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Looking past the bay of Santander.

The anchoas de Santoña in Cantabria are supposed to be the best in Spain. I would agree. Visiting the coast of Cantabria is another reminder of the diversity of Spain’s landscape, cultures and food. The ancient and well-preserved town of Santillana feels like a little Salamanca, although with just a few too many shops aimed solely at the foodie tourist (there are worse things). The coastal cliffs and beaches are numerous and gorgeous. I was reminded of Washington state and southern Alaska.  The bay in Santander is a wonderful place to sail and stroll along the shore.  The city itself (especially the coastal areas) is a finely organized place with old-ish architecture and lots of trails for biking and walking.

The little farm towns of Comillas and Santillana will please anyone who has an affinity for eating tapas and drinking a coffee or wine on a terrace surrounded by medieval buildings, with the neighing of horses and crows of roosters in the distance.

If you’re into surfing, San Vicente de la Barquera is a place to check of the list.  With marginally large waves (and small ones), it is a great place to learn.  There are two surf schools near the coast, and a few inexpensive hostels. (By the way, any beach-goers with experience in Mallorca or Ibiza will find that this is a more relaxed “family” beach).

With its direct relationship to the Atlantic Ocean, any seafood sold at restaurants or markets will be excellent, but some great local treats not to be missed are:  Pastel de cabracho (a type of crab cake made from Red Scopionfish), Navajas (razor clams, grilled, the smaller the better), Rabas (a specially fried squid), marmitako (a potato and white fish stew), and locally made chocolate or quesada pasiega (a semi-sweet treat that is similar to, but can be better than, flan), Picón Bejes-Tresviso (a local blue cheese), áliva cheese (smoked), any locally made sheep’s milk cheese, and of course Orujo Sierra del Oso (a strong brandy, of various styles and flavors, perfect for after dinner) and sidra (dry, alcoholic cider).

A ría in San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria.

One of the many beaches in Cantabria. San Vicente…

The bay in Santander.

San Vicente de la Barquera.

The village of Comillas.

Medusas (jellyfish) all over the beach.

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