Monday, July 30, 2012

Notes from the Road- Santander

We left Noja one morning and started along the clifftops to Santander. The path I had found takes you through Ajo and over the hill paths to Galizano. The route took us into valleys and up mountains and past farms with sheep, goats, cows of different colours (mostly Asturian) some with small and medium calves, horses with foals, donkeys with baby donkeys, and we were followed by a group of kites that swooped and circled and generally had fun.

It rained much of the first few miles, on and off but we kept everything covered. Sometimes we could see the sea beside or behind us, and always the hills and the woods and the fields with things in them and the houses and the little collections of houses which may or may not be villages.

In Galizano we stopped and rested briefly, and we asked for the path through Langre and Loredo to Somo. We saw many farms and flowers and fruits and animals and curious houses, some attractive. There has traditionally been a lot of wood used in building here (there) and many modern houses in rural areas try to maintain something of the style. In Galizano there are many fine stone houses, including some modern ones.

Loredo is a little place on an eminence across the bay from Santander, mainly a holiday place. You need to go down to Somo to catch the boat to the city.

I took that boat sometimes when I lived there. It didn’t strike me then but almost certainly the best way to arrive in Santander is coming down the hill to Somo and crossing in the boat. You can see the city below you for miles as you go down, its position in the bay, the Palace of the Madelena on a headland and the Hotel Real standing out high above the other buildings on the ridge that forms a backbone to the city. As you reach the landing stage and wait for the ferry you can look at the nearby bridge to Pedreña and then turn to look more closely at Santander across the water.

The port area is divided between the international ferry port, the cargo port, the fishing port and the pleasure port, all along one stretch of the bay that was the historical focus of the city, and still is to some extent. The most popular place for strolling is the promenade by the marina, wide and airy, and with sufficient cafés to content the civilized man.

You can see the theatre, a curious structure with a green copper oxide roof and supposedly the largest stage in Europe. It is also highly unusual, if not unique, in that at the back of the stage is a picture window, so the audience can enjoy the view over the bay before the performance starts. The need for curtains and scenery and the fact that plays are usually performed at night means that rarely do you get the chance to see it but the idea was a good one and when it does work it must be quite spectacular.

As you approach the jetty you start to pick out buildings and streets and your favourite shops and cafés and you can identify the characters walking up and down by there demeanour and their clothing and their gait.

Moments later you arrive, and as I say, I think that is the only way to do it.

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