Day 22: Santander. Waiting for a boat.

Day 22: Santander. Waiting for a boat.

Reader, you may recall that I said I had been to Northern Spain twice before, once to Bilbao on the occasion of the end of my marriage. Well, for balance, I think it only reasonable to confess that my first visit to this region was actually the honeymoon of said marriage. Weird, eh?

My Santander honeymoon was not your average romantic experience, partly due to the fact that we were camping and were accompanied by two children. The weather was awful, our campsite was a 45 minute walk from the city centre and we had no car (too expensive to bring it on the ferry). My son, was 2 years old and travelled in a 3 wheeler buggy which looked more like Steptoe’s wagon with tent, pans and general camping accoutrements hanging off it. We all four slept in a little tent, pitied by other campers who gave us flasks of tea and biscuits. It was utterly miserable. We couldn’t go home because we had to wait for the ferry. Much like today but much, much worse.

I should say that I have history of shit honeymoons: my first one was in a Youth Hostel in the Lake District with just the one child and, this time: a dog. My daughter has the dubious accolade at being present at both of her mother’s weddings and honeymoons. I’m not proud of this.

Santander is a perfectly fine place to be but doesn’t have any spectacular landmarks aside from a stupendously ugly festival hall.

Photograph of the steps leading up to the Festival Hall in Santander, Spain. It is a very ugly building.

There are some nice buildings but disappointingly no llamas. This is more disappointing due to the fact that the city map advertises a place called ‘Las Llamas Parque‘. Hurray, I thought, something to do which involves animals (my favourite). No amount of Googling could reveal any information about the llamas. ‘Llamas’, it turns out is the Spanish for ‘name’ or ‘to call’. Nothing to do with spitty camel things. We then saw on the shopping channel in TV that you can call for free: ‘llamas gratis’ and chortled about getting a free llama with every cubic zirconium ring.

Photograph of a terrace of buildings in Santander, Spain.

Photograph of Sarah with Santander, Spain beach and sea in the background.

Other amusement for today was this unfortunately named women’s clothes shop. It’ll never take off in the UK, although Keith did suggest that I might be a 4×4 woman. I have no idea what he meant and didn’t ask.

Photograph of a Santander, Spain shop sign saying '4 by 4 Woman'.

Other learning is that sometimes things are not as expected. The glorious concoction below was in a photographed ice cream menu of the type popular in the 1970s: peach melba, banana split etc. It looked nice, so we ordered one. Ordering only one may have actually saved our lives. No ice cream in sight. It was a bucket of cream with honey, caramel sauce and nuts chucked in for good measure. One of us feels sick, the other one has developed diabetes. This might both be the same person.

Photograph of a blue ice cream dish full of whipped cream and walnuts and covered in sauce.

FYI: Nata =cream, not ice cream, regardless of its inclusion on an ice cream menu. Reading menus = a good idea. Idiot.

Apart from a visit to the €uro shop (Spanish Poundland) for gifts for the grandchildren – who wouldn’t want a Spain World Cup 2014 pencil case?, we went for walk north of the city to Cabo Major. Cue more photographs of spectacular coastline.

Photograph of rocky coastline near Santander, Spain.

Photograph of coastline, rocks, sea and lighthouse west of Santander, Spain.

We saw a fella with a snorkel and harpoon gun swimming off the rocks looking for his tea. We hung around hoping for a Johnny Weissmuller style encounter with him wrestling a fearsome sea creature but nothing doing. If you look closely, you will see him.

Photograph of the sea and a very small diver

Not a crocodile in sight.

Another evening, another mealtime totally out of sync with the Spanish food clock watching TV we can’t understand and considering phoning up to try and get a free llama. It is useful to know that watching a Jason Statham film dubbed into Spanish does not affect the overall experience one little bit.

Day 21: Noja – Santander. 55km.

Day 21: Noja – Santander. 55km.

Awoke in the Hotel Pelayo, the corridor of which looks a lot like the inside of a wardrobe my parents had when I was a child. For the past few nights, we’ve had the bolster style pillow which effectively means two people sharing one pillow. Where you and your end of the pillow go, there go I. Stupid idea. My own pillow is something I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with. I had made a case for bringing one of them (I’m a two pillow gal so this was evidence of ‘compromise’) with me, but this was vetoed in preference of something useful. Next time…

Despite a few bastard hills, the landscape is flatter here and more agricultural, which means we saw more goats in one morning than at any other time in the past 3 weeks, none of which would come over and speak to me.

