Santander


When we got to Santander we caught a taxi to our hotel, which was a couple kilometers to the west at the resort town of Sandimar. It was New Years Eve and there was some kind of big festivity in preparation near the beach, a couple hundred meters from our hotel. It's fortunate that some kind of festivity was in the works because the few restaurants that were open were fully booked, and we were lucky to find a cafe that was open where we could get some bocadillos (sandwiches on a baguette) and a cerveza.

After we had eaten our late-afternoon meal we went out to watch the footrace that was taking place in celebration of the coming new year. It was kind of like a Bay To Breakers race with people running in costumes and clown hats, and blinking Santa caps. After that, we retired to our hotel to watch the same fifteen-minute CNN loop of tsunami coverage until we lapsed into siesta.

We woke around midnight to the sound of fireworks, and ventured back out to see if we could find any place serving food. We did not, but we did find a vending machine that sold bottled water, so we stocked up on that and retired for the evening.

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Saturday, 1 January 2005; Ano Nuevo - We took a bus back into Santander to get a little exercise and to make sure we could find the place where we would be picking up our rental car the following day. After successfully locating the Avis office, we walked back to Santimar, taking pictures and stopping to window shop at the various real estate offices along the way.





I made note of some prices and saved some web addresses in my HipTop. These would later be lost when my batteries went dead, but in the end it wouldn't really matter because I pretty much had concluded that this area was too rich for my blood. I'd have to tack another zero onto my net worth before the Santander lifestyle could be a practical consideration. Santander is a beautiful location as these pictures indicate, but the beauty is reflected in the real estate prices.















Santander isn't too cold in the dead of winter and it's not too hot at the height of summer. It is however overrun with European tourists, particularly in the summer, and I can get that back in San Francisco and still have a leg up on the language barrier.


That night we dined on the restaurant side of the cafe where we had eaten the afternoon before. The fish was greasy but not bad, and we had our first experience with "asparagus  with two sauces", which turned out to be canned white asparagus with a choice of mayonnaise or home-mode relish. We were kind of expecting fresh asparagus but this was before we got wise to the vegetable situation in Spain. My fish dish came with canned potatoes. I had a hard time convincing Daisy that there was such a thing as canned potatoes, but then I've eaten enough Dinty Moore's Beef Stew to know a canned potato when I choke on one.

Sunday, 2 January - We checked out of our hotel and caught a taxi to the Avis office. Unlike the beautiful day before,  it was raining on this day, so I made sure to find out how the windshield wipers worked before we headed off to the highway. It turns out that on this Reanult diesel they worked pretty much like they work on American cars, but we wanted to be sure because of an experience we had had a few years back in Italy when it took us half an hour to figure out how to turn the rear wiper off, which had become very annoying after the rain had stopped. But that's another story.

Our next destination was Gijon, another coastal town to the west. The GPS got us out of town without incident but we wanted to pass through the quaint little fishing village of Santanilla. We found Santanilla with no trouble but it was more or less boarded up for the holidays, and with the ocean nowhere in sight I'm a little confused as to how it can be considered a fishing village.

As we left Santanilla I saw a sign pointing to Altamira, and I've wanted to see the Caves Of Altamira ever since I heard Joseph Campbell talk about them. They are the sight of the oldest known Paleolithic cave paintings in the world. And besides, I'm a big fan of the Steely Dan song by the same name.

We pulled into the parking lot with the sign that said Cuevas. I mistakenly thought it said Cuervo, and you can imagine my disappointment when we got to the office that said Taquilla, and I found out that taquilla means "ticket office".



Anyway, we decided to go in and see the oldest Paleolithic cave paintings known to man. Then next tour was scheduled to start in about thirty minutes, which gave us enough time to walk through the museum and figure out that because of concerns about the effects of exposure to artificial light and CO2 (I'm improvising here, because virtually all the displays and information were in Spanish for some reason), the actual caves had been closed off to the general public, and instead a simulated cave has been constructed with simulated Paleolithic cave paintings for the general public to view. It was a guided tour that moved very slowly. It might have not seemed so slow if my Spanish had been better, but since there was no mention of cervezas or tapas I really don't know what our guide was talking about. Had I come equipped with my can of green spray paint that comes in so handy playing Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas I might have been able to amuse myself by enhancing some of the artwork with my own neo-Neanderthal embellishments. But it was not to be, so as quickly as possible I indicated to Daisy that we should ease our way ahead and hook up with the tour group that was about to exit.


