trust it or not. It seems I just hit the 100 km mark!

A continuación…

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Buen Camino

Castro, a Cantabrian Jewel.

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This weekend, unsure of the weather for another day on the Camino de Santiago but needing to get out to enjoy the rarer and rarer sun on the North Coast of the Greatest Peninsula in the World, I took off to one of my favourite villages, Castro Urdiales.

Este fin de semana, con la incertidumbre del tiempo para hacer otro día en el Camino de Santiago pero con la necesidad escaparme de Bilbao para disfrutar el sol, que cada vez es más raro ver en la Costa Norte de la Mejor Península del Mundo, fui a uno de mis pueblos preferidos, Castro Urdiales.

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Located in the very eastern part of the autonomous community of Cantabria, Castro (as it’s usually referred to) is a pleasant, small city of 33,000 on the sea. Many Bilbaínos live here due to the cheaper taxes and proximity to Bilbao (the bus is only 30 minutes). I named Castro one of the Set Meravelles of Cantabria last year, and I still agree that it is one of the best things of Cantabria.

Ubicado en la parte más este de la comunidad autonoma de Cantabria, Castro (como la gente suele llamarlo) es un ciudad pequeña agradable de 33.000 habitantes situado en el mar. Muchos bilbaínos viven aquí porque los impuestos son más baratos y está super cerca a Bilbao (el autobus tarde unos 30 minutos). He dicho que Castro era una de las maravillas de Cantabria el año pasado, y todavía creo que es una de las mejores cosas de Cantabria.

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The Pueblo viejo has been a Cojunto histórico since 1978 and is dominated by the Santa María de la Asunción church. There is also a lighthouse-castle and incredible views. There is neo-Gothic palace along with gardens. And it has a ton of pintxo bars and a beach. What more could you ask for on a peaceful, sunny Saturday? The pintxo bars were hopping.

El Pueblo viejo ha sido Cojunto histórico desde 1978 y las vistas son dominadas por la Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción. También hay un faro-castillo y vistas impresionantes. Hay una palacio de estilo neo-gótico con jardines. Adémas, hay muchos bares de pintxos y playa. ¿Qué más se puede pedir en un sábado de sol y tranquilidad? Pues, los bares de pintxos estaban llenos de gente.

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I tried finding some ruins on the mountain this time, but gave up and somehow found myself on the Camino de Santiago, which passes through here. As soon as I saw the arrow, I stopped as I want to try to stay “spoiler-free” for the Camino when possible. This stretch of the Camino is going to be very tiring to end with, but it comes with some amazing views.

Intenté buscar algunas ruinas en el monte esta vista, pero me puse frustrado encontrar un sendero y después me encontré en una trama del Camino de Santaigo, que pasa por Castro. Cuando vi la flecha amarilla, paré porque quiero ser spoiler free por el Camino cuando posible. Esta trama del Camino va a ser super difícil para acabar un día, pero va a venir con vistas preciosas de Castro.

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The peace and tranquility of this small city is something I find myself needing more and more. Every time I’ve visited this quaint town, I’ve gone away with something new and wanting to see more.

La paz y tranquilidad de este ciudad pequeña es algo que necesito cada día más. Cada vez que he visitado este pueblo pintaresco, he ido con algo nuevo y con un deseo ver más.

Infinite Cantabria indeed. ¡Viva Cantabria Infinita!

Santa María de Cayón. Cantabria Infinita.

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Ever since this quaint rural village came on my radar this summer, I have been obsessed with seeing it. It looked so beautiful on Google photos, so rustic, so me. Now that I have finally been paid and found myself with an unexpected day off that coincided with a rather sunny day, I hit the road to neighbouring province and comunidad autónoma Cantabria, hoping to find some beautiful autumn foliage that is still somehow eluding me mid-November. Spoiler alert: I still haven’t found it. I think I’m wanting too much colour!

I previously wrote about Cantabria this summer, but I am always up to discover new places and possibly a new meravella. Unfortunately, today was not the case. I had built up Santa María de Cayón wayyyy too much in my head beforehand, and while beautiful, it was not what I had expected.

I caught the 9:30 bus this morning from Bilbao with no problem, and the bus actually left and arrived on time. Congratulations, ALSA! I was planning on chilling a few hours in Santander, but I saw there was a bus to Sarón, two kilometres from my ultimate destination of Santa María de Cayón at 11:30. I figured I could catch that bus and hike into Sta. María de Cayón, have lunch and return to Santander on the 16:38 bus to catch a 18.00 bus back to Bilbao.

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Sarón is a small village without much to see, but it was happening for being small and rural. I had my café con leche before setting on my hike, noting a restaurant in town. The two kilometres to Sta. María de Cayón have some beautiful scenery but follow the main road. I’m sure there are many more beautiful trails, but this was a “I need an escape” last-minute sort of trip, so I did what I knew wouldn’t get me lost. I played with some nice burros (donkeys) and saw lots of cows and sheep and even a duck on the way to the village.

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As people are prone to do on short 2 km hikes, I arrived at my destintation in short time. Santa María de Cayón has a nice town hall (ayuntamiento) and an old Roman Church, but there is little more to see.

