in central Santander, Cantabria.
just gotten back from watching the excellent Barcelona play Man City.
Twas a good game. I found the perfect bar for me, one with three old
men in it and the volume on the footy up. My Spanish football banter
needs work- I’m pretty good at praising players and I’ve learned some
vernacular important to talking about the sport without seeming like
a numpty. That said, when Lionel Messi did something particularly
brilliant I did say in Spanish that, “He was a poet, it’s like
he’s writing poetry,” which sounds weird in an English translation,
but I’m pretty sure endeared me to the locals. I’ve watched a lot of
Spanish football since being here and it’s not always as beautiful as
one might expect, that said, having watched Messi play the last 7 or
8 times he is operating on a completely different level. Everyone
knows that over the last however many years that he’s probably the
best footballer, but it’s only having watched him this many times in
a row that it really makes sense.
found this little Pension to stay in. After going to the tourist info
place I got a list of 60 places to stay- in a smaller town they would
just tell me the best/cheapest place, but obviously here they can’t
be partisan, so this woman just lumped me with a fucking great big
list and a map that an owl would struggle to read- as in, the fint is
went to a place called Hostal Mexicana which was close by, I buzzed
the intercom and then said I wanted a room/bed for the night, the guy
said something I didn’t really get and then I tried to explain over
the intercom that I was still learning Spanish. In brief, he was a
cock and just kept repeating himself louder and louder until I just
said, “Fuck it,” and walked off. I buzzed another place that gave
no response and then went to this Pension. I’m reluctant to go to
Pension’s sometimes cos they don’t usually have wifi and they’re like
halfway houses sometimes and just wreak of depression. Hostels at
least have a younger, more fun vibe and there’s usually the option of
a dorm bed or your own room depending how you feel.
I buzz this place, the guy answers and tells me to come up. On the
third floor I walk into a lovely apartment, carved alcoves, original
door frames, wood floors, lots of lovely detailing. I don’t usually
care for these things after I’ve been walking, but for some reason it
strikes me and sits well. The fella who has answered the door is
maybe 70, he’s wearing a thick dressing gown, suit trousers and
slippers- he has a large military moustache and receding grey hair,
the little of which is swept back and kept with some length at the
back and sides. He has a voice with bass and authority, but is a
little bit difficult to understand because there’s something of an
absence of vowels as though he’s just moved here from Cadiz. We get
on just fine, since I’m aware of the kind of dialogue we’re going to
have- exchanging details, house rules, etc.
shower, I change, I take advantage of the internet and upload some
photos to Instagram to keep the masses happy. I check email and
Fbook. Very little. I read the BBC news. As I pop out to watch the
game, the wife of the ‘Colonel,’ also in a dressing gown addresses me
as ‘nino’ and asks me if I need the remote for my room. I tell her
that after I’ve watched the football tonight I will have no need for
television. This Pension is very different, it’s more like an old
fashioned BnB. They clearly live here too and just rent out 4 rooms.
I decide I will adopt them.
got up a little after eight this morning, Yannick (the German) and I
seemed to have an unspoken agreement that we would carry on the trail
together. We wander into town and stop for a quick breakfast. Today
appears to be the day they set up a market in the square, so I buy
fruit, dates, nuts, bread and then we head out west.
six or seven kilometres in we walk through a village, the trail leads
up a hill, but downhill is the centre of the village. I’ve mistimed
my poohing, having slightly adopted someone elses regimen and explain
to Yannick that I’m going to pop into town for some toilet action. I
tell him I’ll catch him up, which I know I’ll have no problem doing,
not because I’m a machine, but because he’s been having joint issues
and doesn’t move too quickly.
roll a few minutes down the hill, eat a tiny sandwich and have a
fizzy water and then enjoy a fantastic time in the gents before
burning back up the hill at pace. About half an hour later I come
across Yannick sat with the German who has no name that I’d met in
Bilbao- the one who would later make a comment when I was hungover.
They’re similar, similar age, both German, they have long hair- but
not the good kind. Yannick is open and optimistic whereas noname is
dry and smokes small rollies and seems as though he hates everything.
I make a joke about how I knew they’s find each other and then I say
I’m going to crack on ahead and I’ll see them along the road. I mean
some reason, I take the next 10kms really aggressively, I go quickly,
racing up the hills, breezing through farms and fields. I don’t like
to stop when I get this energy, I just keep going and I know I’m
making good time. Also, perhaps subconsciously, I prefer being alone
on the trail, I feel too self-conscious with someone else, as though
I have to speed up or slow down or consult them on decisions about
which way to turn.
I’m racing through Cantabria I feel as though I get lost a number of
times, but the yellow arrows keep appearing to prove to me otherwise.
At some point I decide that I will walk to Santander which various
signs and maps tell me is 17/28/45 kms away. I’ll figure it out.
what is mostly inland hiking, and not too challenging at that, I hit
the coast and begin two hours of breathtaking coastal hiking. The
trail is no more than 6-8feet from the cliff’s edge. It’s pretty
special. I make a mental note to come back here. Then I’m walking
along the beach for an hour, but the sand is soft and gives too
easily and it’s tiring and the arch of my right foot goes into spasm
and so I put my shoes back on and walk inland and try and find a
road. I wind my way to some beach resort town called Somo and I can
see Santander in the distance. I ask this squashy couple of locals
how far it is. They tell me it’s 25kms to walk. That’s impossible, I
say, I’ve just walked over 30kms and it’s no more than 40 from where
I started. Anyway, I walked a weird route obviously, but there is a
boat- and it takes me right into Santander.
2 small ham sandwiches, OJ, 3 excellent plums, raisins, 2 coffees,
tortilla, bread, 3 squares of chocoltae that tastes like a barnyard,
nuts, pork sandwich, tinytiny beer, 3 glasses of v good red wine, 3
litres of water.
left knee- same as yesterday, arch of right foot, blister on the
fourth toe of my left foot. Slight allergy to some kind of pollen.
A few of the usual as I walked through towns. Another one of those
old dogs that came up behind me from nowhere and nudged me in the
back of the knee. I thought I was alone and so I lept in the air, the
dog seemed weired out that I didn’t want to play. As I walked onto to
beach some medium sized dog terrorized me, I could’ve easily kicked
it into the sea, but instead stood there as the retarded owne rsaid,
“Bien aqui!” with no discernable effect, I gave her and the moron
she was with withering glances and shook my head at their inability
to control their dog. Further down the beach a young German Sheppard
seemed obsessed with my feet, I later understood that it wanted me to
kick sand in the air for it to chase. Just a fun dog, but now I’m too
fucked up by all the cunty ones to ever have a normal relationship
with an animal in my life. Cunts.
BBC Sport, Bbc Bookclub.