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February 9th 2017
Published: March 20th 2017
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San Sebastian (Basque Region)

It takes just 50mins on the motorway from Bayonne (France) to get to San Sebastian (Spain). There are not much immigration formalities (benefit of being in the EU – for the time being at least!), though random spot checks are carried out by the police at a Toll Terminal on some cars, but it’s all low key & good humoured.

On arriving in San Sebastian, we park near the sea front close to our hostel as its siesta time – so free parking. We unload the bags we need, check in at Perdota (where we stayed last year) and go to the Mussels’ place, next door for lunch – which is a wonderful experience as usual. Then it’s off to the free parking area 2 miles walk away which took some finding & despite some local opposition we found a space & parked none the less (and didn’t get clamped).

As it’s a nice day, the walk back along the river and into town is quite pleasant. This time we actually do a bit of shopping in the area by the Cathedral – new shoes and shorts for C and get the old Spanish SIM card reactivated (after a lot of effort – thanks to a smart sales woman as the 2 Tech guys in the store couldn’t do it!)

In the evening we do what all visitors who come here do - go out for a ‘Pintxo Bar’ crawl both evenings – it’s the only ‘game in town’. It’s much quieter than last time as its midweek, though Bruce Springsteen is in town for a concert in the local stadium, so lots of his music is being played in the bars.

We discover a great new place that does the most fab Bacalao (salted cod) in oil - Bar Txalupta - and enjoy the creativity of pintxos at Betti Jai (though it was closed on Wednesday, our last night here, which was a real disappointment). The second day’s weather was okish and the final day when we leave – it is heavy mist & rain! All in all we had a good time & would love to come back.

Zaragoza (Aragon Province)

After the challenging mountainous drive in the heavy mist & rain, it’s a delight to get to the warmer centre of Spain. Zaragoza is the surprise discovery of the trip. It has a beautiful ‘old city’ and it’s Christian, Islamic & now traditional Spanish heritage.

The Hotel Sauce, where we are booked in, is located very conveniently (pure luck & thanks to and close to all the main attractions of the city. It’s a great hotel, though the room is a bit small. They have great Wi-Fi and the staff are very friendly, helpful and English speaking. They advise us to park for free 10 mins walk away on other side of the river, which is easy to find. On the way back to the city centre we experience some great views for pictures from the riverside on to the Basilica.

They also recommended that we go to La Buganvilla for lunch, a block away. The food was excellent, it was a menu de Dia, 3 courses for €12-90 each (that’s less than £10) including a bottle of local Aragon wine and ½ litre of water. The food was to Michelin star standards and we try some great local dishes inc: pigs trotters, lamb loin, seafood rice, and great desserts. It’s so good we decide to go back there the next day as they change the menu. We were not disappointed.

The main sites are in the historical ‘Christian Zaragoza’ are the spectacular and enormous Basilica de Nuestra Senor del Pilar, with La Seo church & Inglesia de san Pablo nearby almost sharing the same square.

The beautiful Basilica and Cathedral are in the centre. The Basilica has a stunning coloured tiled roof, large domes and towers – all looking quite magnificent & overlooking the river. It’s pretty impressive from the outside but inside is even more amazing!

The square outside has a few Goya murals & banners with his face on it – he was after all a local lad born in Aragon.

There are lots of roman ruins near the square and the city also has an Islamic edifice – the Aljeferia being the most famous and is situated on the outskirts of the ‘old city’. It looks good externally but was closed to visitors when we get there, despite the website information to the contrary. It is now a civil administration office. One interesting point is that to get to this landmark, one needs to navigate the narrow streets of the ‘Islamic quarter’, which reminds us of walking through the narrow lanes of Moroccan cities.

There are lots of museums; small squares with interesting sculptures, creative street art – especially in the El Tubo area near Plaza Espana, which is where all the tapas bars are.

The Lanes of Tubo north of the Plaza Espana is their Tapas Bar Central and the food/tapas seemed to us, a lot better than Madrid (though not quite San Sebastian standard). The bars were slightly smaller and clustered around a few streets – which makes the ‘Tapas Crawl’ easier. We are very lucky on our first night to enter a bar where there was live (and we believe impromptu), Gitano music being played and sung. It was a real treat and no one went around with the customary hat afterwards. The Tapas are slightly different representing the regional specialities and are delicious.

