Salamanca is a town that continues to enchant me. I have experiences there that undoubtedly are facilitated by my blind bias and sunny attitude I get when I visit, but it is, at least, a place that reminds me of the world view that I really should hold everyday. History is everywhere, walls and pathways are ancient; there are many quiet places of contemplation (religious or not), a gorgeous river (especially at sunset and sunrise) with giant storks in their over-sized twiggy nests. Tapas are big and included with every drink.
Some complain that Salamanca is an overated tourist trap with too many hapless students in an oblivious and transient state of mind. But on a strict diet of Castellano, an inquisitive mind regarding food, and an appreciation of European history, Salmanca never disappoints. Where else can you sip a perfect glass of Ribera del Duero (shameless plug: Pinna Fidelis rocks my world) and stroll over and walk the exact halls where Christopher Colombus groveled for funding and laid out his plans to explore the New World? And this trip was special because I was able to show my mom a bit more of Spain.
That moment when a new drink arrives at the table, a poke in conversation, another nudge toward silly afternoon bliss, undrunk glasses. The bump in enthusiasm and forgetfulness, when the music subsides for a welcome intermission, and the words from her mouth are clear and soft and invigorate the cold night and the brown trees that scratch the window, and you eat them. You notice her neck and the shape of her ear, and the black hair that slides over her eye, and then the hopelessness. She'll be like a limp sparrow tomorrow, fallen in the grate of the sewer. But you drink your drink and wonder why she's not drinking hers and that maybe it's because she's slipped into that perfect sentimental bliss that friends scoff at during the the business of life, bustling and teeming with frothing, toothy predators. And you feel it too, a petrifying warm monster that curls up next to you, wanting to kill you. But you turn to embrace it again, because you can't help it. --Anonymous
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).