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Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

4th May, 2017

An overnight run around the top of Spain took us to the capital of Cantabria, Santander, a first for both the ship and myself. It’s a large port sheltered from the worst of the weather the Bay of Biscay can produce and I was surprised to see golden sandy beaches as we entered the estuary.

We berthed at the main ferry dock, just across the street from the centre of town, so handy for those just taking a stroll. Tours to the surrounding area and also to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao were on offer. We, however, went for a jaunt to the small town of Comillas and the ancient village of Santillana del Mar.

Comillas is the seat of a Marquis, the first of the line being the great benefactor of the town and there are many big houses where aristocratic families used to live. On the top of the hill overlooking the town are the imposing buildings of the university first founded by Jesuit priests in 1890.

We were taken to another little gem, El Capricho, a modernist house and the first designed by Antonio Gaudi for a wealthy client. Typical of his later work, some might say it was a folly, but in fact it has within many practical solutions to practical problems, such as a conservatory being placed in the middle of the house so warm air circulated around the other rooms. There was also some furniture of his design, unusual to say the least, but quite delightful.

Continuing our journey, we continued on to Santillana, a medieval village so ‘intactly original’that it felt almost like a Disney set with cobbled streets, stone houses and terracotta tiled roofs. Any ‘new’building has been completed in the correct style, including the coach park. Fortunately we were the only coach there when we arrived, apparently in the summer season, there are so many visitors that it is difficult to move through the main street.

Not so this day. We ambled and Mrs R managed to find a charming shop from which she has now enhanced her summer wardrobe, I took the photos. There were refreshments at the local Parador, full of character and formerly a home to the family Barreda-Bracho and built in the Baroque style in the 17th century.

Once back to Santander we opted to stay overnight alongside and sail the following morning. It was a pleasant evening and passengers were able to watch the busy activity of Spanish night life from the comfort of their own restaurant afloat.

Captain Philip Rentell

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