The local Jamon de Teruel from the market wasn’t that brilliant and we wouldn’t recommend it above Serrano & Pata Negra or Jamon Iberico. Aragon cuisine though is great – suckling lamb, wild rabbit, Migas & snails. This region is definitely worth a visit.

Cuenca (Castile-La Mancha region).

We leave by 9am for the 3.5hour drive to Cuenca. The second half of the journey is on very windy roads across hills. The old medieval (and UNESCO Heritage listed) town is very picturesque, but we are glad we have only got one night here as there’s not really that much to do here.

We are booked into a lovely hotel (Posada San Jose), which is a converted medieval building with a lot of character and charm and just by the main square.

The main reason for coming here (as a night stop over point) is the medieval “hanging houses” built into the cliff side. Many homes are built on the cliff edge and the whole scene looks like the top edge of a large roman amphitheatre when viewed from the free car park, just outside the town fortress walls. The valley below has a farm and green land, which adds to the contrast and beauty of the town.

As it’s lunchtime we are recommended the local restaurant – El Secreto – lower down the street from where we are based. It’s a great little place and we enjoy some local speciality – wild boar and venison. Fabulous. The cuisine in this part of the world seems to be largely game, including partridge, hare and rabbit.

We are very lucky with finding some free parking as it’s packed with locals, as it’s the weekend. However, even then we have to risk a rush to fill up with fuel in the evening, and get some basic food supplies for us, Sarah & Simon, who arrive on Sunday (the next day) to spend time with us in Nerja, when all the supermarkets will be closed – the one downside of Spanish life for us.

After exploring the delights of the town and taking loads of pictures we end up spending the evening at a café in the Plaza Mayor. The square was all lit up and there was a lovely atmosphere with locals and visitors eating, drinking and enjoying themselves al fresco.

Nerja – Costa Del Sol (Andalucia);

It’s up at 4am to set off at 4.45am to drive the 350 miles to Nerja on the coast – so we can drop off luggage & gifts for friends & family at the Cortijo in Nerja, and then rush to pick up Sarah & Simon at Malaga airport with their luggage. By the way - driving in the dark in Spain isn’t much fun as the motorways aren’t lit most of the way.

We make good time and get to Nerja by 11.30 am & off load stuff at the Cortijo. After a quick meeting with May & Miguel (the owner), who present us with some gifts of food and wine – which is really nice of them. It’s then a quick dash to Malaga airport.

Their plane arrives on time (12.55pm), unfortunately their luggage off the Ryan Air flight from Bournemouth, takes almost as long as their flight to arrive & the Ryan Air staff at the airport are not only clueless but also quite rude & got a mouth full from all of us.

Eventually, we are on our way & enjoy a light ‘lunch’ at 3.30pm in Nerja. S & S are taken by the Cortijo & enjoy a cool afternoon swim in the pool – brave! Then it’s dinner at La Puntilla, their first experience of Spanish Tapas in Andalucia, and all ends of a chilled note by the lit pool with chocolate & brandy. A good start as Sarah is now relaxed (she is 7 months pregnant)!

We enjoy our days with them visiting a few Tapas bars. Romi & John join us for a couple of days from their home in Palomaris (Almeria region). We have a great BBQ dinner at the Cortijo (Pork chops) washed down with some Malaga wine, which is pretty good. Unfortunately, a morning trip into Malaga was a disaster as the motorway had road works and the Sat Nav decided not to work etc. A pretty stressful day we could have done without, even though S & S did get to see some of Malaga old town.

Simon hired a racing bike in Malaga, for a few days to prepare for his Lands End to John’O Groats week long cycle trip back in the UK & actually beat us back home as we stopped for a Tapas at Lola’s with Sarah & then got stuck on the motorway coming back as well, as they had moved the road works to the other carriageway – all in all not our day.

S & S spot some dolphins off the coast on one of their days out exploring the area while we relax at the Cortijo.

It was lovely to have S & S here for a week. They seemed to enjoy it. They treated us to a lovely dinner at La Puntilla & ice creams for afters in the town square – all lit up. For their final night C cooked a great mixed seafood & chicken paella & Simon provided a fabulous bottle of red wine from Rhonda, bought in Frigiliana when they spent an afternoon there.

