- Thursday 09 February 2017
Our experienced and well-travelled consultant Mary O'Shea recently visited Cantabria. Escorting a group of eight women, Mary experienced the cultural, historical and gastronomic delights of this region. Read how they got on below:
"After meeting in Cork city, we all took the air coach directly to Dublin Airport. There 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 a four-star hotel overlooking the bay area.
Following check-in we were taken on a tour of the panoramic sights of Santander, including a guided tour of the beautiful 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.
We were collected by coach for our visit to Cabárceno Natural Park. This is about a 30 minute drive from the city, and allows for bus access throughout the 26 hectares. The wet day did not dampen our spirits and we had an incredible 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 the 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 in Umma- a top gourmet restaurant. We were serenaded by a musical duo which complimented the atmosphere and fine dining.
Today, en route to Altamira, our first stop was in the scenic town of Santillana del Mar. This is a very picturesque spot overlooking the Bay of Biscay. We also got a wonderful guided tour of the collegiate church of Santa Juliana.
We then transferred to Altamira Museum. This is an exact replica of the Altamira Cave, where ancient cave paintings were discovered in 1879. Some of these paintings date back over 36,000 years. 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 real Altamira Cave is only open on Friday to 12 persons (picked by lottery). However, exploring the museum offers a fantastic alternative to the cave.
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 the Conservas Emilia anchovy canning factory. The product is exported worldwide. We were given a tour of the factory, including watching a video in English showing the process- from catching the sardines to the finished product. We also tasted the anchovies and they were delicious!
Following this visit we carried on to Noja on the Costa Verde coast. We had a very pleasant walk around the coastal town with its traditional large houses. This area can also has fantastic beaches and the Playa Joyel Campsite is located on the opposite side of the bay. This is a top class campsite which even boasts a hairdressing salon on site.
Following a delightful seafood lunch in Arillo Restaurant, 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!"
Want to plan your own group or private tour? Get in touch via 021 4277094 or 01 6965135, email email@example.com or call into our shops in Clonakilty, Bantry and the Grand Parade.