Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the Loose in San Vicente

I like Cantabria. In fact I like the whole of the North coast, from Hondarribia to Finisterre, and I like the mountains behind the coast, with their slopes and fields and villages and plants and animals. And I like the dozens of small fishing villages with all their sparkling colours, and the green, everything and everywhere you see green.

La Mancha, down here in the south, is not a bad place to live at all, but it’s very, very dry, and as summer approaches the physical sense of suffocation increases unbearably. Everything dries up and burns, everything turns yellow and brown and the air is stifling.

So in summer we always head north, this year, mot for the first time, to San Vicente de la Barquera, a lovely place, once a fishing village, but now mostly a place for the sort of tourist who appreciates beauty and seafood and doesn’t mind getting wet occasionally. Even so there are plenty of boats of all sizes in the bay, and they aren’t all pleasure boats.

I call it lovely, and it is. In fact we went there the first time because I had seen it several times from the old road, on which you approach on a descent and you suddenly see the mediaeval bridge which you have to cross, the colours of the many and varied boats, and in the middle distance the columns of the main square and the castle and the church up on the hill. This view had always stuck in my memory and so we started going there in summer.

Walking around the port, up to the castle and the mediaeval town, taking in the views from the walls of the whole series of channels and flats which make up the estuary, dining in the Boga Boga (the freshest and finest fish and seafood, and cheaper than it used to be), these are obvious things which anyone who goes there will do. As is going to the beach, a wide ribbon over two miles long, reached by crossing the bridge. There people play racquet and bat games, volleyball, football, they swim, take the sun, surf, run, eat and do whatever takes their fancy.

But as well as its beauty, part of its charm is its position. It’s near Llanes, Comillas, Santillana, a number of small estuaries leading to rocky coves hiding small beaches where you can be completely alone, and which are much more attractive than the typical Mediterranean beaches. A little further away are Santander, Covadonga, Cangas de Onis, Ribadesella, and the mountains of the Picos de Europa.

To go up through the Hermida Pass is to see the beauty of the mountains in a new and different way. On a very narrow road, carved out of the rocks that flank the stream, with the water beside you and roofed over with greenery. And from Potes, another lovely town, you can reach, on foot, Santa María de Piara, Santo Toribio and its satellite shrines, the whole of the Liébana and the mountains, for climbing, walking, taking photographs or whatever you want.

This has been a quick run through what San Vicente has to offer. (The Telegraph had a supplement on the north coast around the 10th of June on the cover of which was a photo of San Vicente. You can probably still dig it up on their site.) Anyway, wherever you go and whatever you choose to do, have a good summer holiday.

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