Port of Santander
Photo Javier de Torres/Thenews2
Recently I was in Santander, which is not a very big coastal city in the north of Spain relatively near the border with France. I went there hoping to find a calm place with a strong sea scent to spend a lonely weekend, because sometimes you just need not to be surrounded by people. To refresh your mind, to keep in touch with yourself, to think and rethink choices made or to make; and also I started my journey with this strange wish of getting lost to recreate the sensation you feel you had to have when you met this world for the first time. The train from Madrid did not seem to take me as much to Santander as to regions of myself I hadn’t had the chance to explore too much in my short life.
When I arrived Friday evening, sun was already setting. I quickly went to the guesthouse I had reserved a room in, left my stuff in, and I undertook my expedition in the city. For that purpose I did not take too many things with me; wallet, umbrella, phone (more for the pictures my friends had requested than for other things) and the writer notebook along with its Bic pen. The first thing I did when I came out of the building was to have dinner. For that, the owner of a herbalist recommended me a place called La Barruca, in which I had three of my four meals in the city (and the other one was not there because I wasn’t in the actual city).
La Barruca is an informal restaurant near the train station, right in the center of the city. It has nice prices, good portions and the quality of the food is far beyond what you would expect from a place that has reggaeton as background music. Its offer consists of sandwiches, burgers, and the hard-to-translate meals bocatas and pinchos. It doesn’t take too much time to describe the quality of this place. If politicians worked as good as the people from La Barruca, the utopia would stop being a dream. Really. I came up with this phrase while I was having my second dinner there. If you want to go to Santander, you really must check this place out. It’s in Calle Calderón de la Barca 10, for more information, go to their web, labarruca.com.
Santander, as any part of Spain, is a place for good eaters. Not only the food is generally of remarkable quality but the portions in all the north of Spain are feared in the rest of the country. I warn you, if you are not careful, you could ask for an order that it’s actually for 2 or 3 people. Also, very important, prices tend not to be abusive, as long as you don’t go to the finest place in town.
After this first meal in Santander, I went for a trip to the city center. There wasn’t anything too eye-catching because it was Friday and it was the coldest weekend of the year, but I went into a bar whose waiter told me a bit about Santander. There was no one in the venue so we could have a calm chat. What he told me could be useful for travelers:
1-The people from Santander use to be reserved and posh. People are more open and sociable in summer, but that’s only because there is plenty of tourists, all over from Madrid.
2-To know a girl/guy, to put it this way, doesn’t seem to be reasonably easy. The exact terms were ‘Making out with a girl from here is like making out with four girls from the south’. If you want to know someone, Santander is not the place, except if you like to be rejected.
3-The economy in Santander is pretty damaged, and that may be one of the reasons why people don’t go out as much as in other places, like Barcelona or Madrid. Also the weather doesn’t help, since they have like fifty sunny days per year.
4-There isn’t something in Santander as ‘an artistic place in which I can meet interesting people’. There are some places to have a drink, and maybe, if you’re lucky, they will throw a discreet concert somewhere.
Summing up, it’s a tough task to have fun in Santander the way young people are used to. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind to be alone for a while and love to explore, you can craft fun for yourself. I did that; went out of the bar and, and on foot, walked half city. It was raining and the wind was blowing furiously, my umbrella was on the verge of independence. Streets were empty, and I found out why we were having such a bad drought, because in the north they were taking all the rain from us. My scarf was getting wet and my throat was telling me to return to the guesthouse. But, wasn’t that feeling of being far away from Ithaca that I had come looking for? So I went further. And further. When I realized what had happened, I was already in the other side of the hill. Oh, and it’s a good hill, so good on one side and has an elevator. My battery had died, and I loved my parents, so I quickly went back to my accommodation to charge my phone and tell them I was okay. I walked and walked and walked. It’s more satisfying than it seems! If you love exploring cities on foot, Santander is quite a good place.
The next day I was determined to get to know the city better. I had an excellent breakfast at La Barruca, rented a bike (by the way, they is a fantastic system for bike rent) and stopped to appreciate how beautiful Santander was in the daylight. To make it easier, I’ll make a list of the places I visited during the day:
1-Centro Botín- It’s a huge contemporary building near the port, just next to the sea. It is used for art exhibitions: from 12th October 2017 to 25th February 2018 there is an exposition of the great live artist Julie Mehretu, who I fell in love with. She condenses so much force in her paintings that sometimes the mind of the viewer cannot process all the information it gets in contact with through them. On the zero floor, there is a very nice cafeteria with, of course, splendid sights of the sea. The most remarkable thing about this cafeteria is that for 1,20€ you can have a nice cup of coffee, milk or tea… and repeat all the times you want. With biscuits. For 1,20€ you can have a Breakfast,, with capitals. Totally worth it.
2-The coast route- I did it combining bike and walking parts. The Santander coast is a very fun thing to see on pedals!, says a person that usually doesn’t like biking, and that says a lot. I stopped anywhere I felt like and, personally, the places that seem more beautiful to me, are the ports and the beaches. I have to admit that my love for them is mainly sustained on their calm, that is what I liked most about the city, one of the calmest places I’ve ever been to. If you want to stop hearing the world for a while, perfect location.
3-The Cabomayor Lighthouse (Faro de Cabomayor)- After having some spaghetti, I followed the Lighthouse Avenue until reaching the main goal of my expedition. The strong wind gave me pure enjoyment and the sights were just wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Wow! Wow. You lean on the stone wall and gaze around you, almost everything is sea. You know that if you took a ship right there and went straight, you’d arrive to the UK, and that feeling is so exciting. Take a deep breath and don’t miss that polluted air from the city. Your lungs seem to revive, man, you’re new. The waves draw beautiful forms on the surface of the sea. There’s no one. It’s just you and the world. Your spirit and nature’s fuse, as you inevitably desire since you two are the exact same thing.
4-Nightlife- After visiting the lighthouse (phew!, that was exercise, I spent like five or six hours moving and moving) I went back to the guesthouse after visiting the Centro Botin for the 1,20€ thing, which I do not regret repeating again and again because it’s really good. Once I had fully recharged my batteries, I had my last dinner at La Barruca and went to see if that night there was any nightlife. And, indeed, there was. How is it? Not very exciting. Some bars in which you can have a drink and dance with latino music. As you probably have deduced throughout the reading of this text, Santander is a place of retirement and peace, not somewhere you’d choose to go for a stag night. It’s neither a place where you can easily make friends because, you know, it’s really hard to start a conversation with them unless you are Plato and handle really good rhetoric . How are people in Santander? Well, you tell me. I only made a friend and he was Slovak.
After this quite intense day, I returned to the guesthouse. There, I packed my suitcase and went quickly to sleep to get sure I didn’t miss the train, which I didn’t. Very happy with the day; overall, the weekend trip was really worth it. I’d definitely return to the beautiful and calm Santander.
Final conclussion: Santander is a very beautiful coastal city where you can find peace and get in contact with nature and yourself. You can sleep and eat for good prices. However, the weather and people are not as pleasant as they could be, but that doesn’t matter too much if you don’t want to. Perfect place for a weekend of retirement.
Javier de Torres
Photos Javier de Torres/Thenews2