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Camino del Norte: From Bilbao to Santander

Leaving our hotel in Bilbao at 7:30am, a half hour before sunrise.  After an off day in Bilbao in which we only walked 4.8 miles we are heading out again on Friday 24 September for Portugalete which was supposed to be 12.5 miles with only 150 feet of ascent but we figured out that we could just walk down the riverfront esplanade which ended up being only 8 miles with a minimal 100 feet of ascent. Our hotel in Bilbao was a Silken Hotel, Hotel Indautxu.

It was literally just a walk in the park for us, a beautiful day with lovely views.
There was an area of urban industry but it was mostly a beautiful well kept riverside park.
The Vizkaya Bridge, constructed in 1893 links the towns of Portugalete and Getxo crossing the mouth of the Nervion River and is the worlds oldest transporter bridge. The bridges gondola can transport six cars and several dozen passengers in one and a half minutes across the river. It operates every 8 minutes during the day. There are two new visitor lifts installed in the 50-metre-high pillars of the bridge that allow walking over the bridge’s platform, from where there is a view of the port. We took the ferry across.
The blue building on the left is our hotel.

This is our hotel in Portugalete. Gran Hotel Puente Colgante.

Basilica De Santa Maria. It was closed.

Dinner, menu del dia, three courses for €12.
Heading out from our hotel at 7:05am, an hour before sunrise. Portugalete to Castro Urdiales, 16.4 miles with 1,327 feet of ascent. Took us 6.5 hours
A little help from the moving sidewalk is allowed.
Catching other pilgrims from behind, Sandy loves the challenge and just flies. We passed these two men from France and never saw them again.
8:12, the sun is rising.

Tunnel under a main road.
Such lovely expansive views.

Crossing superhighways.
Sandy just loves all of the animals. She promised not to take any more pictures of animals but here they are.
This road was like the Tour de France. It is Saturday and the bikers are out en masse.

There were a lot of these benches set out randomly along a country road.
Shadow’s of Pilgrims. This reminded us of a book by that name which we read by Thomas Connell. He walked two Caminos and wrote a book which we both read. We also communicated with him numerous times preparing for this walk.

More bikes, tried so hard to get a good video of them flying by but they came and went so fast.

Jim’s Camino fashion.
There are so many lovely surfing beaches along this coast of Spain. This is La Arena where we sat and ate a picnic breakfast the hotel had packed for us.
We are going up, over and around that headland next.

The beginning of 118 steps up to the headland.

Looking back at La Arena where we ate our picnic breakfast.
Looking forward to Castro-Urdiales where we will be tonight.

We are entering a new province of Spain and the water to our right has been The Cantabrian Sea.
Leaving Euskadi, you can see how many weekend walkers we were with on this trail.

It has been such a beautiful coastal walk, but the buildings in the distance are a very industrial complex owned by Shell.
A happy pilgrim.
Park your car or park your horse.  We are now in a small little mountain village of Ontón. Really hoping to stop at a bar here but nothing.
There is almost always a bar next to a church, but nothing that is open today. This is the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
We are now on this secondary road for the next few miles. This is another steep hill where Sandy left Jim way behind.

That would be Jim.
We finally found this bar where we had great pintxos and beer. It is such a reward after hiking up and down such long hills with the traffic roaring by us.  Casa Alejandro in Mioño.

This is just brilliant. A very long pedestrian tunnel through a mountain to save us the walk over it. The tunnel took us over five minutes to walk through.

At the other end of the tunnel is Castro-Urdiales and our four star hotel. Whew, another long day done. Serchotel Las Rocas.
This is the view from our hotel window.
The Castro-Uridales beach at 7:20am as we are heading out for Liendo which ended up being 17 and ¾ miles taking 9 hours with over 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Fortunately we don’t know all of that as we head out.

These Spanish towns have beautiful seaside promenades.
The local bullring.
Sunrise on the Camino over the Cantabrian Sea. This was taken after the above picture, iPhones are amazing at how much light they can bring into a dark picture.
Those are red peppers drying.

This is a group of four peregrinos from Colombia. We passed them and haven’t seen them since.

Another absolutely stunning coastal walk.
Sandy promised not to take any more pictures of animals but Bill and Karen who organized this trip and were then unable to come both asked her to keep posting animals.
Off the coastal path and back on the highway which can be scary with trucks, buses and motorcycles flying by.

We saw this couple well ahead of us which Sandy always takes as a challenge. Her walking pace goes into turbo-drive. She passed them without talking but Jim asked them where they were from in Spanish and they said “Alaska”.
Turns out they are both retired physicians, he was a retinal surgeon and she was family medicine. We are both staying at the same Posada tonight.
We fed this horse a kiwi fruit since we didn’t have an apple. She seemed to like it.
We did find witches in this house. They made us forget our walking poles for about ten minutes. We had to walk back to get them adding an additional mile to our day.  We also left our new friends as we let them go on ahead of us.
Another really steep hill where the woman shows herself to be so much stronger.
This guy is just standing there watching us go by. Out in the middle of nowhere.

Horseback riders with a dog tagging along on our trail.
Do we really need more cow pictures?
Finally descending down into the valley where our Posada awaits.
Camino art

We were dying for a beer and a snack but all we found was a fancy restaurant where we had a great meal of fried calamari with onion rings followed by a salad of caramelized pears, gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts and bacon. Main course of lollipop lamb chops and this for dessert.  Restaurante Ambigu.
This is our posada or inn.  Posada Torre de la Quintana.

