It is late afternoon, Sunday 28thApril 2019 and ‘we’ are sitting in the sunshine at Camping Santillana, with cold beers and Andy strumming his guitar in time to the tapping of my keyboard.
Who are ‘we’? We are Wendy, Howard and Alfie (dog of uncertain parentage), three long time regulars to these pages and Lesley, Andy and Rio (dog of noble, golden retriever birth), who last featured in 2017 when they brought relief, succour and encouragement to us on our long ride south from Roscoff to the French/Spanish border. Andy and Lesley clearly felt they had some unfinished business with Spain as they have agreed to join us and explore the delights of northern Iberia (Spain and Portugal Katy!) together.
Friday morning saw us leave Derby in a convoy of two herculean Hymers loaded to within a kilogramme of their payload, heading south for Portsmouth with our spirits high. Wendy’s spirits were high because I had managed to keep the forecast that our ‘cruise’ across the Bay of Biscay was going to be joined by Storm Hannah (no relation!) and so the sea was likely to be a little ‘tres agitee’! As we boarded the Cap Finisterre, the flagship of the Britany Ferries fleet, I confessed that things were likely to get a little lumpy, but reinforced with a couple of Stugeron her mood was even more relaxed. With the dogs safely ensconced in our cabins, we dined well and long while we were still in the relative shelter of the English Channel. And so to bed!
Thanks to the Stugeron, the good food, the red wine or all three we slept through what was one hell of a sleighride through the edge of the storm which made the boat buck like a bronco. By morning we had come out the other side and into the relatively calmer waters of the Bay of Biscay. The sun was out so we joined the volunteers from the Orca Society for a gently spot of whale watching the rest of the way to Spain. (Number of Orcas seen, 0; number of dolphins spotted, 0)
Santander makes a great entrance to Spain, even under cloudy skies. The large inlet is surrounded by centuries of impressive architecture with the snow-capped peaks of the Picos dos Europe in the background. The local yacht club had even put on a race in the harbour to entertain us as we moored up right on the scheduled time of 1730.
In what seemed like no time at all we had disembarked and parked up in an aire by the university on the edge of a large public park. The park had been constructed around a valley and was criss-crossed with board walks through reed beds and had a walking/running/cycling trail around the perimeter – a great place for dog walks.
That night we dined on Lesley’s coq au vin and a couple of bottles of wine from the supermarket the other side of the park.
Sunday dawned bright, but not too early! The plan was to cycle to the sea and then along the coast back in to the centre of Santander, this was made all the more exciting because it meant the unveiling of our dog chariots. Alf and Rio are getting a bit long in the tooth and it is not fair to expect them to run alongside the bikes as they used to. So, we have invested in a couple of trailers that tow behind our bikes for them to ride in. Rio is a big fan of his and lies in it regally as he is towed along. Alf is not a fan, like everything else new he has to be shoved in and stands in it quivering. However, they work very well, and we were able to cover 15kms of Santander waterfront without too much trouble, though hills are a bit of a thighs, calves and cardio workout. The city is a spectacular from the land as it was the previous evening from the water. The beaches are dog friendly and littered with cafes for thirsty cyclists to quench their thirst in.
After a quick lunch we packed up and drove 20 miles west along the coast to Santillana, and pulled up at Camping Santillana.