And Santillana Del Mar
17.05.2010 - 18.05.2010 18 °C
We found it a lot easier to get out of Bilbao than we had found it getting in (fortunately) and were on our way to a one nighter at Santillana Del Mar. This was an easy and pleasant drive, with a bit of diversion along the coast for a change of pace. This meant we got to see again some of the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella as they took the coast way. We had seen some around Pamplona too.
We dropped into the seaside town of Santona on the way, very picturesque and had some great calamari which L washed down with two strong gin and Kas lemon.
Got to Santillana del Mar which has had a law put in place to stop any development of the town. This law was put in place in the 16th century, with the result being a very ancient looking place, but in great condition. It is obviously a bit of a showpiece as when we arrived, there was lots of security around – for the visit of the Mexican President, along with Spain’s current holder of the EU presidency.
Formalities out the way, we check in and have a wander around. The city is in great shape, helped in no small part by its fame. The place is full of B&Bs, restaurants and souvenir shops. But not completely overwhelmed – there are a few great little places like the man selling glasses of fresh milk with basic cakes, the craftsman carving some fantastic traditional furniture, and the shops operating as they always would have. Really good. There is also the torture museum which is a bit graphic for a 10 year old (and his parents).
Have another wander around in the morning and another glass of milk.
We are setting off to Ribadeo Parador. It is not too far along the coast, but we are going inland and upwards to the Picos De Europa National Park. We head up to Panes where we decide not to do the low skirt around but to go up for real; it looks so impressive even from a distance. Photos certainly do not do it justice. The early parts above Panes take us through roads along the gorge leading into la Hermida; it is jagged and precipitous country. In some places there is barely space to pass; we were all thinking thin when we had to squeeze past a bus coming the other way! Soon we have to stop and change seats L driving and G in front so they are less likely to chuck; this leaves me in the back. The road is almost claustrophobic at points the valley is so steep and deep.
The road is easier as we approach Potes, and here we take a wrong turn which takes us into the town. That’s okay as it is very nice in the centre, there is a medieval bridge over the river and a number of similar aged shops around. (Find out later it has been largely rebuilt after the Civil war) There is no doubting what the main industry in the area is; every second shop is a restaurant or souvenir shop. From here there is a great view of part of the Picos, some of the snow covered mountains rise over the town. The road we mistakenly started down leads on to Fuente De: This is higher up in the Picos and is used by walkers, climbers and cavers as a centre to get deeper into the mountains. There is also a cable car leading up even higher, and guess what – there is even a Parador up there too. But that’s a bit far for us to cover today.
We leave Potes behind and drive up higher into the southern parts of the Picos. Obviously the major traffic is straight up to Potes as the road quickly deteriorates, as well as getting steep and windy. Greta views unfold around every corner though as more of the Picos appear. Just below the Puerto Di San Gloria there are some big roadworks and a lookout, giving a magnificent vista over the eastern Picos.
On to the Puerto and we take a quick break to play in the snow!! We head down off the pass, and down to some high mountain pastures.
From hear the road went around a huge dam, we stopped to get some spring water. The road around the dam goes on long bridges, all part of the preparation for the flooding no doubt. We passed close by the town of Riano and then headed up through the pass to go over to . We stopped off to let G have a last feel of snow, and then on through a few kms of windy road before it straightened out ahead of us. Down in , we could get onto the freeways and o our next Parador at Ribadeo, and into Gallicia.