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