The Old Man and the Sea. A day in Santander, Spain

Fishing has for thousands of years been a profession widely admired, envied, as well as discarded and shadowy. The solitude, the sensation of being surrounded by water and tranquility, in contrast to the whip and wind of mother nature. For that I find that visiting fishing towns brings me closer to human trials. The daily fight for survival, to feed your family and the chance that they may not return home, particularly when the water is the frigid, powerful and the often dangerous Atlantic, off the northern coast of Spain. On a surprisingly pleasant and sunny weekend in February I found myself in Mother Nature's arms, hugged between the old man and the sea, Santander, Spain. Although certainly I will not tell this tale as eloquently as Ernest Hemingway did, we do share a passion and love for all things Spanish. And I still plan on terming the phrase for people who like all things Spanish, being a Francophile was so 20th century.

As the plane was landing, mountains covered with snow and green come into focus, and green hillsides dotted the views below. Surely I was catching a glimpse of the Picos de Europa, exalted mountain peaks protruding through the Cantabrian landscape. Where was I heading? This place is beautiful! Out of the stuffy cabin, I can breathe...I've left the city pollution and my lungs immediately thanked me for it. The scene; a clean small town full of light reflecting from the coast, pastel colored houses adorned with solariums facing the water, the snow-capped peaks seen in the distance across the bay, and the idea that surrounding me lay endless options for fresh consumption of seafood (in particular Cantabria is very proud of it's anchovies). But dare I mention that this region isn't only alimented by the coast- those rolling hills provide pastures and pastures of the finest ungulates- in the form of sheep, cows, and goats. Therefore, you can believe that these animals happily chomping on free acres of feed provide some of the finest milk and meat, and I can testament that yes they do! Aqui no hay mala leche.

Walking around staring at the all mighty sea and napping in a too-cute boutique hotel, can provoke one's zeal for food. So to bask in all that I believed to be Catabrian, my travel buddy Crisara and I ducked into a seaside restaurante, El Machi, with so much character and charm I couldn't have felt more tickled. The decor was quaint, colorful, and what my mother always described to me as "French Country", rustic, old and welcoming, but I was in Spain...strange. I will have to notify all interior decorators of this miscalculation in style classifications. We were so eager to try everything from the menu, which relies heavy on the co-operative with 146 nearby farmers and suppliers, that perhaps we went a little overboard- literally. After our bean stew with chorizo and morcilla starter (typical of Cantabrian winter menus), arroz de la casa and our entrees, a monkfish and beef fillet, we nearly drowned. This fullness also led to not enjoying the final portions to the max, and leaving a doubt in my mouth and mind on whether or not it was truly a tasty meal. However, as I mentioned, the place is so beautiful and the staff so friendly and willing to serve (365 days a year, 8am-2am), I'd be willing to give it another go.

Two days in Santander was too little, so you can count I'll be back to explore the countryside, eat rabas (fried calamari rings) and dairy, particularly more fresh cheese, because we all know mold is overrated.  Even if you can't understand Spanish, I suggest this video for a closer look into the food and wholesome lifestyle centered around the vastness and smiles that is Cantabria.

Bronze sculptures at the bay of Biscay, Santander, Spain

An evening paseo near the palace and water at dusk.


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