Walking without a donkey 4 Salinas 


The very early car journey from Santander to Aviles was spectacular. The sun rose orange behind us as we passed through beautiful ancient villages, huge imposing mountains, and industrial factories spewing much gunk.

My first hour-long walk with all the stuff on my back was from Aviles to Salinas on the same northern coast of Spain, but further West of Santander.  It was a Google maps walk which means it was efficient (I didn’t get lost), but all on tarmac.

Google map link to Salinas

I was carrying what I hoped would be enough, but not too much, for 3 months – information gleaned from the web and the Camino book my friend, colleague and experienced walker, Liz leant me. I am likely to walk through 3 seasons, and this initial amble when my hips, feet, and knees all ached, immediately impressed upon me that I can’t carry that much for up to 8 hours on the Camino de Santiago otherwise, known as the Camino de Peregrinos (pilgrims).

Thus began the process of letting go of what I believed I needed, probably a metaphor for the mental process too. I left things at hostels and friend’s houses and I sent some back home, some forwards to be there later in the year. 

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I walked past a mix of the industrial type of area you get on the outskirts of a town, past prettily coloured and elegantly balconied residencies, and beautifully kept front gardens with both larger versions of the sorts of plants I am familiar, with as well as ones which don’t thrive in the UK. I stopped to buy a croissant for breakfast and the woman in the shop, like all the oh-so-friendly people I have come across, wanted to know where I was from and where I was going.

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Montse, a newly qualified Shiatsu practitioner, met me in the hot sun and took me to her flat where we started the process of getting to know each other, she often in English, me in Spanish. We spoke about being a mother, and about the age children get to when they are part independent and part dependent. I gave my third Shiatsu session and enjoyed it. All of them felt spacious and it was great to be swapping for such amazing hospitality.

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The beach at Salinas is another surfer’s paradise and it was warm enough for me to sun bathe on the wonderful swathe of golden sand and watch. I don’t know anything about surfing, but usually people seem to head straight into the beach, whereas one impressive guy skimmed on top of a single wave parallel to the shore for what seemed like miles.


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It may be something to do with the Shiatsu folk I stayed with, but I was served fresh and local produce wherever I went. One of the first new words I learned from Manolo, who I stayed with in Santander, was huerte meaning vegetable garden, and their fresh tomato salad was muy rica (‘delicious’. Thanks Iris for teaching me this in my Spanish classes!). Montse, her mum, and I picked apples and lemons, and gathered nettles and mint for infusions from an orchard in the hills outside the town. We has fresh figs, black carrots, and walnuts; merluza (fish, hake); home-made marmalade, and drank cidra (cider), which this area is especially well-known for (not all in the same meal).

Montse did her Shiatsu training with Gill, my principle Spanish contact, in Aviles, and we moved back and forth several times between there and Salinas when she worked and I engaged in sightseeing or where I taught my first Shiatsu workshop. Aviles is the subject of the next blog!

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Walking without a donkey 3 Santander


When I first decided to take a sabbatical in Spain I posted my plans on Facebook. Nicola, one of my Shiatsu collegaues offered to connect me with Gill, a British  practitioner and teacher who has lived and worked in Spain for many years. We spoke on the phone, and she kindly translated and disseminated an email I sent to her about myself. In no time I had received messages from her students, graduates and colleagues all over the country, offering to host me in return for a Shiatsu session, tutorials, or classes. I loosely planned my journey according to the location of these people, together with my personal aims such as to walk some of the Camino de Santiago.

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Arriving in Santander

In my last blog I wrote about my boat trip to Santander in the north of Spain, but it was only towards the end of that journey that I was paired up with the delightful Rosa, a Pilates teacher who liked my idea of taking a break from work and home and travelling somewhere new for inspiration. At the last minute I found out where I was going to be staying that night! Manolo, her husband, met me at the ferry terminal in the centre of Santander, and he drove me along the waterfront, showing me the impressive facilities built for training and supporting the Olympic watersports team. In the evening sun we toured the eastern point of the city, briefly viewing the Palacio Real de la Magdalena, the several impressive beaches and the lighthouse, before heading back to the house.

These hosts were congenial – welcoming, accommodating, generous and so patient with my pidgeon Spanish! They prepared food for me every day, took me around the city and along the coast in the sunshine. I rode on the back of a motor bike for the first time since I was 20, zipping in and out of the city traffic, able to get a parking place easily, and take detours through no-car zones. We picked up fish and vegetables from the thronging Miranda market for the evening’s paella, and I saw the hugest tuna on the slab ready for a party.

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We coursed through at least 3 writer’s streets, wide avenues with apartments that have large windows and good views, ideal for stimulating the creative process; skimmed past the cathedral and environs, managing the hills of the city with ease on 2 wheels. Manolo pointed out places which were special to the family; and I was given the history and stories behind the sights. Being a tourist in a city new to you is a totally different and more satisfying experience when you are shown around by a local.

My first walk was along a stretch of nearby coast as the evening sun set on my left. La Maruca, where the Ria de San Pedro del Mar meets the sea, has a wild feeling with cliffs and rocky beach, especially considering it is just north of the city centre.

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Santillana del Mar

We drove in an open top car (me comfortable in the tiny back seat because I have very short legs!) to Santillana del Mar (famously neither on a plane (llana), nor by the sea (del mar)). It´s ever so pretty, with flowers cascading from window boxes down sun-bleached stone walls, and narrow shops selling leather goods and local delicacies. Unfortunately the church was closed as it was lunchtime but I was told that the cloisters are well worth seeing.

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Colegiata de Santillana del Mar

We returned via Suances which has a glorious beach, resplendent with real surf. Black-clad imps trying to stay up as they rode the waves, reminded me of the determination of the salmon leaping up the River Braan at The Hermitage near Dunkeld. We lunched on crab and calamari washed down with cold beer in the hot sun-bliss!

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Surfing beach at Suances

My lovely time in Santander came to an end when I tagged along with Rosa who was going to a course in Aviles, Asturias, west of Cantabria, driving along with the stunning Picos de Europa in the distance to where I started the second leg of my Spanish adventure.

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Rosa and Tamsin

Rosas beautiful studios – bright, efficient, well-equipped http://www.rosanunez.com/