Unfortunately, as they had a 7.15am flight back home for the bank holiday, we were up at 4am and driving by 4.45am on dark motorways again. They arrived back safe and Sarah can now look forward to her big events – Baby Shower on the 11th June in London, going on Maternity leave on the 24th and preparing to be a Mum for the first time in mid July when we should be back in London.

During our stay this time around we have decided to make an effort and try other eating-places and go to the Sevelliano for dinner in the centre of Nerja – the Rabo de Toro & Conejo are pretty good though the service is slow. We also enjoy and explore some of the other beaches in the area as well (Nerja is definitely bigger than we had realised with a lot more to offer). We enjoyed lunch at the Flammkuchen at Burrianna beach, which specialises in making Alsacian Flambe Tart and they are fabulous.

We decide to visit M’s cousin Alan who lives in in Marbella as we have brought him some medication from the UK. We decide to take the toll road (which on reflection was an expensive mistake). We stop off at Mijas – a pretty little village we once nearly bought an apartment in – which would have definitely been another very expensive mistake, but we were lucky to pull out of the deal. Unfortunately they are carrying out a lot or reconstruction work to the town square – so the place looks like a building site & not the quaint charming Spanish retreat we once dreamed of.

After meeting up with Alan, he takes us into town to show us around his locals and drinking haunts. The town is busy preparing for it’s Feria over the coming weekend and we agree to return to enjoy the spectacle with Alan & his family at the weekend.

Marbella we discover is quite beautiful and has a lot more to offer than meets the eye – though on that day the sea was pretty rough & the beach area deserted. The old city area belies the unfortunate reputation of the place & do not confuse it with Puerto Banos up the road – the X list the celeb haunt.

Carol (Caroline’s friend from University) comes to visit

Carol one of our friends from Bolton, has decided to come across for a long weekend for some R & R. We pick her up at Malaga airport late morning & go into the centre of town for a Tapas lunch (as a ‘Welcome to Andalucia’). We choose El Patio – which is opposite Casa Lola and the food is really good - albondigas in almond sauce (superb), peppers stuffed with fish and Artichokes local style, washed down with Tinto Diverano.

Once she is settled in we finish the day with a BBQ for dinner.

Being the genial hosts, it’s a tour of Nerja for Carol, a quick stop over at Anahi for coffee and then to the pool at the Cortijo for a relax! Finally we end up on a Tapas Crawl for the evening: - El Puntilla for seafood, Redondo (where we experience the traditional flambe Morcilla which is awesome, both as a spectacle and to eat) and finally Pulguilla for seafood & pintxo morenos). The 2 ‘Ladies’ return ‘home’ slightly worse for wear at 12.30am.

For her next adventure – Carol is taken to Frigiliana and some lunch in this beautiful white village 5 kms away then C treats us to amazing seafood Paella for dinner.

We continue the adventure with Carol by taking a trip to Las Alpujarras in the low Sierra Nevadas. We stop off at beautiful little Pampaniera and do the 3 mile hike via little Bubion to lovely Capileira. The hike is via beautiful fields of green, red, yellow & white. We stop off for lunch at La Tapa and try the kid goat, venison and wild boar stews, following tapas of green Olives and awesome goats cheese and black Olive Tapenade – washed down with very chilled Estrella beers. Just what we needed.

After some shopping we walk back and notice an enormous field of Marijuana being cultivated openly between Pampaniera & Bubion. We aren’t convinced that this was being grown for medicinal purposes and clearly some of the local police must be in on this as it’s so blatant! It’s a beautiful walk with gorgeous flowers along the way, though it is pretty warm.

So on our return we make straight for Burriana beach for a dip and a light dinner, as it’s up at 5am to drop her off at the Airport for her journey home.

A few days on our own

Louise (our youngest daughter) calls to gives us the news that she is expecting a boy in Nov. Cause for celebration!

We spend time exploring El Chucho & Torrecella beaches (a lot quieter & less developed than the others in Nerja. We also enjoy lunch at Chiringuito – though it seemed a bit pricier than most places in the area.

For dinner we try Mo’s Gastro Tapas – which is simply awesome. Why we haven’t discovered them before we will never know. They have some of the most creative Tapas we have ever tried in this part of Spain & we will definitely be back.

