A short way down the road from Santander is the aristocrat town of Santillana del Mar, which despite its name is nowhere near the sea.
Santillana del Mar, once deemed Spain’s most beautiful town is largely unchanged from its hey day. With opulent 15th to 18th century town houses, its main streets are now home to tourist shops specialising in leather and many restaurants.
It certainly is an exceedingly beautiful town: the houses have elaborate wooden eaves and many are adorned with the family’s coat of arms. This was the golden age of nobility where daughters married kings and fathers stood proud, as one inscription boasts.
It’s perfect weather to lap the village and then settle for lunch. The Spanish aren’t quite as serious about lunch as the French, but it’s still a relatively formal affair with good wine and many dining options. The food is simpler, often focusing on the region’s speciality with a plato el dia (plate of the day) or an al a carte offering. Escalopes with roasted peppers are delightful and the wine, as always, is excellent.
We’ve been very impressed with Spanish wine on this trip: the quality is uniformly high, especially the crianza, wines aged in barrels for at least two years. They’re also inexpensive with the average glass cost often less than a couple of eruo. As always, trust can be placed in the house offering – it’s usually the best option.
Lunch slows us down considerably and leads to whiling away the afternoon on a clifftop overlooking the ocean. Farms on one side, a ravine separating the church on the other, deepest blue ocean as far as the eye can see in front. It’s clearly a popular spot with a grassed picnic area and shady shrubs.
Eventually I stir to make a cross between pintxios and bruschetta: bread toasted with garlic oil, topped with tomato, spanish onion and fresh white cheese; roasted peppers on goats cheese and chorizo cooked in garlic and cider. Deemed a success by Christopher.
Later, despite a perfect day, a storm whips up and rages around us. I’m very glad we’re not in the cliff edge as the wind is fierce and rocks us mercilessly, despite our size. The following morning we pass a nearby campsite – I’m not sure how those in tents managed to keep their feet on the ground last night. Trapped in a wet tent is not my idea of fun.