Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Santander, Spain: (El Fin de) Semana Grande


Synopsis: Before my amazing Asturias trip, I was planning to go to Santander, but upon further research, I saw they were having a semana grande (it's like a week-long festival with food, music, art, and activities) the last weekend of July, and I postponed my trip until then. I invited some friends, and Suzana, one of my Pintxo Pals, took me up on my offer. However, because I was in Asturias, I did not do any planning, and the weekend is turning out to be a bigger event than I thought. So, we will go there for the weekend, with no plans and no place to sleep...

Two days of fun, sun, and beach-un (so that it rhymes)
Two days of fun, sun, and beach-un (it has to rhyme)


Day 1: At the bus station Saturday morning for our 6am bus, which arrives 15 minutes late. Sleep most of the bus ride and arrive in Santander at 830. It's raining, we don't have an umbrella or jackets. Today is fiesta, or day off, in Santander, and many stores are closed,  so, after a quick breakfast in a cafe, we swing by the tourism office to ask where we can find a store to buy an umbrella - they give us directions to a store that turns out to be closed. We decide to step into a grocery to see if they have any, and a kind lady working there gives us an umbrella someone else left behind. 

Walk toward the Palacio de La Magdelena, along the coast, and the weather begins to clear up. There are very few people at the beach this early, but we do see a group of crossfitters doing a beach WOD. Once we arrive at Parque de La Magdelena, we see so many more people, as it is later in the day, plus this is a popular tourist spot. We miss the last tour time at the palace and are not allowed in. So we walk around the park until we meet up with Barbara (Barbi) from Couchsurfing.

As we walk to her car, we pass another beach where they are playing palas, a racket sport played here frequently on the beach. Barbi drives us to Cabo Mayor, where the faro (lighthouse) is, and we have an amazing view of the coastline. From there, we head back along to coast to see Barbi's favorite beach, Playa de Mataleñas, a splendid hidden cove near Cabo Menor. The sun begins to come out and the day turns into a beautiful day.

We are hungry, so we head into the city to eat some local delicacies. Walking through the city, it is clear that today's festivities for semana grande have begun, as we see live music and open casetas, small wooden shacks where they serve pinchos. We eat what's popular in these parts - rabas (fried squid) at Restaurante Bar Cantabria.

We say goodbye to Barbi as she drops us off at Playa de Los Peligros. The sun is out and we just ate, so we take a nap on the beach. Then, we wake up by jumping in the freezing cold water. Relax on the beach for awhile longer before the wind picks up and encourages us, along with many others, to leave.

Head to the center to eat again, but this time at the casetas, where there are 2,50€ pincho + drink specials. We go to three of the seven areas of casetas to try the specials and the food is quite good. Afterward, we go to Regma, an ice cream parlor that Barbi highly recommends, and it is quite delicious.

Suzana and I decide to walk to hotels, motels, pensions, and hostels to look for vacancies, but everyone is booked. We feel hopeless after the 17th "no". It is already midnight. In our desperation, we concoct several low-probablity plans, and as we are about to execute one, we try one more pension, Hospedaje Botin, and there is one room left. A very nice lady opens the door and shows us the room to see if we want it. We wanted it before she even opened the door.

The room has two twin beds, no windows, a 12" tv from the 90's mounted on the wall, a chair and table, and a shower. In the bedroom. Not a bathroom, but just the shower. Of course, we take the room. As we are doing the paperwork, it is obvious the nice lady wants some company, and we indulge her for about 15 minutes before she is satisfied and lets us go to our room.

It is Saturday night, so we go back out for one last drink at Plaza Cañadio, where Barbi says everyone goes after the semana grande festivities finish. There are so many people there that it's ridiculous. You can barely walk through the crowd. After our drink, we head back to our hotel and call it a night. 


Thoughts: Funny, every city I go to people point out the football (soccer) stadium like it's a monument. The Cantabrian coastline in Santander is just precious. There was a complete difference between this morning, where we saw 5 people on the street in the rain with us, and the one million people out in the afternoon and evening. Suzana was tired, and I could tell, as most of the crazy plans to find lodging were her ideas. In the back of my mind, I was ready to sleep in the park, if it came down to it. Thankfully, we found a place, and for only 50€!



I found this umbrella... to be very unuseful
I found this umbrella... to be very unuseful
Cool statue in front of the School of Marine Engineering (I guess it's a thing)
Cool statue in front of the School of Marine Engineering (I guess it's a thing)



In Parque de La Magdalena with Mermaid Sirena Magdalena, a tribute to Columbus' Santa Maria ship
Mermaid Sirena Magdalena, a Mexican tribute to Columbus' Santa Maria ship

Watching the locals play palas
Watching the locals play palas

With our very own local, Barbi
With our very own local, Barbi

Let the pincho tasting begin!
Let the pincho tasting begin!

Who can resist such an alluring setup of pinchos???
Who can resist such an alluring setup of pinchos??? (we actually didn't eat here)

In all my travels, I've never seen a shower in the bedroom like this
In all my travels, I've never seen a shower in the bedroom like this


Day 2: After a great night's sleep for me (Suzana didn't sleep so well she says) we walk along the main strip and stop at a cafe for breakfast. Then we walk to one of the main plazas where we see some swing dance lessons. 

We head to Playa de Mataleñas by bus and we can see every beach that we pass is ultra packed. From the bus stop, we pass through Parque Las Mataleñas to get to the beach. This beach is amazing and not too crowded like the larger ones. The sand is hot and we practically run to put our stuff down and head to the water. Water is cold like yesterday, but since it's a hot day and there is no wind in this cove, it's perfect. We spend about two hours at the beach.

We head back to the center, where some casetas are between the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Santander and the Jardines de Pereda, to try some more pinchos. Then to the ayuntamiento to have some pinchos there, before heading to the bus station to go home.

Thoughts: Not sure why, but every time I'm at a European beach I have a sudden craving for milk. Santander has no old town because of a fire in the 1940's so everything is like brand new. Barbi loaned me a hoodie, but now it's my hoodie because I didn't see her today to give it back.




SanTIMder - has a good ring to it
SanTIMder - has a good ring to it

Swing dance classes in the plaza
Swing dance classes in the plaza

This is one of the large beaches on a beautiful Sunday in Santander
This is one of the large beaches on a beautiful Sunday in Santander

Arrived at Playa de Mataleñas
Arrived at Playa de Mataleñas

Lookin' good at the beach
Lookin' good at the beach

I didn't want to leave Playa de Mataleñas
I didn't want to leave Playa de Mataleñas

The artist of this statue combined marble and bronze and real live humans
The artist of this statue combined marble and bronze and real live humans


Last picture of the day
Last picture of the day, at the ayuntamiento


Final Thoughts: So, this was the first time I went somewhere without planning where to sleep, and it wasn't as stressful as I thought. I guess I'm just ready for anything on my adventures now. Santander is an amazing city, and I would definitely like to go back during a less busy time, to experience more of the everyday life in the city. Suzana said she could see herself living here. I could do it in the summer, but on the sea in the winter? Yeah, um...





Share:
Location: Santander, Cantabria, España

Subscribe & Travel with the TMax

* indicates required

Popular Posts

Countries Visited

Blog Archive

Instagram

YouTube

Badges