On one of our free days we make our way to Benalmadena to meet up with our (now ex- ) neighbours from London Terri & Kevin, who upped sticks suddenly in January while we were in NZ to move to live here permanently as they wanted a better education for their daughter and liked the lifestyle.

They have rented a place in a block on the seafront, which is very central, and they treated us to a local tour and a lovely lunch as a ‘thank you’ for bringing across some boxes of booze they couldn’t transport across when they moved in a hurry. They are to visit us in Nerja in a few weeks.

As planned on the Saturday we drive across to see Alan in Marbella for the Feria. This time we take the scenic and equally fast coast road, which costs nothing. He’s prepared a lovely Indian (Anglo Indian really) lunch at his place for us. We meet up with Lin his wife & Becs his daughter who’s moving into the same block they live in. Later we bump into Jess (his other daughter) at the Feria.

The town is definitely buzzing and the main square by the beaches is heaving with people and the music is loud and fantastic. People are wearing traditional coloured Spanish costumes and looking great. The booze is definitely flowing as well. There’s a great party atmosphere with people dancing – Marbella has done itself proud.

Louise & Olive ……then Ben came too!

Unfortunately, what should have started as a fun week’s family holiday for Louise & Olive turned out to be a parent’s worst nightmare! At Stansted Airport, even though the flight was late in boarding, the passengers were put on the plane and sat on the runway for 3 hours before the airline or authorities decided to cancel the Flights. So Louise & Olive had to go home and rearrange an alternative emergency flight – which were all more expensive as everyone else was trying to grab the next flight out to Malaga.

Meanwhile unaware of this fiasco we had made our way to Malaga and the airport before we got the news. So to compensate for the disappointment we decided to go into the city for dinner. We tried Bodegas El Pimpi & then El Patio. It was nice to experience Malaga at night – the atmosphere was great and people were only getting ‘warmed up’ at about 10pm.

The next day (Sunday) we make our way to the pretty village of Frigliana 5kms up the road from our Cortijo, for the San Antonio Feria. It’s 30+ and really hot. The village is out in force and the whole event is very colourful and lively. It truly showcases the Spanish culture and way of life with men & women in traditional gear (even the kids are decked out in their Sunday best) and the whole thing is a great experience and lasts from 12 to 2 pm. The highlight is a procession through the villages with folks on horseback, as they make their way to the river below in the valley for a community picnic. These guys definitely know how to party!

Louise & Olive eventually arrive on the Monday and Olive (O) isn’t feeling too well. So it’s a gentle introduction to Nerja for her, though she surprisingly remembers the cat (Yoga) and parrot from last year’s trip here. For our evening meal we try Puntilla, which is slightly disappointing as some of the food is below their usual standard. We also do a paella one night that L cooks under C’s “supervision” (not that she needs it.) A paella pan goes on the Christmas list!

Ben arrives a few days later, just after midnight, so in anticipation we had done a shopping trip to the Carrefore Hypermarket and then spent the evening in Malaga Old Town, where we had dinner at Pepa y Pepe (disappointing) & Mitajana (much nicer & good local food).

After a good day at the beach & by the Cortijo pool with the Blake – Martin family (that’s Ben, Louise & Olive), we go into Nerja town and try the Paco Mari to give Ben a taste of Andalucia. The service is generally good as was the food which was quite regional, but the place is packed with tourists and Spain are playing one of their European Football games tonight – so people are distracted & noisy.

Olive spends her time watching the DVD of ‘Frozen’ the popular Disney film a lot & trying to ‘play’ (or bully depending on your point of view) Yoga the cat & make friends with Anna the Parrot. She’s also entered her ‘terrible twos’ phase and is definitely in her ‘test the boundaries’ phase with Mum & Dad, sulking or crying when she doesn’t get her own way.

On the last day for the BM family, we go to Burriana beach and enjoy a lovely BBQ for lunch as they leave by cab at 7.30pm. Unfortunately, we discover that our car’s gear box has frozen while parked up a hill so we can’t drop them off. This is a real nuisance – though we do have 5 days to get it fixed with any luck.