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What it does have in plenty is beautiful scenery of the mountains and the River Pisueño. It’s worth a stop if it’s along the way to other destinations, and the natural park nearby has got to be amazingly beautiful. Still, I would have been better off if I had a car to make a series of stops in this beautiful area, or to have gotten up earlier in the morning to go hiking from village to village.

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You live, you learn. I spent some time contemplating the small river before heading back to Sarón.

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Sarón had a variety of restaurants, and I found a Menú del día for only 8,50 at Mesón Alquilara, which had a great decor and great food.

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Melón con jamón, pollo asado (roast chicken) con patatas and tarta de whiskey for dessert. I’ll be headed to the gym for sure tomorrow.

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In the end, I managed to catch an early bus back to the Capital of the World, Bilbao to reflect on a gorgeous day and a much-needed escape. Even if I thought it would be more, it was still a beautiful, remote place, which I find I am falling in love with more and more every day.

Cantabria Infinita indeed.

Cantabria…infinite…green…and Spanish.

Cantabria infinita. As the tourism marketing goes, Cantabria appears infinite in terms of green, rain, mountains and sea, much like the entire Northern Coast of Spain. Contrary to its neighbour Euskadi (the Basque Country), Cantabria prides itself on its Spanishness. On my recent second trip to province and comunidad autonoma capital Santander, I was met with a sea of red and yellow flags everywhere I went. The only Spanish republic flag (with a purple bottom stripe instead of a second red stripe) I saw was in the offices of the Izquierda Unida (United Left). In the Basque Country, the republic flags are becoming as common as the Basque ikurriña flag itself. Granted, it was the same week Spain had lost their World Cup by failing to qualify to move past the first round and Prince Felipe became King Felipe VI, but it just felt odd seeing all the red and yellow.

Like its neighbours Euskadi to the east and Asturias to the west, Cantabria is a place for those who love nature and the great outdoors. The Cantabrian Sea to the north and the Picos de Europa mountains to the south make for some striking landscapes. While they borrow the idea of “pintxos” from their Basque neighbours, the region feels distinctly Spanish, especially if you’ve been living in the Basque Country like I have.

My first visit to Cantabria was in 2010. I found in an old journal some impressions and memories that I had forgotten. For example, from the flight from Madrid to Santander, the plane was going in for the landing when suddenly it took off again. The captain came on to explain that the airport did not open to 7:30, and although it was currently 7:32, he still had to wait until the airport opened before he could line. This experience can only happen on Ryan Air and in Spain.

That trip also took me to the infamous town of three lies, Santillana del Mar. It’s not named for a saint, it’s not on a plain, nor is it on the sea. It’s a quaint medieval village that is on the Camino de Santiago del Norte, and I remember it having a lot of flowers. It was the beginning of June when I went. That same day, I went on to a beach village called Comillas. The beach was nice, but I had missed some of the best parts of the village. I missed the bus, which gave me time to explore the village adequately. It has a nice Gaudi-designed house, and I still remember the great ice cream I had. The Spanish comedy Primos (Cousins) was filmed in Comillas.

The capital Santander itself isn’t as beautiful enough to rival the Basque San Sebastián-Donostia as the most beautiful city on the peninsula in my opinion. However, it does offer some spectacular views of the Bay of Santander and the mountains on the other side. The Magdalena Palace is must-see, and I liked the zoo that they had. I remember being enthralled with that zoo and thinking the palace could be a rich person’s house in New England. The Cathedral of Santander is white, making it somewhat different. (At this point in the game, I strongly believe that every Spanish Cathedral and Church is the same. I refuse to pay money to enter a house of God, but I do enjoy going in the free ones or if there is something unique, like in Sevilla, Granada, Valencia, Burgos and León.) I enjoyed seeing this one in 2010, but it was closed this June Saturday on my return visit.

The best part of Santander I discovered the second time around. For 4,75€ round trip, one can take a ferry across to the village of Somo, offering spectacular views of Santander and the bay. The beach is home to one of Spain’s most famous surf schools.

One thing I should mention about Santander is that it is very right-wing politically. The Banco Santander is headquartered there, which has to have a lot of influence (the less said about Spanish banks at the moment, the better!), and it is said that Santander was one of the last cities to take down their statue of Franco after his death. But never fear, the left-wingers out there. Like any Spanish city, “hay de todo”.

Closer to my current home in Bilbao, there are several villages that the bilbainos invade during the summer. The two I’ve visited are Castro-Urdiales and Laredo (not Texas). Laredo has a big beach with a nice view of a few hills, but the village itself lacks character for me. Castro, on the other hand, is a gem. Only 30 minutes from Bilbao, it is a great afternoon escape with history, beach and tons of restaurants and bars. The Santa Ana Castle and Santa María de la Asunción church are located on the port.

Set Meravelles

1. Picos de Europa (as yet unvisited July 2014)

2. San Vincente de la Barquera (as yet univisted July 2014. I’m sure these two places are made of awesome.)

3. Castro-Urdiales

   Castro Urdiales 018 

4. Santillana del Mar

Santillana

5. Palacio de la Magdalena (Santander)

magdalena

6. View from Somo (Bay of Santander)

Santander 2014 046

7. Comillas

comillas

(Note: The featured image is from the Camino de Santiago and added post publication).