Day 16–Santander 

Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of Santander but it is an impressive city.  There is a beautiful promenade along its waterfront and old world architecture throughout the city center. It was regal, prosperous and modern all in one.  Here are some pictures on our way to Santander:





Rest stop:


Walking through the sea grass:

 

On the ferry to Santander:




Our view from our table at dinner:

Day 15 — 12 Men, 4 Women, One Sleepless Night

Our plan this day was to make it to the small town of Güermes, or about halfway to Santander. There was a highly rated albergue with rumors of comfortable beds, good food and a warm welcome.

After a long, wet walk in blowing rain (therefore no pictures today) we came upon the albergue high on a hill in the middle of a group of farms.  No town of Güermes appeared on the horizon, nor did it the next day when we departed.  As for the warm welcome, hmm, people either exaggerated or had a totally different experience from us, but that’s another story in itself.

The albergue consisted of several separate dorm-style rooms with a separate building for showers and toilets. Our “dorm” was made up of 16 beds, all about 15 inches apart. So yes, four women surrounded by 12 men, many of whom were either snoring or providing other such nocturnal emissions.   Sleepless in Güermes.

Forgot I took these pictures when we stopped to grab some lunch. This is an alternative form of transportation for the Camino pilgrims. Tempting. . .

Day 14 — A Trek to Santoña

We are all very happy that we’ve completed two weeks on the Camino. It has not been without some maladies: a few expected body aches, an unexpected cold, and the worst–blisters!!  Judy has been plagued with them since just a few days on the trail. It seems at the end of every day, there’s a new one, or two, to make an appearance as she pulls off her socks.  But with the help of Denise, who has treated many a blister, Judy has been able to move on the next day.

Our walk to Santoña was a bit challenging but beautiful. We climbed over two mountains, the second more magnificent than the first. Our day ended with a ferry ride from Laredo to Santoña where we spent the night in a well-worn Albergue.


A eucalyptus forest:




Remains of 11th century church, high up on a mountain:






 

Laredo.



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Our ferry to Santoña.





Dinner in Santoña, so good:

 

A real salad is difficult to find in northern Spain.  Usually it’s lettuce, tomatoes, onion and tuna.  This one was delightfully different.

Day 13 – A Gentle Walk to Rioseco

 

In Denise’s words, “I don’t feel like I earned my beer today”.  Truthfully, it was a nice walk on mostly flat surface with only a few small hills to challenge us.  We arrived in  Rioseco, a very small village, at about 4:30 and spent the night at a Casa Rural.   Again it felt like luxury since we had two bedrooms AND two bathrooms all to ourselves.  There were no restaurants but the proprietor offered to make a salad and grilled salt cod for us. Devine!




Castro Urdiales 

Beautiful and obviously prosperous coastal city.  Once we entered the city, we walked the promenade for about a half a mile before deciding to sit down, have our usual post-walk  celebratory beer, and decide where to spend the night.  The albergue was small and already booked so we narrowed it down to a few “Camino affordable” places and eventually found a nice place right in their old town.   Below are a few pictures from around the city.



 
13th century cathedral at night:


And the next morning:


Ancient castle with lighthouse and modern elevator. Odd.

 


Sculptures around the cathedral.


There are fish below. Not sure you can see them.


Beautiful sculptures on our way out of Castro Urdiales


 Day 12 – Our Trek to Castro Urdiales 

Today our walk took us out of the Basque region into the Cantabria province after climbing about 70 steps up to the top of a cliff we had a very nice walk along a rails-to-trails path that had been paved and was well attended. Beautiful vistas and from the start we could see our afternoons destination jutting out to the sea off in the distance. Later, the Camino led us along a secondary road over a small mountain, through a small village and then back along the coast.

Pictures to follow when wifi improves.

Sunset the night before our departure:


This tree and rock lined path led us to the coastal path:





Windmills off in the distance:


Denise either meditating or enjoying the view during a rest stop:


You can see our destination city, Castro Urdiales, on the far right:

Our path took us through this old railway tunnel–pretty cool.



Castro Urdiales is getting closer:


A man fishing far below:


Veering away from the coast for a bit.



“The Simpsons” make an appearance along the way:


Another tunnel:

Day 11, Beyond Bilbao

At the advice of several pilgrims who have traveled the Norte before us, we chose to ride the metro 10k out of Bilbao to the town of Portugalete. That allowed us to skip a day of walking through the less than scenic section of Bilbao where the industries and refineries are located. From Portugalete we walked to the small beach town of La Arena where we will spend the night.

