At some point we do have to recognize that there is more to the north than just the Basque Region. We decided to take one more excursion but this time we went west through Cantabria. Once again we took Patricia, Eusebio, and their girls with us as it is always more fun to explore new places together.
Saturday, June 18
We started out in the morning towards Santillana del Mar. On the way we made a reservation to tour El Soplao, a cave in the mountains south of San Vicente de la Barquera. Due to time constraints we decided to skip Santillana del Mar and head straight to Comillas. Having done a little research ahead of time I knew that we would be able to get some pictures of El Capricho de Gaudi. It was like a candyland house. So cool. It was one of Gaudí's earlier works assigned to him by his master who was to design the palace found just up the hill from El Capricho. To get pictures from the outside we headed up that hill towards El Palacio de Sobrellano.
More interesting to us than the palace itself were some of the sculptures on the outside. As you can see, the girls enjoyed climbing in and around them.
Below the palace was a field where they were having a medieval festival. We would have liked to check it out but we were short on time to make it to our date with the cave. We headed down the hill and took a quick loop through the center of town. It's a really lovely place and next time we will have to plan to spend some more time there for sure.
Returning to our cars, we headed to El Soplao which was definitely worth it. It was the Florida mine up in the mountains that was being worked when in the beginning of the 20th Century the miners discovered the cave. It was only recently opened for tourism. Our tour began with a short ride on a miner's train car to enter the cave. Once inside we had an hour long tour. The cave consists of more than 30 kilometers of galleries. From the entrance there is a 35ft. drop into the gallery called "La Gorda", named for its immense size, with a maximum height over 60ft. There was another gallery called "Los Fantasmas" (The Ghosts) named for its huge white stalagmites. Unfortunately I can't remember the names of all the galleries but there was one with a low ceiling full of eccentric stalactites. They are considered eccentric because they are growing horizontally to the floor. There are a few theories for what causes them to form that way but no one is absolutely sure. I've visited a few caves but never have I seen one so big or with so many eccentric formations. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside but you can see a bit of it here.
The tour ended around 3pm and we were starving. We headed to San Vicente de la Barquera. There we found lunch, really huge ice cream and took a walk up the hill to the monument section of town. We visited the outside of the Santa María de los Ángeles church. The views were certainly nice from up there. On our way back down the hill we went into the Castillo del Rey. There were a few artifacts left inside but mostly it was for the views from the outside. When we finished there it was getting late and the kids were getting tired. We did make our way to the lighthouse, which wasn't as interesting as expected. Then we headed for the breakwater known as La Barra. The water was really rough in that area and fascinating to watch.
Next stop, home. It was a long day and everyone, not driving, fell asleep on the way home.
Sunday, June 19
Laredo where we spent a few hours on the beach with a picnic lunch. The sand was very soft and the water really welcoming. It is a beach of about 4 km in length, known as the longest in the area. Once we were sufficiently lobster-like where we weren't careful enough with lotion, we decided to head out.
We went to a town called Castro Urdiales which is still Cantabria but just the other side of the border of the Basque Country. It was a nice town. From the point, we could see La Galea and the windmills that mark the area of Getxo near where we live. We did a typical walk around the monuments and old area of town. While we didn't make it to the natural pool, we were told they have one. Our next trip I'd like to spend a little time in the water as it seemed very inviting.
There's never enough time for all that we want to do so we are doing our best to enjoy the time that we have.