Days 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 Isla to Ribadasella

The only way to “catch up” and post pictures from the past week is to include everything from Monday through Friday. It was a tough week: hot, some rain, a few steep climbs, a few wrong turns. A typical week on the Camino. I also got my first blister. It is small but mighty. The sunrises are getting later, but we’re still trying to start each day before 7:00. Goal is to start at 6:30, but so far no luck.

DayDateFrom-ToSunriseWeatherStart# HrsMilesKmElev.
1012-SepS/Miguel- Somo7:5163 Sunny7:205:5213.421.6852
1113-SepS del Mar-Comillas7:5382 Sunny6:537:1415.124.31536
1214-SepComillas-Unquera7:5568 Clear6:537:1716.827.01586
1315-SepUnquera-Llanes7:5768 Rain6:478:141625.71305
1416-SepLlanes-Ribadasella7:5966 Overcast6:459:0522.736.51349

San Miguel de Meruelo to Santillana del Mar
After another fun weekend with my family in Isla, we continued our journey westward toward Santiago de Compostela. Since we had veered off the official Camino to stop in Isla, we took a taxi to San Miguel de Meruelo, and walked to Somo, where we took a passenger ferry to Santander. Apparently, the boats that are on the shore next to the ferry have to wait until high tide to be of any use.

Mike got a kick out of a tractor that must have run out of gas. A petrol truck came to the rescue! The walk to Somo was mostly on paved roads, past beautiful rolling hills with glimpses of the sea. A local woman ran to tell us that there was a more beautiful trail that runs along the cliffs. We tried to find it, and ended up on a very sandy path that did eventually lead to the ferry dock.

We were happy to arrive in Santander, a city that we enjoyed with Charo, Ismael, Guillermo and Martín a few days earlier. We had rodaballo (turbot) for lunch again, and then took a taxi to Santillana del Mar. On our first Camino del Norte, we “jumped ahead” to miss some of the cities, and to make up for the extra time that we spent with family. We are doing the same this time, enjoying the countryside.

They say that Santillana del Mar is the town of the three lies: not holy (santi), flat (llana) or by the sea (del mar). This medieval jewel is in such a perfect state of preservation, with its bright cobbled streets, flower-filled balconies and huddle of tanned stone and brick buildings – it looks like a film set.

We stayed at the Hotel Museo Los Infantes, a beautiful and very old Inn in this beautiful and historic town, took a walk through the old town, had a glass of wine in The Parador, and took extra care on the cobblestone streets. A few tour buses filled with mostly older (than us) people came through.

Santillana del Mar to Comillas
When we left Santillana, it was 82 degrees, not a great way to start. But the beautiful mountains and view of the sea were spectacular.

A highlight was Cóbreces, which “lights up with color”, dominated by 2 pastel-colored buildings:
• the red Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, a striking Neo-Gothic structure with 2 prominent towers and an octagonal dome. A monument to pilgrims stands behind it.
• The sky-blue Cistercian Abbey of Viaceli, distinctive for its rows of pointed windows.

We met Tom, an 82-year-old man from Maine, who was also heading to Comillas. He is doing his 7th Camino. His wife, who taught in Bilbao, was fluent in Spanish, and was an avid hiker, died in 2013. That’s when he decided to do a Camino. While he was walking, he believed that he saw his wife walking ahead of him. Such a lovely thought. Since then, he’s done 5 more Caminos, and has had several unanticipated interruptions in his attempts to do the Camino del Norte. We hope he’s able to complete it this time! Mike feels that meeting Tom was a sign that my Mom is walking with us on our journey.

A town with palaces and noble homes, Comillas was frequented by the Spanish royal family at the beginning of the 20th century. Its main attraction is an odd villa called El Capricho (“The Whimsy”), created by Antonio Gaudí and covered with green and yellow three-dimensional flowered tiles of his own design. It is a stunning combination of brick, iron, and pottery, displaying both Spanish and Arabic influences. Gaudí assisted with the general design and furnishings of the Palacio de Sobrellano, an impressive Neo-Gothic building. As in 2017, we didn’t make it to El Capricho in time to take a tour.

Comillas to Unquera
Starting before dawn with headlights, we have seen some beautiful sunrises. The last time we walked to Unquera, we walked by the beach. This time, we walked (unintentionally) inland. But the walk through a golf course, a partial rainbow, and a Maxfield Parrish sky made our wrong turn worthwhile.

We walked alongside train tracks and on a lot of paved roads. The pavement is not the best for our feet, legs, and backs. I prefer it over wet and slippery, rocky paths, but I sure do miss the Midmountain trail in Park City. We met João Paulo from Brazil, who was doing a “fast” (as in fasting from food) day. Now that’s what I call poco loco!

Just as my feet were about to go on strike, we reached the Hotel Canal, and walked across the river to Casa Sein, where we’d had a wonderful meal 5 years ago. The food, service, and wine did not disappoint.

We were exhausted, but the room didn’t have a/c, and a pesky mosquito kept us awake for a few hours.

Unquera to Llanes
This morning started with a steep climb up to Colombres. Mike thinks the tiny chapel at the top is a place to give thanks that we made it. As always, the sounds of roosters, cowbells, and birds accompanied us on our early morning trek.

It’s funny how your mind plays tricks on you. I remembered this stage from 5 years ago as difficult, but very pleasant, a mostly even walk on the high cliffs above the Cantabrian Sea before a tough descent to Llanes. Maybe because we had 2 hours of heavy rain and we were walking in very wet shoes, maybe because we took a coastal trail instead of staying on the paved roads…. In any case, the last 5 miles of this stage were really hard. Lots of ups and downs, the town seemed like it was getting farther away rather than closer. Thankfully the rain stopped and our clothing dried out a bit before we walked to a restaurant for a welcome meal, cold water, and wine. Hotel Sablon is very nice, but once again, no a/c. We put our shoes, insoles, and clothes on the balcony to dry, and decided to deal with a hot room rather than mosquitos. Longing for a good night’s sleep.

Llanes to Ribadasella
This was our longest trek since starting our Camino. My cousin Marisa’s son-in-law Ismael walked the 36km with us. Ismael has a great eye, and he stopped to take some beautiful photos on the way. He also helped to keep our minds off the long walk. I felt badly that Ismael had to take a bus back to Llanes to get his car, and then to drive more than an hour back home. But it sure was nice to have him along for the day!

Yesterday, and again today, we ran into Miguel from Madrid. He speaks a little bit of English, and he seems to be walking with an older guy who takes his shirt off every time they stop for café con leche. Not a pleasant sight.

We passed through “Poo” (the town), walked next to beaches, and stopped a few times for café con leche and, later, for bocadillos muy grande and cokes. Including the walk across the river to our hotel, we ended up walking 23 miles. Thankfully we have an extra day in Ribadasella to do laundry and rest our tired legs and feet.

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