Change of plans


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Europe » Spain » Cantabria » Santillana del Mar
August 28th 2009
Published: September 30th 2017
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Cafe con leche, at Cafe de Pombo.
Geo: 43.389, -4.10918

Yesterday night was supposed to be the last night in Santander, but the plans have now changed - I'm liking it so much here that I'm staying an extra night. This means that Bilbao will be cut from the itinerary but really, having already been there twice, there's not much left to see. Bilbao's a funny town - I've explained to friends that as a tourist, other than the Guggenheim there isn't a big draw. But I still loved it there last year because I have fond memories of eating Basque tapas on the terrace, drinking coffee, and girl watching.

Memories, of Eva, one of the most beautiful Spanish women I have ever seen, with jet black hair and green eyes; Anes, the half-Belgian/half-Spanish cutie lawyer I met on the airport bus; the three beautiful senoritas on their way to Ibiza for a holiday, whom I also met on an airport bus ... Bilbao is still great for the senoritas, and that was actually the only reason for returning again this year! I'll probably one day return, just to ride back and forth on the airport bus!

Today's plan was to get up early, and do a day trip
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Plaza Pombo was dead today, probably because of the crappy weather, but I happened to see a Colombian celebrity - Juan Valdez!
to either Comillas or Santillana del Mar. My alarm went off at 8 AM and it was such a restful slumber, that I said "Screw it! I'm sleeping in and hitting up the beach today!" 9:30 rolled around, and I got up to look out the window - very cloudy, looking like it would definitely rain. Change of plans again - I would do a day trip after all, since the beach would not be a fun option today.

I hopped a bus to the centre, realizing that I should have bought a 10 pack of tickets when I got here, saving some money in the process. But upon arrival, I didn't realize how much busing would be done, and that I'd be here a third day.

There were no buses for Santillana del Mar or Comillas (both lie on the same route, with Comillas a bit farther) until 13:00, so I killed time by wandering over to Mercado del Este, a bit of an upscale market that contained a cafe, bar, a TI, and some touristy shops. The cafe had some really tasty-sounding sandwich options, but I instead decided to go over to Cafe de Pombo, because of its
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Cafe de Pombo also had a nice selection of sandwiches, including one called the Habanero, which looked a lot like a Portuguese-style sandwich I once had. In Portugal, they called it an American-style sandwich, meaning that it was bursting at the seams with meat, cheese, eggs, and gravy! The Habanero was egg, gravy, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The fries were really good.
nice locale overlooking Plaza Pombo.

It ended up being a late breakfast/early lunch, but not quite brunch as it would exist in Canada. I saw an old lady eating a breakfast of only toast and olive oil, as is commonly done in Spain. This brought back memories of "Spain: On the road again", and the incredibly lovely Spanish actress Claudia Bassols. One of her co-hosts asked her why she eats toast with olive oil, and she explained that she loves it, and eats it almost every day for breakfast. He almost laughed at her, which I never understood - perhaps that's how she maintains such lovely Spanish perfection! And that definitely would have been a dream come true for me, if it happened to be her sitting there eating toast and olive oil, instead of that little old lady!

Off to Santillana del Mar - when I was at the Mercado del Este earlier, I stopped at the TI and got some information on various day trips in the area. Their suggestion was Santillana del Mar, because Comillas was famous for its beach, something that wouldn't be very nice on a day like today, and also because Santillana del Mar was quite
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It was a bit chilly - it's extremely rare that it's cool enough during the summers in Spain to need to wear pants and shoes. It was still nice to sit out on the terrace, until ...
different from Santander. Guess I'll have to come back one day for Comillas, and also for San Vicente de la Barquera, another nice town the TI suggested. If only I had known Cantabria was so incredible, I would have visited this region long ago.

It was a gloomy day, making for a depressing bus ride that quickly put me to sleep. The bus arrived in town during siesta, so many things were closed. I checked out some toy museum, and just wandered around. It's a nice little town, but a little quiet.

Over to Altamira, famous for its cave paintings, the oldest of which date back 25-35,000 years, according to recent estimates. Supposedly the cave is only a 2 km hike from Santillana del Mar, but it sure felt a heck of a lot longer than that! My clothes were soaked, between my sweat, the rain, and the humidity.

Visitors haven't been allowed in the actual cave for a number of years, but instead visit the neo-cave, which is supposedly an exact recreation, but who really knows if this is true or not? I had the option of touring the cave on my own, or joining a Spanish tour.
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... it started absolutely pouring rain. Once again, I rued forgetting to bring my umbrella.
The cave was a bit disappointing, but at least the tour guides weren't 😊

Our tour guide, Ana, looked a lot like a Spanish Heather Graham. And the only thing better than a Spanish Heather Graham? Well, there's nothing, actually! Though I suppose Heather Graham herself would be a close second. It was funny, because a few times during the tour as she pointed out various drawings of animals in the cave, she asked everybody if they could see it, but made a specific point of singling me out and asking me if I could see it. I suspect she wasn't sure if I could speak Spanish or not, and was just checking. Or perhaps she was concerned that I was ill, because all I did was stare blankly at her and drool.

