The Road to Santander

August 20, 2013

Since we now have the opportunity to relax for a few days, we need to decide how best to use the time and then how to continue the Camino. I tried to answer the second question first. I haven’t mentioned it before but one thing that you notice when walking the Camino is how many people are following the trail by bicycle. For the most part, the trail is ideal for a mountain bike. When I was crawling along with my swollen legs, I thought more than once how it would be fun to do a section of the Camino with a bike.

Now I have a chance to do so. I investigated a few companies that provide bikes in Spain and eventually arranged for two mountain bikes to be delivered to our hotel in Burgos on Thursday. If we ride 25 miles a day, we can make it Mansilla de las Mulas (just short of Leon) in four days. We’ll leave the bikes there and take a train to Madrid the next day.

I tested my legs while riding a bike in Burgos and it seems to be more comfortable than walking. Even with a leisurely pace, we shouldn’t have to ride more than 3 hours a day. The weather is cooperating as well. Yesterday, today and tomorrow has been very hot (around 90) but it’s cooling off starting on Friday when we start our ride.

The other question above is what to do while I rest for a few days. Since it was going to be very hot in Burgos, we decided to take a bus to Santander, a resort town on the Atlantic coast. I had no idea what to expect but it has turned out pretty great so far.

The bus ride was incredible. Rather than follow the freeway, the route crosses a spectacular canyon with narrow roads, switchbacks and gorgeous scenery. It reminded me of the high country in Utah, except there’s 400-year old villages scattered around the countryside. Eventually, we reached the coastal plain of Cantabria which features beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs that drop into the Atlantic Ocean.

Since it was our anniversary, we splurged on a fancy hotel downtown with a spectacular view of the harbor. Honoring my policy to ignore the actual cost of non-Camino expenses, I’ll just say that it cost 16 nights in a private albergue. After we checked in we enjoyed a bottle of local red wine and a few snacks that we had collected from the grocery store. The sunset on the mountains across the harbor was magnificent.

Once it got dark, we went out prowling the bars and restaurants in the neighborhood surrounding the hotel. Given the warm nighttime temp’s, the bars were packed with locals and tourists. We finally found a table at a popular place and enjoyed our official anniversary dinner.

Tomorrow we’ll move to a different (cheaper) hotel and enjoy another rest day before heading back to Burgos on Thursday.

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