So to cheer myself up I booked a trip to Santander to visit Louise, my landlady! A 5 hour bus trip ended with a very numb arse but smiley Louise meeting me and whisking me away to her great apartment high up on the crest of the city. I couldn´t see a lot (it was night, I wasn´t drunk!) but she assured me that you can see the sea from the balcony. We chatted and drank beer then crashed.
The next morning (Thursday) dawned bright and sunny. Louise had gone to work and the day was my own. I grabbed the map and headed out into the unknown having marvelled at the view from her balcony! It certainly is a town on hills. All the way down to the waterfront was a steep hill which was great in that direction but I wasn´t relishing the journey back up! I headed into the narrow streets that make up the bar-restaurant area. A real mix of new and old. I walked out along the waterfront to the east, past an enormous Brittany Ferries cruise liner (that explained all the British and American elderly people I kept spotting) until I could go no further. Then I came back to the old part of town and treated myself to una caña (beer) and a bocadillo (sandwich) in the sun. Then I decided to head west to the little beach. On the map, it appeared I would pass both the Museo de Prehistoria and the Planetarium on the way so I decided to take a look. Given that the museum was clearly marked on the tourist map and had a huge sign above the door, imagine my surprise to find an obviously permanent sign by the door - Cerrado el Publico (Closed to the Public). Ah well. The Planetarium also turned out not to open for another hour and it appeared that you needed to be a minimum of a group of 5. Oh well, the beach it would be. It was a cute little beach with only a dozen or so people sunning themselves, and a very tempting ice cream van (I thought we only had those in the UK). I sat on the sand, dug my toes in and wrote my diary for a bit. My bladder being what it is, and Spanish beer doing what it does, and there being no such things as public loos, I then started the climb back up to the flat. And it was certainly a climb!
After a short break at the flat and a well deserved litre of water, I decided to head out again, this time in the opposite direction and towards the Playa el Sardinero, a huge beach Louise had recommended. I really hope it means Beach of the Sardines, but probably not! Just before the beach I found a beautiful little garden full of benches which overlooked the beach. I treated myself to a very large ice cream and watched the world go by. Unable to resist sand between my toes for a second time, I descended the long staircase to the beach and plonked myself in the sand again. Much wilder sea than the earlier little beach, presumably because it faced a different way so the waves crashed in front of me, threatening to swallow up the one brave swimmer!
Eventually I had to contemplate the climb back to the flat, realising that I had the only set of keys and Louise would be home from work soon. I made it back just in time, then we chatted for a while again before going out to eat at a clearly very popular, but also incredibly smoky, tapas/racion place. Given that I am generally resigned to living on patatas bravas and tortilla these days, it was a real treat to discover that they did a huge vegetable kebab. I was like a pig in the proverbial. I giant kebab filled with broccoli, potato, tomato, cauliflower, mushroom, red pepper and bizarrely, pear arrived, drizzled in olive oil and cooked perfectly. Mind you, I did have to have patatas bravas on the side! More beer and the fact that I´d been out all day in the sun eventually caught up with me and we plumped for the taxi option to get back. I was disappointed that it was such a short trip - I was heading back to Madrid the next morning. Santander had been a real revelation. It reminded me a lot of Brighton, Brisbane and Barcelona (I would say almost anywhere beginning with B but then I remembered Bradford)!
Fortunately, the next day dawned grey and threatening drizzle. Due to the one set of keys issue, I had to leave the flat at the same time as Louise left for work and despite my efforts to walk at Spanish speed (ie a millionth of a mile a week) I still got the bus station with an hour and a half to kill. I wandered about in the local area, but needless to say nothing was open so I settled myself down with a book. The journey back was uneventful but longer than expected due to the Friday afternoon Madrid traffic. Still, I was back in time for the Friday night meetup at Locandita where I found Cristina, a Spanish girl I met in February 2008 at Vaughan Town!! It was lovely to see her but the meetup being what it is, I actually barely got to speak to her. We´ve promised ourselves lunch one day. 2 of the guys who had been on the Vaughan Town week that I had so nearly been on also turned up and told me some interesting stuff about the week. Given what they and Dade had said, maybe I should be grateful I didn´t end up staying the week!
Sitting outside drinking beer at nearly midnight can pretty much sum up what I came here for, but if I want it to carry on I NEED A JOB!