Camino del Norte 12 – choices

20km from Santander to Santillana Del Mar for Evan, 7km for Jennifer.

One of the big differences between the Camino del Norte and the Camino Frances is that the Norte is not so well defined. There are continual choices to be made, alternatives to pick between, and strangely little detail to base decisions on. The path out of Santander is a classic example with multiple possibilities available. Added to that we had the particular issue that Jennifer had been up all night and so didn’t want to walk far.

So I left first and caught a local train to the tiny town of Morgo. Catching a train was pretty much the only viable choice apart from 40km of walking or risking crossing the rail bridge on foot (the risk being as much about being caught by the police as a train).

From Morgo I had 15km of walking on roads and through industrial estates. The trail can’t always be pretty, but this was ugly – although there were interesting bits, they took some effort to find.

Not always so pretty

Every small town I come to also had a station for the same train I’d left in Morgo, which made me wonder what I was doing walking. I concluded I like walking. I get a deep sense of satisfaction in arriving somewhere after the effort of walking there. I also like having the time to contemplate questions such as why I like walking.

I had snack by the road and waited for Jennifer to catch up to me after she caught the train to the last station. The remaining 5km was through farmlands redolent with well fertilized fields and really quite pleasant.

The great surprise of the day has been Santillana Del Mar which, it turns out, is beautiful. It’s an ancient village – the church is from the 12th Century – with cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and stone towers. It’s quite fantastic, and an utter contrast to the walk to get here.

This coast of Spain is known for its cider – which is interesting because we’ve seen no apple trees. Anyway, we have been on the lookout for a ‘sidrerea’ where we could try the cider with the traditional pour from a couple of feet above the glass. Lunch today included the pour. Fascinatingly, the bottle comes with a cork with special holes to facilitate the pouring. The process is a bit messy and I’m not enough of a cider aficionado to know how much it helps the taste, but I absolutely love the tradition.

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