Our final 5 days – stressful and distracted

Fortunately we have got transport recovery covered via Green Flag (through Direct Line Insurance). The Emergency service is very good and they made the whole deal a lot better than we had expected. Making arrangements for a free hire car to let us enjoy our holiday and getting the car to a local garage to get it fixed etc.

Green Flag even arrange a taxi to take us to Malaga Railway Station (which is an impressive building near the centre of town), where we pick up a great hire car from Hertz (for free for our last 5 days here).

We take the opportunity to stock up for our “take away” to London from the lovely Malaga market & Carrefour Supermarket.

It’s the San Juan beach event tonight at Burriana – BBQs & Sardines roasting on open fires. Custom is to dip into the sea at midnight & make 3 wishes to bring you luck – though we pass on this bit. The next day – Friday is a bank holiday so everything shuts down.

To everyone’s surprise the UK voted to leave the EU – shocked response all around, but life goes on. Social media comes into it’s own by both sides defending or disputing the result & gets boring by Sunday. Interesting times for the UK – economically & politically as the PM resigns as well and uncertainty prevails.

Our final weekend is spent sorting out our hotel for Monday (Green Flag suggested and we settled for the AC Palacio in Malaga – a Marriott hotel, near the Cathedral – very central). This is a freeby as part of the insurance as we can’t pick up the car fixed now (for a cool grand! Ouch!) at 5pm and make it to Merida where we are booked in for 2 nights.

For our last night in Nerja, we head back to Mo’s Gastrotapas and have another lovely meal; they definitely have a great creative twist on traditional tapas.

Next morning, we have a final breakfast at Bajamar, meet Miguel and May to say thank you and goodbye, and then head off to Velez-Malaga to pick up (and pay for!!) the repaired car then head in to Malaga to return the hire car, check in to our fancy hotel and hopefully settle in for an afternoon lounging by the pool; Unfortunately it’s out of order!!!Hey ho.

The evening is spent enjoying a final Tapas Crawl at our three favourite places in Malaga Old Town – LoLa, Pimpi and El Patio. And we decide in future we should plan to stay in Malaga for a night, at least, as it’s a lovely city and has much to commend it.

Merida (Capital of Extremadura)

It’s a four-hour journey, from Malaga via Seville (yes we drove through the centre of S) and somehow C has put her back out so M ends up doing all the driving. We arrive at midday, staying at Le Flor de Al-Andalus in the centre, a lovely little place with very Moorish décor.

Merida is famed for having the best Roman remains in Spain. They are no way near as impressive as Italy or other Roman sites around the world, though Merida tries to make the most of them. Some ruins are free to see, others require an entry fee and mostly all are within walking distance of the centre – if it isn’t steaming hot (it’s 38°C) so we head in for a mooch and a beer (the outside bars & restaurants have cool ‘steam’ water fizzing out over the customers, quite common in many parts of Spain, which keeps us chilled), then we head to a LP recommended place for lunch – El Yantar. Good call.

We have the most amazing Jamon (from the farm that owns the place) and wine (and end up buying some of both to bring back). C’s back is paining so we take a rest then head out again later to see some of the sights and discover they have a Pride celebration in the main square which gives a great atmosphere with music and dancing.

The main attractions & sites (largely Roman ruins) are – the Teatro Romano (which is the best and most impressive), Los Columbarios, Puente Romano, Arco de Trajano, Templo de Diana (which it isn’t in fact, though they still refer to it as such), Circo Romano & Acueducto de los Milagros. In addition there’s the Alcazaba, Bascilica de Santa Eulalia (which was just opposite our hotel) & Zona Arqueologica de Moreria. Most attractions are within walking distance.

Overall the place isn’t one to linger too long and most attractions can be seen from the outside rather than paying to get a ‘up close and personal’ view if you want.

For dinner we try the Meson Restaurante Casa Nano (NB: this is a cash only place), which is apparently famous for it’s regional cuisine. The service and food were really great – especially the local Garlic Soup for starters & kid goat & an awesome steak cooked to perfection the local way.

Salamanca (Castilla y Leon)

The drive to Salamanca is relatively short and we make it in good time for some lunch. It’s a lot warmer here. We have booked into the Hotel Residencia Reyes Catolicos, where we stayed last year, as the place is so convenient for the city centre. We are also extremely lucky finding a parking space virtually outside the hotel - which we are happier about as the boot is packed with food & drink (worth a lot) we are taking home.

