To the Cantabrian Sea!

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March 17th 2010
Published: March 17th 2010
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Well Andorra, I like you, but now it's time for a 4 month affair with Santander, Berlin, Vienna, and Chicagoland. That being said, yesterday we began our journey to Santander, in Spain's region of Cantabria on the northern coast. This part of Spain is known as being "green" due to its wet climate and therefore lush vegetation. To be honest it is extremely reminiscent of Newport - lots of money, lots of beautiful homes and buildings, and lots of old people. Though I have been here once in 2006 while studying abroad in Spain, I honestly remember almost nothing and am very much looking forward to a few days on the coast.

Naturally, since I am traveling, we had to be met with trauma. The first of said traumas was the 1.5 hour bus delay thanks to an oil truck flipping over. Brilliant. Once on our bus we had a smooth, quick ride all the way to Barcelona Santa train station where we then had to switch buses to get to the airport. Now arriving at Terminal 2 only one man got off, and looking out the window I saw that his suitcase looked an awfully lot like mine. I figured I must have been hallucinating, and considering we stopped for about 3 seconds I didn't even have time to really react. Well I certainly regretted that when, upon arriving at Terminal 1, I saw that my bag was....GONE!!!!!! Of course my bag had to be lost/stolen - why would I deserve a trauma-free travel experience?

There was no point in trying to run back to T2 - there was not enough time. I'd have missed my flight. Jordi, our coordinator, called the travel agency and assured me that somehow we'd find the suitcase. Right. Well, as luck would have it, I had put my number on the bag and right before boarding I got a call from an EasyJet employee. He was with the man who mistakingly took my bag. Long story short I am picking up my bag on Saturday in Barcelona. The travel agency is too cheap to send it to me, and I'm not paying 85€ to get it here. Luckily I was smart enough to have packed all my clothing for this week in my backpack...minus underwear....and toiletries.

Anyway, our flight to Santander was painless, and after hopping on a bus we were at the Hotel Real de Santander, the best (5-star) hotel in Spain's richest city. Thanks, Fulbright! It was too dark to get a great feel for the hotel, but it certainly seemed nice, in that older, classic hotel that once was incredible sort of way...

Day one we were all showered and ready by 9 and headed down to breakfast. It was the ideal Spanish breakfast spread with anything and everything I could have wanted - smoked salmon, eggs, salt-cured meats, pastries, local cheeses, pastries, delicious coffee, etc. Having already exceeded our caloric intakes for the day, we then headed out into Santander. The other Fulbrighters wouldn't arrive until around 2pm so we had several bonus hours of tourism! Our hotel is more or less the highest point in the city, so it was a downhill walk of maybe 10 minutes before reaching the beautiful ocean shore. Despite a weather forecast of dreary weather the day was glorious with beautiful blue skies and a high of 62.

Our first and primary stop was the Peninsula de La Magdalena, the peninsular area of city that juts out into the ocean. The entire peninsula is more or less a park, with the Palacio de la Magdalena at its end. Built between 1909 and 1911 as a house for Alfonso XIII, the building has the look of an English Cottage and is today used as a conference hall and residence hall for university students.

Also on the peninsula is a curious collection of seals and penguins in two outdoor enclosures. Unfortunately a group of retired Spaniards (read: 75 people 80 and older that should be dead by now) thought it was appropriate to bang their canes on the railings and scream at the animals to get them to do something. Seriously, how old are you? The animals were nonetheless random, but very cool. Other sites included a monument to Spain's first famous naturalist, and a very fun children's park where I almost was flung to my death on a contraption built for 6 year olds.

Continuing on our way we walked through the Sardinero beach and then ended up staying to relax (and swim for some) on the Camello beach before lunch around 2:15. Our lunch setting was in the gorgeous Sala de Jarín - a glass-enclosed room with views of the ocean and sunlight pouring in. The wine flowed heavily and we very much enjoyed our asparagus soup, beef tenderloin (though somewhat over-braised) and hazelnut ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately a gallon of red wine was not the best choice before a series of Fulbright talks since all 100 of us wanted to just pass out. Oh well...

Transported to the University of Cantabria by bus, what next ensued were a few hours of welcome talks and whatnot by various members of the Fulbright Commission and the Cantabrian Government. After a break for some little sandwiches and more wine/beer, we returned to hear about the experiences of American professors on their own Fulbright grants throughout Spain. How nice. Back at the hotel around 9:15 we started a lovely dinner of some sort of ravioli nonsense, delicious white fish in a cream sauce, raspberry mousse, and again copious amounts of wine. Since one of the Fulbright people commented to us Andorran Fulbrighters that we were being overly exclusive (it isn't our fault we prefer speaking Catalan to Spanish :-) ), we sat with spaces in between each one of us and quickly made friends over our meal. Despite it being St. Patrick's Day we were all exhausted and simply decided to call it a night before a 7:30 breakfast the next day...

Additional photos below
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18th March 2010

The Fulbright Life!
I'm not acquainted at all with Santander. What a beautiful part of Spain - great photos. The conference should be a blast if you don't sleep through it from all the wine.
18th March 2010

The coastline looks like New England!
18th March 2010

Great posting!
I'm really enjoying reading about your travels! What amazing experiences you're having! Thanks for sharing, and keep up the great posting!
18th March 2010

What an incredibly amusing entry! I found myself laughing out loud. And what a gorgeous place!! Hopefully you got past the trauma and are enjoying yourself (and were able to buy some underwear).
19th March 2010

You're so funny!
I laughed hysterically when reading this blog. When Uncle Ray and I were packing to go to Riviera Maya I felt certain that our luggage wouldn't be lost, so I didn't pack toiletries nor underwear in our carry-on bags. Of course, upon landing in Mexico, we were told our luggage was never even placed on the plane -- but would arrive in a couple of days! Uncle Ray's solution was to wash our underwear in the bathroom sink every night and use the hair dryer to blow it dry! You could try his solution, or try the old American Indian solution which is to: "Wash in stream. Dry in sun."

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