Didn't have much of a chance to chat with Ana after, but turns out she's not from Santillana del Mar, but from Reinosa - a 70 km drive away. Talk about a commute! I made a mental note to one day visit Reinosa, to see if there are any other Heather Graham lookalikes living there. I hiked the long 2 km back to town, hoping that a Spanish Heather
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Over to Mercado del Este, in search of an umbrella.
Graham would pull over and pick me up along the way, but to no avail 😞

Waiting at the bus stop for the bus back to Santander, I noticed a couple of girls from the earlier bus to Santillana del Mar, and we started chatting. Clara and Sara (they rhyme!), architecture students from Madrid, and both had worked recently in Bath, England, for a number of months. I asked them if they spoke English, and they responded in Spanish "Yes, quite a bit." But when I tried speaking to them in English, they really couldn't respond. It was a bit amusing, because apparently in Spain, speaking quite a bit of English actually means not very much. So we switched back to Spanish.

Being Spanish architecture students, the conversation eventually turned to Gaudi, Spain's most famous architect, and then to Calatrava, probably Spain's most renowned architect at the moment. The subject of him designing the new pedestrian bridge in Calgary also came up, and the controversy over the additional expense to have Calatrava design it, rather than a less famous architect. Clara and Sara made it sound like this was a very common debate that happens any time Calatrava designs anything.
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I ended up having to buy a very girly-looking umbrella, because there were no other better options. The girly umbrella kept me dry, but it made me lose my dignity in the process :( I always knew my dignity was worth little, but I never knew it had an exact value - 9 euros, which is what I paid for the umbrella!
Truth be told, I'm all for Calatrava designing that bridge, simply for the fact that he'll probably end up importing a number of female Spanish employees to Calgary to complete the project. I will shed unlimited tears of joy if that beautiful day ever becomes reality!

Did lots of wandering around the centre upon returning to Santander, and noticed the Mercado del Este was still open - the bar and cafe were hopping! And so was I, because the turnstile to the pay toilets took my money without letting me in, so I had to hop over it to do my business.

After, I took a bus back to El Sardinero and wandered over to the stadium, where an immigrant fair was taking place for the past several days. The idea is that all the major immigrant groups in Santander are represented, with a different group taking the lead every night - tonight was Bolivia.

The food selection here was much more extensive than over at the medieval fair, which was really just pastries, South American-style BBQ, and the odd crepe and kebab/couscous joint. Here, there was all that and more, as numerous South American countries were represented. The funniest
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Charming and quaint are probably the best words to describe Santillana del Mar. The name is a bit of a misnomer as "del Mar" means "of the sea", and it's a land-locked town.
food stall was the Australian one - their offering? Only hamburgers! Despite the prices looking more expensive than those at the medieval fair, I would've sampled some of the offerings here, had I still not been so stuffed from dinner.

The immigrant fair had more of a festival feel to it than the medieval fair, since there was live music and performances. I didn't stay long as I was getting tired, so wandered back to the beach front promenade for a bit, before heading back to the pension, where I had another chat with Julia, before heading to bed. She's so cute - I had left early this morning, and didn't return until after midnight, so she told me "I was worried and thought you were lost, since I didn't see you all day." It was another great night in Santander, that ended exactly like the previous ones - with a pleasant chat with a cute little old Spanish lady.


Additional photos below
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Feeling peckish, I grabbed a piece of Cantabrian cake to snack on from a souvenir store on Plaza Mayo. Dry, but being so hungry, it still hit the spot.
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Interesting marketing - Orgasmos, a type of local cookie, made with a type of liquor (orujo) and berries. The description says: "Only an orgasm is comparable to the satisfaction produced by these exquisite cookies that combine the maculine excellence of orujo of our earth and the feminine of the best berries of Cantabria. At the savouring of them, you are entered into a paradise of pleasant sensations that provoke an authentic taste orgasm. Recommended to enjoy with company." Well, such a glowing description convinced me to buy a few ...
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... cases of them.
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Strolling the little centre of Santillana del Mar.
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This may have been the courtyard of the Jesus Otero museum, a local sculptor.
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Santa Juliana Collegiate Church
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Beautiful building that doesn't look so beautiful in the picture, because of poor lighting.
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Calle de las lindas means "Street of the beauties". Every street in Spain should be named this, but it would lead to much confusion in getting around.
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A torture museum - probably full of devices that can inflict unimaginable levels of pain and torment on a poor soul. The worst form of torture for me would be if somebody denied me from visiting Spain, and stopped me from looking at and speaking to Spanish women. Such a life would not be worth living ...
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Some nice views on the trek up to the Altamira cave.
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If you're familiar with heirloom vegetables, vegetables that were once commonly available many, many years ago, but were never grown by farmers when agriculture became industrialized, these might be considered heirloom chickens. In North America, agriculture evolved to become more about growing vegetables faster and larger to maximize profits, so only a few varieties of tomato and potato are available, for instance. This is also true for chickens - the North American idea of what a chicken should look like is based on the only type that we raise. My idea of what a chicken looks like definitely isn't what you see here.
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Mary, I found you another Spanish security guard. Sorry, but he's not Fernando hot.
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First order of business upon returning to Santillana del Mar was to get some food - a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Good, crisp, chewy bread with gooey cheese. It was 17:30, and the first real food I've had since that sandwich at Cafe de Pombo this morning.


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