There’s a lot of reconstruction work going on since we were last here. The main sites of interest are: – the lovely Plaza Mayor (which gets really crowded every evening), the Universidad Civil – where the Entrance Façade to the University is an amazing tapestry in sandstone, the Cathedral Nueva which is in Gothic style, the Cathedral Vieja – which is more Romanesque in architecture, the Puerta de la Torre and the Palacia de Monterrey by the corner of the Plaza Mayor

They even have a ‘Mini Train Tours’ around the main sites, which is well worth trying. However, we chose to walk everywhere as this gives a better experience & it’s easier to take a detour into the quaint side streets and find little gems.

The views across the Roman bridge are still fabulous and we venture across the way to a large roundabout from where the views across the valley is fabulous with a church in the foreground before the bridge & river, which adds to the sheer grandeur of the city.

We venture to La Cocina de Tono for dinner, where we came last year – though it did not seem as impressive & creative with the Tapas this time around & they had no Gavilan (an awesome red wine we discovered here last year), though they did recommend and we definitely enjoyed some organic local wine from the region which was great!

One of the reasons for returning was to stock up at the local market with Jamon & goodies, though the Zafaran shop was shut for holidays & so were some Bars etc. which seemed odd to us as isn’t this peak season?

Being more adventurous this year and determined to try new food places we go for dinner on the second night to the Van Dyke Street area we read about in a local blog (a great way to really experience new cities we have discovered). The area is nearer where we are based and definitely off the ‘tourist trail’. The area is buzzing and full of locals. We try quite a few places and they are all less expensive than anything near the inner city area and the variety and atmosphere are great. We’d definitely recommend this to people. We tried Meson los Faroles (the best place with a great variety of food, fabulous atmosphere and packed to the rafters with young local students), Don Cochonillo – where suckling pig is the speciality and the portions enormous, El Asado De Van Dyke (which has an interesting way of ordering & serving food – mainly fish dishes) and finally the Barbacoa le Encina (more a drinking place tough the Tapas was good).

So it’s farewell to Salamanca for another year ……….

Burgos: (Castile and León Region)

We leave early and make it to Burgos in time for brunch and stay at the same place we did last year, as it’s so convenient – Rice Maria Louisa – another hotel welcoming pilgrims on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.It’s the weekend so the parking restrictions are limited and we are lucky enough again to find a spot virtually outside the hotel. Someone up there obviously likes us.

We venture into the Old Quarter of the city on the north banks of the Rio Arlanzon, to explore the place a bit more than last year (as we have time on our hands) and are pretty impressed with The Cathedral (El Cid – local hero or villain depends on your view - is buried here) – it’s a World Heritage listed French Gothic style cathedral with a large Main Square outside and the various bridges across the river. This is key city on the way of route to Santiago de Compostela and there are signs everywhere and Inns that cater and provide for (at a discounted rate) the pilgrims who do the hike. There’s even a sculpture of a pilgrim outside the Cathedral Square, which is most impressive.

The impressive Puente de San Pablo has a huge statue of El Cid on a horse near one end – somewhat overpowering – with plenty of pigeon poo on his head. There’s a large castle at one end of the town – Castilla de Burgos and various monasteries and churches of historical significance around. It’s also the place that Franco based his ‘government in waiting’ during the Spanish Civil war.

We enjoy a lovely brunch with drinks at the tables on the outside at Cerveceria Morito where the service is pretty friendly and the snacks and drinks enjoyable.

At the local market we buy a bag of the famous Burgos Morcilla – the main reason we are here) and some semi-curado Manchego cheese (it’s the only place we can find this as the norm in Spain seems to be curado – which we find a bit harsh). The lady actually remembers us from our shopping spree with her from last year.

For dinner we go to Le Quinta Del Monje – a bit of an institution and have the regional and the house speciality – Asado Pig – really delicious with some other regional food delights. It’s definitely best to book for dinner online in advance as they get packed.

Santillana del Mar (Cantabria)

As we are travelling back via Santander this time we decided to stay in Santillana del Mar, as Santander doesn’t quite do it for us from the guidebook’s description of it. We stayed at Posada del la Abadia an old stone built barn house (where they kept cattle in the garden once) converted into a B & B. It’s been in the family since the 18th century and has a lovely feel to it – in keeping with the architectural delights of the medieval village, considered as one of the prettiest in Spain.