Once we were back out in the rain I took a couple more pictures of the countryside and then we were back on the road.



The GPS seemed determined to force us to take the scenic coastal route to Gijon, and had it not been raining we would not have been opposed to that, but it was raining so we consulted our Michilen map and made our way back to the highway. Once we had gotten to the highway and convinced the GPS that it was not going to have its way with us, it consented to let us make the remainder of the trip via the less scenic, but much quicker highway route.

The remainder of the drive through Picos Europa (or European Peaks) was beautiful. The Picos Europa are these majestic peaks that rise high above the north coast, and in places it reminded me of the north coast of Oahu. The peaks aren't covered in as much lush vegetation but they're every bit as spectacular. I would have taken pictures but in most places they were shrouded in fog (or rain), and besides I was hurtling down the highway at 120 kilometers per hour in the rain. Besides, there really weren't any places to pull over.

Gijon

The GPS really shined when it came to getting us into Gijon and to our hotel. There was a lot of "In 400 meters, enter roundabout and make second left". If you've ever driven through Europe without a GPS you probably already know that those roundabouts will get you lost early and often. The Michelin maps are too low in resolution to indicate where the roundabouts are, and most of them have four or five roads emanating out of them. Even if you're lucky enough to not end up exiting on the same road that you entered on, the odds are not good that you will continue on your way in the intended direction. Throw 5 or 10 roundabouts between point A and point B and it's virtually a statistical impossibility that you will end up at your desired destination. At least not at the desired time.

Anyway, the GPS took us right to our desired destination. It was not the fault of the GPS that our desired location looked nothing like a hotel, so we still spent another ten minutes driving around and confirming street names before we concluded that in spite of all appearances, this building must be the parador where we're supposed to be staying. Not that it wasn't nice, especially inside, but from the outside it looked more like a converted cider house - which, as it turns out, is exactly what it was.

Anyway, we got there a little after 3, so there was still plenty of time to have lunch at the hotel restaurant, so we did. Daisy had fish soup and I had bean soup. Oh yeah, and wine. The beans, I'm pleased to say, were not canned - and we both agreed that the meal was very satisfying. After lunch (and more specifically, the wine) there was really nothing else to do except to take a siesta, and so we did.

When we woke we watched some more of the updated fifteen-minute CNN loop about the Asian tsunami and then we headed to beach. At least, that's where I thought we were headed, but since we hadn't consulted the GPS (or the compass, for that matter) I pointed us in precisely the wrong direction, and we walked that way for about one and a half kilometers before Daisy had the temerity to impugn my innate sense of direction. At that point we fired up the GPS and determined that instead of being almost to the beach, we were in fact three kilometers south of it. I'm usually spot-on when it comes to dead-reckoning, but it was dark and we had no meaningful landmarks to work with, so I attribute this lapse to that. That and the fact that I had let the GPS guide me into town rather than paying attention to how we got there. It was definitely a combination of those two factors. Oh, and maybe the wine...

Anyway, about a kilometer and a half later when we were back at the parador we both agreed that we'd had enough exercise for the evening and besides, we'd seen plenty of beaches in Santander. So without further ado (or supper) we retired for the evening.

Monday, 3 January - I slept in till about 3 AM and then got up and watched some more of my calculus DVDs. I finished the first of the four DVDs before going back to sleep for a couple more hours.

We didn't have a reservation for our train ride to Burgos so we were anxious to top off the tank and return our rental car with time left over to secure tickets for the 10:30 train. The next train wouldn't be till 7 that night and we didn't want to roll into Burgos at midnight. The GPS was unerring in taking us up the coast, through a few roundabouts, through town, and right up to where the trains were. Then it told us to continue for another 1200 meters. Then it told us to turn and go 800 meters. Then it told us to turn right where there was no place to turn right. There was however, a place to pull in and fill the tank, so we did that and asked for directions. The gentleman at the petrol station was very helpful, but his English was no better than our Spanish, so he drew us a map. We thanked him and continued on our way.

