Camino del Norte Day Eleven: Castro Urdiales to Santoña

Big distance today: 35.4k from 8 to 5:40

So yeah, our dogs are barkin’.

Had an amazing rainy morning along the coast. Rolling meadows, lots of cows and lots of snails and slugs (slug-cam post coming soon). Our newly acquired ponchos, while a bit goofy looking, performed admirably!

Left the rolling meadow trails for coffee at a little town off-trail called Islares. Great town square, made all the better by the goat-capped water fountain in the center. Had coffee then grabbed a bench to try our new discovery, queso fresca, spread over a baguette. Pretty excellent (especially the Drew version, with jambon iberica and some lettuce added in).

After leaving Islares, our guidebooks gave us a decision: add a scenic leg of another 23-15k, or stay on the road and local highway for another 8k. Call us what you will, we decided to make up some time and go for a further destination tonight. So 8k it was. Uphill much of the way, and on the shoulder of a highway. Kind of got in a zone for a while, actually.

(Which is worth a quick digression. I’m finding myself zoning out for some of the long stretches of walking, thinking about…whatever, and taking photos when I see things that strike me. It’s both wonderful and a little disconcerting to cover a lot of ground and not quite remember where you just were.)

Anyway, many, many kilometers later, we dragged into Leones, a quaint little town. We stopped at the first place we saw (no judging), which turned out to be lucky, as everyone else was closed for siesta. Anyway, we found a gem of a barmaid, who cooked us up two plates of salty gambas a la plancha with big slices of lemon. Lisa suddenly needed shrimp, and dispatched her plate in short order. (I did, too). Two cokes each later and we were back on the road.

Made our way up and over the highways again, this time coming down into Laredo, a pretty sprawling spa town with a long curved beachfront. Stopped for a great cup of coffee after being stopped and given directions to the beach (again?!? all these old dudes see me and unmediately tell me I need to go to the beach. It’s happened four times now!) which happens to be the Camino.

Passed a few fellow peregrinos, who, curiously, all seemed discombobulated and anxious to find the alberge in Laredo. That cemented our resolve: this town felt a little weird to us and we were pushing on, despite being at about 25k already.

The last part of the day was a bit surreal, and also quite charming. We walked for 5k along the beach promenade, which was fairly empty of people and felt pretty hard on the feet. Funny, except for the brief exception in Laredo’s old town, we saw no perigrinos today. I found myself particularly grateful when we were the only ones to walk up to the little ferry that crosses the inlet over to Santoña. Two dudes sitting on the deck next to a ramp watched us approach on the beach.

Lisa asked if this was the right ferry to Santoña, and one dude replied “It’s the only one.”

So the two of us finished the day by riding a ferry and walking about 1000 meters into a town square where the alberge is.

Next to the alberge is a bar, where a young man sitting there informed us that the alberge manager would be back shortly. He offered us a drink, and came back with two glasses of red wine and a plate of tortillas española (like a potato omelette of sorts). Heaven. Turns out his name is Josemari and he was operating his moms bar, La Plaza. When not doing that, he runs a surf school. The alberge, La Bilbaina, is his dad’s, and we met him shortly thereafter. Got the tour, took a shower, crawled out for dinner, and are barely awake now at 9:30.

Pictures coming soon, at next hotel w good wifi. Now, earplugs and sleep (kids and grow ups alike still playing loudly in the square below us).

Thankful for another wonderful day with my best friend. (‘That’s a little lady with a big pack.’)

Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. 

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