Santillana del Mar
…..ni santa, ni llana, ni del mar (neither holy, flat or by the sea). When I asked a local why it was called “del mar”, he told me there are two Santillanas: one further inland, and the other nearer the sea. It may not be on the coast, but it may mean your post is delivered to the correct place.
Santillana del Mar: the whole town is a museum! The ‘casco histórico’ (historic centre) is utterly stunning, and mostly dating from the 16th century. Some would say it is too stunning, making it a typical ‘honey pot’ tourist attraction, guaranteeing that between 10am-6pm the place is crawling with day visitors. The coaches arrive mid morning, everybody stays for lunch (which in Spain is about 3pm), then everybody departs, leaving the place empty in the evening. If you have ever been to Venice, you will know precisely what I mean.
There is a clear message here: go to Santillana to stay the night, and enjoy the place in the peacefulness of the evening or the early morning. Our visit was made very special by our hotel, a ‘Casona Solar’, a large ancestral house built in the 16th century with its own coat of arms. Our room was enormous, our balcony looked out directly onto the street, and most of the furniture was heavy oak. We couldn’t believe this only cost us £26 for the night!
Amongst many things, Santillana is famous for its ‘sobao con leche’ (sponge cake with a glass of milk). Many years ago the BBC had made a short film about a family business, that owned a big ancestral house, selling ‘sobao y leche‘. Nothing special about it, just that it formed part of a Spanish language programme about 25 years ago. We entered the said shop and reminded the elderly owner about this film, and his face lit up. It was probably many years since anyone had mentioned the long-forgotten piece of filming, and he entertained us to several minutes of reminiscences. We had instantly become his ‘amigos íntimos’.
Santillana del Mar is a jewel in the crown of Cantabria. Go and see it!