About 2 kilometers later we began to question his cartographic skills so we once again consulted the GPS. We now had less than an hour to return the rental car, and to secure our tickets before the train was scheduled to leave. The GPS seemed determined to take us out of town and away from where the hotel map clearly indicated that the train station should be. My dead-reckoning skills got us back to the tracks and a station, but it didn't look like our station. For one thing, it wasn't at the end of the line, as our station was supposed to be. We once again asked for directions, and this time we asked somebody who spoke enough English to point us in the right direction. I was getting a little panicky at this point but sure enough, in a couple more kilometers we were back where we thought we should be, and we saw something that looked very much like a train station, so I dropped Daisy and she asked some passing pedestrians that explained that we were at the local metro station, but that the train station was very nearby. They pointed us in the right direction - which unfortunately was not the direction that the one-way street was pointed. We drove around a little more until we got to where we thought we had been directed, to a place that we had passed two times previously, and sure enough, upon slowing down and looking closely we spotted both the train station and the Avis office.

Daisy ran in to see if tickets were still available, and they were. I returned the car, and we still had half an hour to kill. More than enough time for a couple cafes con leche, and Daisy bought a sandwich for the train ride.

When the train eventually appeared a few minutes late it was obvious that there had been no danger that tickets would have sold out, as there were fewer than a dozen people on the platform. Once we were situated in our seats I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Once I'd gotten that out of my lungs I headed to the smoking car.

The train ride out of Gijon and up over the mountains to Burgos was a scenic one, and I managed to get some more pictures.























After we got through the mountains and the scenery began to look less like The Peaks of Europe and more like Bakersfield, I headed to the dining car for a bocadillo and some wine. Alas, there were no bocadillos featuring so much as a tomato, so I got the cured ham and cheese, or Jimon Serrano con Queso. What it lacked in flavor it more than made up for in dryness. Fortunately, I had wine to address that issue.

Back at my seat I took the opportunity to consult the English/Spanish book that Daisy had brought along. We had agreed that we would need some sort of rudimentary phrase book for Spain, and I was thinking of something along the lines of a Berlitz book. I was a little disappointed when she came home from the Rand McNalley Store with a Rick Steve's Spanish phrase book. Not disappointed enough to actually get off my butt and undertake the task myself of course, but disappointed none-the-less. Unlike Daisy and Jamie, I'm not a big fan of the Rick Steve's Europe series on PBS. I just get the impression that he and I have different priorities for a European vacation. Imagine my surprise then, as I perused the book and found a collection of phrases for all occasions. What follows is an assemblage of actual phrases from the book:

 

Spanish

English

Page

 

 

 

Hola

Hello

4

└Te importa si me siento aqui?

Do you mind if I sit here?

210

└Como se llama?

What's your name?

4

└De donde es usted?

Where are you from?

4

Trabajo en la informatica.

I work in the computer field.

190

└Que es lo mas importante en la vida?

What is most important in life?

207

└Te gustaria tomar algo?

Would you like a drink?

210

Salud!

Cheers!

108

Viva Espana!

Long live Spain!

108

Me siento borracho.

I'm feeling blitzed.

108

└Fuma?

Do you smoke?

200

└Fuma hierba?

Do you smoke pot?

200

└De verdad?

Really?

201

Caray!

Wow!

201

Perfecto

Perfect

201

Estoy casado (pero...)

I'm married (but...)

210

└Puedo acompanarte casa?

Can I take you home?

210

└Por que no?

Why not?

210

└Como puedo convencerte?

How can I change your mind?

210

No tengo enfermedades.

I have no diseases

211

└Puedo besarte?

May I kiss you?

211

└Por que no?

Why not?

210

└Como puedo convencerte?

How can I change your mind?

210

└Te gustaria un masaje...?

Would you like a massage...?

212

...para tu espalda

...for your back

212

└Por que no?

Why not?

210

└Como puedo convencerte?

How can I change your mind?

210

Soy rico y soltero.

I'm rich and single.

210

Estoy caliente.

I'm horny.

210

Tengamos una noche loca y divertida!

Let's have a wild and crazy night!

211

└Por que no?

Why not?

210

└Como puedo convencerte?

How can I change your mind?

210

Quanto questo?

How much?

246

└Esan las duchas incluidas?

Are showers included?

68

└El desayuno esta incluido?

Is breakfast included?

64

└Cuanto cuesta sin desayuno?

How much without breakfast?

62

└Podria darme un recibo, por favor?

Could I have a receipt, please?

78

Dios Mio!

Oh my god!

212

Te Quiero.

I love you.

212

Quedese con el cambio.

Keep the change.

78

Estoy cansado.

I'm tired.

188

└Tiene hermana?

Do you have a sister?

189



back to Madrid
on to Burgos