Our walk today was quite different from the past several days. Just about the entire day was spent walking a paved pedestrian/cycling trail with gentle slopes and a couple of parks along the way.   It wound out of Portugalete, over a major highway and eventually into a quiet rural area where it ended at La Arena beach.

Leaving Portugalete:

 

There was an escalator in town that took us up a very steep hill.  Judy was pleased.


Today’s “trail”.


Along the way:


Denise’s backpack. She has the most “flare” of the three of us. That’s our mascot, Tom, peaking out of the side pocket.


A post-walk beer with a bear.


On the beach in La Arena:



Day 9 and 10, Bilbao

Rest day in Bilbao was planned for day 10. We got up yesterday morning and readied ourselves for a 15k walk out of Gernika where we would then take a bus the remaining 15k to Bilbao. However one look at the blisters on Judy’s feet and we realized another full day of walking would not do her well. Since I was fighting a cold, I bravely volunteered to take the train with her to Bilbao.  Denise elected to walk the first 15k and set off with Julianna, a young German woman that we had recently friended.

By 4:30 that afternoon we had managed to find the apartment building, get stuck in its tiny, tiny elevator for 30 minutes on the way up (did I mention Judy is claustrophobic) and then once rescued, checked in to our 2 bedroom flat where we would spend the next 36 hours. After staying the previous three nights in the albergues, we felt like we were living like royalty.  Denise arrived at 6:00 and Team Osprey was once again reunited.

Bilbao street from our flat:


The Guggenheim:


Around the city:



Street Entertainment:


Santiago:

The Days 4-8 Scenes from Orio through Zumaia, Deba, Markina, Munitibar, and Gernika

Wifi has been quite spotty along the Camino and where it has been decent, exhaustion has won over my desire to post. The toughest day by far was the walk from Deba to Markina–25K over a steep mountain where the total ascent  was 1000 meters, and then of course we had to make our way down.  We hobbled into town that evening each of us wondering why in the hell we were doing this. However, the next morning we woke up refreshed and ready to move forward.  Here are a few pictures along the way the over the past several days.

 

Yes, it rained a bit off and on.

 

We crested a hill and there was a picnic table, just in time for a trail-side lunch.


 

 

As we passed by a church in a small town we were invited in to see this beautiful Madonna by the caretaker. He was so proud of this church and so happy to give us a personal tour. A special moment.

 

Artichoke hearts that have bloomed.

An albergue that we stayed in. It is a renovated train station. It was our first multi-bed, co-ed dorm style sleeping arrangement. Surprisingly, it was comfortable and people respected each other’s privacy.

St. Francis of Assisi?  Most likely St. James.

This is a family with two kids, two dogs, a mule and a donkey that have been wandering about Spain for two years. Yes, they are camping all along the way.  Amazing.

The family was breaking camp and the dogs were trying to round up the mule and donkey.  The mule would have none of it.

 

Pilgrim dinner. Three courses, all the wine you can drink, 12€.  Not bad.


Muddy trails=very muddy boots:

This rocky trail in the picture below is what one comes to expect coming on or off the Camino during the first 8-9 days. It’s very hard on the feet and responsible for many a blistered foot. So far, I’ve been very lucky.   Supposedly after Bilbao, the trail becomes less challenging. Fingers crossed.

 

This statue of St. James was in the middle of a chapel in Deba.

 

The following pictures were taken at a Monastery along the way. The monks make their own beer and pilgrims are welcomed to sleep there as well. Our journey was taking us further that day so we passed up on both offerings. 😕

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Denise sitting with Julianna and George, both from Germany.  They ended up sharing a small albergue in Muntibar with us which turned out to be a most fun evening.

 

Weary pilgrims and their most-weary feet.

Leaving Muntibar.

 

Day 3 – San Sebastián to Orio

Leaving San Sebastián the Camino took us along the promenade and then back up into the mountains.  It was about a 16k walk and once again we were treated to beautiful views along the way.   Pictures to follow.  On our way out of town a young Australian women asked us where we were headed. When we told her Santiago de Compestelo she was so excited because she had just seen a movie about the Camino on the plane on the way over and had now seen a pilgrim “in the flesh”.  Haha, we got a kick out of that.