The B&B is run by a part time sports journalist & son of the owners, Juan Jo, who speaks very good English and is very informative on what to do, where to go, when etc. He makes our experience here 5 star. Thanks JJ.

The village is only 5 minutes walk away and it’s a delight. The zoo (one of the local attractions), has for some reason imported American Bison as the main attraction. The other attraction is a reproduction cave of one discovered nearby with amazing prehistoric wall art. They used to allow visits into the original but when this started to affect the cave & art it was closed to the public to preserve it & a replica built in its place.

For lunch we enjoy a Cocides Montes – Mountain stew – a local speciality and lovely it is too at Castello. Dinner is a bit special – a Menu Del Dia (Euro 16 each – that’s about £12 each), which is 3 courses, and bottle of wine & bread, at La Bogeduita del Arte. The food and service were excellent.

We are pretty lucky on our day here. We drive to Comillas – which is 15kms west from Santillana and is a seaside town and with the weather being warm and sunny, the beach is packed. We stop for a while and explore the harbour area. The town has a few high spots – a building designed by Guadi (aka Guadi’s folly), a University, which is architecturally beautiful, & the Cemetery with a magnificently designed Eagle. However, we give some of these a miss and drive along the coast road, as advised by JJ & through the ‘Natural Reserve’, which is quite beautiful countryside with picturesque bays and awesome beaches along the way.

The locals are out in force and some of the parking (off road & off piste) has ‘to be seen to be believed’ – and we thought Londoners were bad & inconsiderate! The Spanish are very lazy and will park illegally anywhere as long as they don’t have to walk & this was reflected by the beaches at the risk of destroying the countryside and inconveniencing everyone by blocking the roads. It seems to be a way of life here & we don’t notice any road rage surprisingly – maybe it’s all that awesome olive oil, fine wines and great food.

Next we drive on to San Vincente del la Barquera – 10 kms west from Comillas, which is a very beautiful town by the sea and reminds us of St Ives in Cornwall. The tides out and the bay is studded with large sandbanks with a host of small boats ‘grounded’ for the moment. A castle in the old town overlooks the bay that we walk through later and it’s quite picturesque.

Our attempt at a nice lunch by the seaside is not as successful as we would have liked. The service is ‘glum’ & the food not much to write home about. However, the tuna soup – a Cantabrian speciality – and the grilled Bass were pretty good.

Santander (Cantabria) & the ferry back home

M goes out early to grab some pictures of the village without the crowds & just about manages a few (though we seem to have lost them when we got back home? An accidental deletion and the downside of Digital photography perhaps!).

After breakfast, we say, hastaluego to Juan Jo and his father for a lovely stay. JJ has been a wonderful guide and quite informative about the geo-economic distribution of Spain. Apparently the Northern half of Spain is more prosperous and wealthy than the South & this reflects the unemployment rates (15% to 30% respectively).

We drive to the Santander Carrefour ‘Hiper’ Market to stock up on last minutes foods we want to take back home & are slightly disappointed by the lack of choice (as they seemed to sell things in their Salamanca store that they don’t stock here!). Anyway we manage to grab a host of yummy stuff and spend €150 & stuff most of it in our cool bags.

Our attempts at finding somewhere to eat ends in failure, as the Bodegas we had chosen only starts serving food at 2pm by which time we have to be on board our Ferry. Nuts! Santander doesn’t strike us as a ‘must see’ place. So after a couple of drinks we make our way to the Ferry Port (which is a challenge to find), and sit in the car for 2 hours waiting to board & as luck would have it our queue is last on.

The Brittany Ferries ship sails 45 mins late. Once on board the ship – we have a lovely cabin, fit to sleep 4, all to ourselves. We have a late lunch by sharing a burger at 4pm. So 24 hours to go… The weather is dark cloud and it rains later. However, after a great night’s sleep the sailing is much smoother and the sun is out – so what a lovely way to end a trip in Spain – we will be back no doubt.


20th March 2017

You covered a lot of territory in one week. And thanks for the memories...I was one of those pilgrims walking to Santiago last year, and enjoyed rest days in Burgos allowing my ankle to heal a bit.

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