Camp ended and I had two choices: go to Sevilla and be bored and hot, or travel a bit through Northern Spain. I chose the latter, obviously, and based my trip around two events: an overnight camping trip to Las Islas Ciés and a trip to Santander. I really just did it for Santander, since I´ve always loved Northern Spain, and the rest of the surprises and experiences were thrown in. I wanted to relax on the Sardinero and eat seafood and see why the region´s tourism board calls it, “Cantabria Infinita.”
Should have called it Santandisappointed.
There was so much build-up to my trip, so many brilliant things I´d read about the home of one of the world´s most foremost bank groups, with its Primera División football team and no shortage of velvety sand beaches. I was just….expecting much, much more.
First snag: I had nowhere to stay. The Islas put me in that famous “mañana, mañana” mode, so that by the time I bothered checking to see if anyone had responded to my couchsurfing requests or if I could find a bed at a hostel, everything was booked. Oh, yeah. It´s August and ALL of Spain goes on vacation. A single bed was going at 50€ a night and I was just about to cross the city off of my list when Juan from Zamora responded: You have a bed here. But we have cats.
Nevermind my cat allergy (famous last words), I was going to stay for free!
I ended up staying the night in León, but the 20€ was worth it to have a comfortable bed to sleep in and a nice, hot shower. The following morning, I took a bus through Oviedo to Santander, a town that echoes of San Sebastián in terms of its stately harbor, luxurious buildings and plush “green lungs.” I stored my luggage and set off looking for seafood. What I found was just beer and a bocadillo.
Juan had agreed to meet at 3pm, but, like a true Spaniard, came at 4:25. More or less on time, I´d say. I expressed my interest in seeing the city that day so I could do some tourism around the region. We drank beers instead, then ate dinner at his piso while the two cats stalked around me and made me waste an entire roll of toilet paper just to blow my nose. We finally left at 1am to go out, and I have to say, the disco we went to, the only place with people in it!, was the night´s saving grace.
The following morning, unable to make the first bus, I went to Comillas, a modernist playground. Gaudí constructed what´s known as “El Capricho” (the Whim), but an outdoor look at the grounds ran 5€. Paso. Then, there was the Chapel and Palace of Sobrellano. Closed. As was the university. As a last-ditch result, I hiked to the top of the city to the cemetary. Gosh, was it worth it: see views, city views, built-in a gutted church and crowned with a creepy angel. I. Am. A. Freak.
Apart from that, the food was expensive, and what could have been a quaint old village was overridden with the weekly market. There was nowhere to move or breathe, so I grabbed two apples from a stand and sat with my book in the park below the Sobrellano Palace until the bus came.

As a matter of fact, the best part of the entire trip to Cantabria was the landscape. Teeny towns were scattered amongst rolling green hills. The Cantabrian Sea kept peeking out between them, and the hills were home to sheep and cows being tended to by ruddy-faced cantábricos.

Back in the capital, I spent the rest of the afternoon on the Península de la Magdalena and the famous Sardinero beaches. After a seafood dinner alone (which threw the maitre´d off a bit), I took the 700m tunnel to the central part of town to watch fireworks before going back to kittylandia, excited for the following day with my Spanish family in Valladolid.

Sunset over the port of Santander
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. […] in Castilla-La Mancha, but my trip left me far less than impressed. In fact, I called a post ‘Santandisappointed.’ Looking back, it may have been the crowds, it may have been traveling alone, it may have […]

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