- Thursday 09 February 2017
Our experienced and well travelled travel consultant Mary O'Shea travelled to Cantabria to experience the cultural/ historical & gastronomic elements of this area....read how they got on below!
After all meeting up we took the air coach directly to Dublin Airport where we boarded the Ryanair flight to Santander. On arrival at Santander airport we were met by a delegation who spent the duration with us. We were transferred directly to the Hotel Santemar (Santander) 4* overlooking the bay area. Following check-in we were taken on a tour of the panoramic sights of Santander including a guided tour of Magdalena Palace. This was followed by a Tapas tour in Santander where we enjoyed a variety of tapas accompanied by fine wines...a very enjoyable part of the day.
The coach collected us for the visit to the natural park of Cabárceno - (30 mins drive from the city) which has access for coach travel throughout the 26 hectares. The wet day did not dampen our spirits where we had an opportunity to hand feed the elephants. The sight of 72 Brown Bears in a large open enclosure was a sight to behold. A variety of wild animals can roam freely in this habitat. This is a wonderful amenity that would be equally enjoyed by both adults & children.
After a lunch in "Bears" restaurant we motored to Selaya. Here we visited a bakery famous for its cheesecake. In the evening we had some free time before dinner which was booked in "Umma" a top gourmet restaurant. We were serenaded by a musical duo which complimented the atmosphere and fine dining.
Our first stop en route to Altamira today was in the scenic town of Santillana del Mar - a very picturesque spot overlooking the Bay of Biscay. We also got a wonderful guided tour of the collegiate church of "Santa Juliana". There is also a Parador hotel in this scenic town.
We then transferred to Altamira Museum. This is an exact replica of the Altamira cave where in 1879 the cave paintings were discovered. The guided tour was brought to life by our guide Eugenia who enthralled us with her knowledge. The film "Altamira" starring Antonia Banderas and with a soundtrack by Mark Knoffler had its premier in Madrid two days prior to our visit. Needless to say this created a great frisson of excitement. In 1985 the Altamira Cave was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. At present the Altamira Cave is only open on Friday to 12 persons (picked by lottery).
We had lunch in the local Golf club before visiting the very successful "Dougalls" craft beer factory in Liérganes. We were given a potted history of its development and samples to taste by the owner Andrew Dougall. The sun shone for the afternoon and we enjoyed a lovely walk in this rural environment.
That night we dined in "La Casona del Judio" which was preceeded by a cookery demonstration by one of its celebrated chefs.
After check out we travelled to Santona. Here we had a very interesting visit to an anchovies canning factory - "Conservas Emilia". The product is exported worldwide. We were given a tour of the factory including a video in English showing the process from catching the sardines to the finished product. We also tasted the anchovies!
Following this visit we carried on to Noja on the Costa Verde coast. We had a very pleasant walk around the coastal town with it's traditional large houses. This area can also has fantastic beaches & the campsite of Playa Joyel on the opposite side of the bay. This is a top class campsite which boasts even a hairdressing salon on site.
Following a delightful seafood lunch in "Restaurant Hotel Arillo" we transferred to Bilbao for departure with Aer Lingus to Dublin.
Each member of the group was very enthusiastic about the area and the trip was a great success!