DAY 46. 22 JUNE 2016. SANTILLIANA DEL MAR HOLIDAY

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A glorious sunny day and a feast of a breakfast. Linda is very keen to walk some of the Camino so we set out through the town, first to the East and then after a coffee, to the West. There are distant views of the mountains in one direction and a glimpse of the misty sea in the other.

 Romanesque carving on the East window of the church

Romanesque carving on the East window of the church

Following the yellow arrows has become second nature to me; pilgrims trust them with their life. Some people walk without maps and just follow the arrows to get them to the next albergue. Most of the time the route is clear and seeing them becomes subliminal. In fact my eye often picks up yellow flowers or litter as well as the arrows, which are painted in all sorts of places: kerb stones, the back of road signs, fence posts, rocks, crash barriers and on the road. As well as the formal metal, concrete and timber sign posts. If I don't see an arrow for a while I get anxious and slightly paranoid; it's always such a relief to see the next one peeping out from wherever it might be. They become comforting friends that encourage us on.

But I also have a Camino del Norte app on my phone with a GPS route-map and a moving blue dot which I refer to when I lose the arrows- which happens from time to time.

 A lovely clump of acanthus en route

A lovely clump of acanthus en route

We return to town for lunch about 2.30pm and choose three raciones: prawns with garlic, Pimento de Padron and a selection of local cheeses. The cider is sweeter and milder than yesterday and we easily get through the bottle, but then need our siesta.

 A selection of Esturiun heeses

A selection of Esturiun heeses

We set out on the walk uphill out of town to the Altamira caves about 5pm. The pre-historic cave paintings are a UNESCO World Heritage site and were the first examples to be discovered in Northern Europe; archaeologist in the 1890s thought they were fake because they are so fine and well preserved. Now experts think the earliest ones may have been made by Neanderthals.

Due to huge numbers of visitors and ensuing deterioration the original caves are closed to the public. But there is an excellent museum and a full scale reconstruction of the 100m long caves; it lacks the chill frisson of a real cave and the sense of encounter with the original, but still give a good idea of how the artists? used the rippling contours of the roof of the cave to suggest 3D representations of bison and horses in ochre and charcoal. There is also scratched detail of the graceful silhouettes and a series of hands in red ochre. They are skilled, highly stylised drawings; honed distillations of form that capture the essence and power of the animals -some paintings are 18,000 years old.

The weather has changed and it's cold and misty. It's that Arco Atlantico climate again! We find a very nice Menu del Noche and sit in a loggia overlooking the garden. It's beginning to rain but luckily it's a short walk to the hotel.

Time to pack and go to bed. We leave early tomorrow.