We found our new house, but not sure if there’s enough room for Keith’s extensive payslip collection or the waffle maker.

Living out of 8 bags does make you wonder why on earth we choose to accumulate such large amounts of stuff. I have some interesting links about such matters which I shall no doubt ponder more philosophically on at a later date.

We ended up in Somo, which is just across the water from Santander. You can see it. You can see it. You can get a little boat to it.

After taking this picture, Keith said that I was a really good actor. I guess if a director wanting anyone to play the part of a lump of stone, they would just hire a lump of stone. Another career dream bites the dust.

We didn’t catch the little boat from Somo to Santander because that would be cheating. Apparently. We cycled another 20km through industrial wasteland, death defying dual carriageways and hills just so that after 1150km or 711 miles, we could take this picture of our inauspicious, grey, betwixt factory and railtrack arrival at our final destination:

We get to our final hostel and it’s time for me to find out if that black stuff which has clung limpet like to my right leg for the past three weeks is actually bike grease or varicose veins. It’s time for my gloves, which despite daily washing, have stunk of feet since the first few days, to hit the bin. It’s time to return to a life where wiping your sweat with a tea towel tucked into your shorts is not a frequent necessity. It’s time to return to a life of wearing pants (not ever with cycle shorts, see: chaffing).

We’re in Santander for a couple of days waiting for our ferry back to the UK.

Enough time to try and work out how to look forward positively to a return to that other life rather than the low which often accompanies the end of a holiday. If we’re going to have lots of adventures we need to get that sorted or spend half our lives miserable and wishing we were somewhere else, in which case it would be less painful just to stay at home.

We’ve also got to start thinking about our new circumstances and what that means.

Goodbye Sainsbury’s; hello Aldi.

Day 17: Bilbao. Rest day.

Day 17: Bilbao. Rest day.

We’re having a lot of rest days. The trip was planned to leave leeway for breakdowns, disasters and general cock-ups so that we could still make it in time for our ferry home. So far, we haven’t had any and Spain hasn’t been so badly mountainous as we feared, so we have basically arrived early and are pootling along to Santander having meta-holidays along the way.

Photograph of satirical poster from Bilbao Festival written in Basque.

We have arrived in Bilbao on the eve of their week long festival, Aste Nagusia, which celebrates all things Basque. Presided over by Marijaia, the festival involves groups from areas around the city building bars along the riverfront which are decorated in mostly political artwork. These are all organised independently by communities and neighbourhoods and involve a huge amount of work.

Photograph of poster for Bilbao Festival showing papier mache model of a woman.

 

Even Scotland gets a look in as their Basque comrades identify with the fight for independence. The effort that is put into these pop up tavernas by local people is quite amazing. I can’t think of anything on this scale that happens in the UK.

Photograph of Basque bar sign depicting satirical political figures.

There must be 20 or more of these bars which sell the must-have drink at Basque festivals called Kalimotxo: red wine and coke. Have to say I’m glad not to be sticking round for that hangover. Jeez.

They also have a character called, Gargantua, who is an enormous figure of a villager with a slide hidden inside, so children are ‘swallowed’ into his mouth and emerge down the slide out of his bum. Who pays for the therapy?

Photograph of river in Bilbao with lit up festival stalls along each side.

 

We went off on the Metro during the day to the Eastbourne of Bilbao; a suburb called Getxo. It’s all gentile, full of big houses and elderly people on benches who don’t like to get too close.

Photograph of a large house in Bilbao.

Photograph of Sarah sitting alone on a line of benches only big enough for one person.

We found the Viscaya Bridge which you can walk across, 60m in the air. I may have considered this with extreme terror until seeing that the walkway is slatted – you can see through the gaps. Step too far for even my bravest self.

Photograph of bridge in Bilbao.

See the sky through those gaps. And you have to pay. Madness. Does not compute.
Photograph of the underside of bridge in Bilbao.

We’ve really enjoyed Bilbao. It’s been calm and easy going compared to the craziness of San Sebastian. Apart from the insanely fast pace of the joggers and cyclists along the riverside (hard-core, these Basques), it’s been a really laid back kind of place, although when the red wine/coke combo kicks in, that could be a very different story. Time to get the hell out of here before the party starts. Story of our lives.