Last Wednesday, July 6th, we started our adventure on the Atlantic coast of Santander. Our first stops have been in none other than, Santillana del Mar (that, as they say in Spanish, “ni es santa, ni es llana ni tiene mar”) y Comillas.
As many pilgrims know, el Camino, if nothing else, makes you very very hungry; and since my friend Ana and I are hooked on food, especially good good food from the villages, we’ve haven’t tired of trying the small treasures hidden in them.
So we headed out for our first stop, Santillana del Mar. As soon as we arrived we could see its cobblestone streets inundated with tourists attracted by its picturesque buildings and its many stores dedicated to the best Cantabrian products, like sobaos pasiegos, anchovies from Santoña, and the great Quesada, which we will talk about later.
Since we arrived exhausted, the first thing we did was look for a place where we could rest and recuperate. As soon as we saw a promising place, we went there. First, we had a bottle of cold Austrian cider (sadly, we weren’t able to try Cantabrian cider) and some fried squid…yes, you read correctly, squid in Santillana that doesn’t have a coast, but Ana and I had been dreaming about it since Santander and we were sure that the all the good things that Cantabrians could do with squid weren’t limited to the coast. Afterwards, we convinced ourselves that we deserved an award for arriving there so we gobbled up a cocido montañés. Delicious, without any frills (it had chorizo, morcilla cántabra, and some pancetta) and lightened up with a lot of delicious kale and cabbage, it lifted our spirits.
Having already gotten our bunks in the hostel, we couldn’t get rid of the temptation to drink a glass of fresh milk from the same mountains that we had traveled that day, milk that has a marvellous sweetness and is called Quesada. And although the name might make you think otherwise, it has nothing to do with cheese. Later, they told us in the place where they work everyday in a traditional method, that the secret can be found in “cojonuda” milk that has eggs, a bit of butter that comes from the same milk, sugar, and a touch of vanilla and lemon. These ingredients will sound familiar to pilgrims with a sweet tooth. Yes, they are the same ones used to make flan at home! And, we could basically say that Quesada is a more set and firm flan that is baked in the oven. A GREAT combination.
The next day, we had already arrived in Comillas, and while we were waiting for the hostel to open, we decided to go on an expedition to the market in the town’s plaza. Between all the stands we got a heavenly loaf bread, a Cantabrian tomato fit for the gods, slices of tenderloin and sausage, and, thanks to the knife that some Belgian pilgrims lent us, we were able to make a great sandwich that made all the other pilgrims so jealous that they copied the idea. Unfortunately, with all the excitement, we forgot to take a photo, and by the time we realized it was too late… After taking a walk on along the shore, and visiting Gaudi’s, el Capricho, we followed the recommendation of a good colleague and got a serving of sardines since a friend from Andalucía had a craving for a skewer of sardines the way the make them in her home. We devoured it down to the juice which, we soaked up with some good bread. Then, in the background, we started to hear some festivity coming from the town hall… and what a pleasant surprise, el pincho de Comillas festival was underway!
To finish the day, and since we deserved some sweets, we decided to have some ice cream in Regma, or as we call it, the god of Cantabrian ice cream. There was a small selection, but the quantity of ice cream is more than enough and its flavor is unique and unmatchable. They were gone in a flash.
As you can see our more than 500 kilometer trip could not have started any better. At this rate we’re already asking ourselves if we’ll return home more fit or having gained a kilo or two…
Photographies: Ana Fernández
Translation: Carolyn Montagnolo