Our second floor room had very low and sloping ceilings. Had to watch our heads at every move.

Monday, 27 September, 9am. Jim looks happy because we had a full breakfast with our new friends from Alaska David and Bonnie Swanson and our itinerary shows only 7.5 miles with only 150 feet of altitude gain.
Pretty estates.
Animals for Sandy.

That mountain ahead is where we are headed and have to climb over.  This is not the route that we expected.  Our friends from Alaska asked the hostess at the Posada and she recommended a much easier way.
We have started up the mountain and the official photographer has quit taking pictures as she wants to get off this mountain before it starts to rain.
It is very steep ahead.  Jim is not happy.  He can’t even see Sandy ahead.
And very steep behind.
Sandy only took this picture because she had to wait so long for Jim to catch up.  There were vultures circling by the time Jim reached this point.
There was a huge threat of rain on top of this mountain with narrow rocky trails. Sandy was in a panic to get down and Jim is only trying to survive the steep terrain. We walked a tough mile or two before finally coming to a steep descending road.
Finally near the town of Laredo at sea level. This looked like a nursery.

Iglesia De Santa Maria in Laredo. We got our stamp for our Camino passport and gave a donation.

This is a replica of the Santa Maria.
We stopped here for coffee as it was raining.
We then walked about two miles along a beautiful empty beach to a small ferry boat at the other end.

We took this ferry from Laredo to Santoña which was our destination for the day.
This is our bordello room over a bar.
This is the bar we were over and where we picked up our room key. We also had our 7am breakfast here the next day.
This is our cute little bar and bordello.
Stairs up to our room. The wall shows how old the building is.
Santoña is another medieval, monastic town. Columbus’s Santa Maria was built here.
Juan De La Cosa was the cartographer for Christopher Columbus on his second voyage.

Medieval baptismal font.
Leaving our lovely bordello at 7:25 headed for Galizano which is 14.7 miles with only 870 feet of elevation gain. Should take 5-6 hours.
This is a very large prison which took us a good 10 or 15 minutes to walk by.

One of Sandy’s better animal pictures.
This guy is quite ugly and filthy.

We pass so many beautiful country estates.
We ran into David and Bonnie completely randomly this morning and walked the rest of the day with them. This is crossing an ancient bridge over a creek.
This is a picture to remember as Jim is ahead of Sandy on a hill. Only because she stayed behind with Dave while he was adjusting his pack.
Back to normal, the ladies are so far ahead.


These cows were sloshing around in muck up to their shins.
After a nice lunch with David and Bonnie in Guemas, we booked it another 4K to our hotel in Galizano. We also met a couple from Florida at lunch, Steve and Ann.
This is our very forgettable hotel in Galizano. We had meal of very mundane boiled chicken and French fries before retiring early with our normal cocktails.
06:45, heading out in the dark with thoughts of catching an 09:00 ferry to Santander which is only 10K or 6.2 miles away.
Streetlights for the first mile.
But then it got really dark.
Surprises in the dark, no idea they were there until we turned our head.
We were walking along this cliff edge with what we imagined were beautiful views of the Cantabrian Sea.
Sure enough there are gorgeous views.
Headlamp finally off.

Acres and acres of seaside corn fields.

We reached this beach and thought that we were near the end.
Headed for the steps on the left.
This seems like it might be fun.
But NO, we slogged through soft sand to that bar in the distance.  Everyone had had enough when we exited the beach.
This couple from Montana left our hotel 10 minutes after us but caught up just in time to lead us to this bar for breakfast. Steve and Martha Loy. Steve is a retired Lutheran minister and Martha is a retired University professor. They are still young and now manage multiple rental  properties that they own in Billings Montana. 
We caught the 10:25 ferry rather than the 09:00.
This is our ferry from Somos to Santander. The ferry just pulls up and nudges the steps and everyone boards without any tying up or gangplanks, OSHA would be cringing!
Steve Loy qualified for the 2008 Boston Marathon
This is Santander. The Santander Bank is the building on the right with the cranes at both ends.
We have never seen a double level carousel.
A touch of fall with the red leaves at the top. This large bank is being turned into an art museum and sits directly in front of The Cathedral of Santander.
Cathedral of Santander is a historical monumental complex built between the end of the 12th and 14th centuries on top of the Santander Abbey, also known as the Abbey of The Holy Bodies. An old monastery dedicated to Saints Emeterius and Celedonius.
Shown here are the relics of the two saints.

We light candles in every church that is open, praying for health and safety on this pilgrimage.
Getting our Credenciales stamped by an official in the Santander Cathedral.
Peregrinos de Estados Unidos at dinner together. Jim picked an Italian restaurant which made everyone very happy as they have become fatigued of Spanish food at every meal.  The closest four people at this table ran the Boston Marathon, the middle two qualified. We have successfully completed week two of five and have little idea of the challenges ahead and have no idea if we can compete this goal but so far it has been such a rewarding experience. We continue to put one foot ahead of another and hope in the next three weeks we find ourselves in Santiago. Good night from Santander and wish us luck as we begin week 3. 150 miles down, 350 to go.
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