Santander: much more than just a bank!

Royal Palace, La Magdalena

For many, a typical image of Spain is a Mediterranean costa resort, packed with sun worshippers, whose only criterion of a good holiday is the depth of their tan and the abundance of cheap food and wine. Go to the north coast, the Costa Cantábrica, and you will find few foreign tourists. The beaches are bathed by the Atlantic, that unpredictable ocean that can be a joy when its calm, and a scourge when it is angry.

But a beautiful coastline, nevertheless.

In the early 20th century, the people of Santander were so pro-royal, that they built a summer palace for King Alfonso

One of the rafts of the Balsa expedition

XIII. Dutifully, he stayed there every summer enjoying the fresh Atlantic  breezes and country sports, until 1931 when he was deposed in favour of the Second Republic.

In the grounds of the Palace, an outdoor museum display honours the attempts of several Balsa expeditions to repeat (and improve on) what Thor Heyerdahl

Sardinero beach

had achieved on his Kon Tiki expedition in the 1940s. On simple man-made rafts, they succeeded in crossing the Pacific Ocean from Ecuador to Australia, a journey of some 9000 nautical miles, proving beyond doubt that ancient indigenous communities could have done the same hundreds of years ago, long before the exploits of Columbus and his successors.

I tell you, Santander is much, much more than a financial institution with a dodgy customer services department!



About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on October 18, 2012, in Spain. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Are you on the bikes or on the train? The north of Spain is a fabulous coastline as long as you like seafood. It reminded me a lot of the west of Ireland, and as you get further west you get into Celtic bagpipe territory.We visited about 8 years ago (flew to Bilbao and drove to Compostela) which is what gave me the idea of cycling there one day.

    • Andrew, I have cycled to Compostela twice, but last year I followed the north coast route (the most ancient route) and kept meeting this narrow gauge railway line. So this time, in the company of my wife, Jenny, we enjoyed the gentle pace of the train running the whole length of the north coast. An extraordinary journey.
      You will see references to celtic pipes and connections with the Irish in my coming post on Asturias. The whole of the north of Spain was populated by Celts in the pre-Roman era.

  2. Andrew Bethune

    I’ll be reading your posts with great interest.

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