Day 20 San Sebastian to Picos de Europa


Slept well last night. We are starting to get into a routine in the evenings. First we put the external topper on the pop-up to keep in the warmth, and then we cover the windscreen with first a thermal cover, and then the silly Oscar eyes over the top. I think the other occupants of our camp-site think we are slightly mad, but who cares. We were the only California at the campsite in San Sebastian, all the others being ‘big whites’, as they are referred to by Cali owners. Clearly the larger motorhomes have their advantages, the main ones being more space, and crucially, toilets and showers. However, we have the advantage of being much more manoevrable, discrete (which is useful for wild camping), and certainly much easier to park.
So being the only camper van on the site without bathroom facilities on board, meant that Howard and I had the washrooms and showers completely to ourselves. They were spotlessly clean, the water piping hot, and as Howard pointed out, the shower pressure considerably better than our little trickle back home.
However, the size of the camper van also has it’s difficulties. You have to be meticulously tidy, neither of which we are, and you have to be quite supple.

Attempting to extricate the cereal packet from the cupboard this morning, whilst the table was up, Howard unhelpfully said, ‘Well you always wanted to learn yoga!” Not funny, Howard.
We also need to learn to pack away the van quicker, since by the time we had showered, breakfasted and packed everything away, it was gone eleven before we eventually left.
We re-traced our steps along the motorway past Bilbao and Santander, crossing out of the Basque Country into Cantabria.
We stopped for an hour at a charming medieval town called Santillana de Mar. Despite it’s name it is actually two miles from the sea. It is clearly, in season, a very popular tourist destination, since the whole old town is pedestrianised, with a large car parking area at the top of the town, similar to somewhere like Clovelly in Devon. However, when we arrived, the car park was empty – it was like the Marie Celeste.
Undeterred, we parked up and set off on foot across the cobbled square. The whole town was a delight. Wonderful old medieval buildings, little cobbled alleyways, and an ancient church with bell tower. Mysteriously, as we walked up the narrow lane towards the church, the bells started tolling, so clearly someone must be in residence. There were plenty of small shops and restaurants, but most were closed, I guess because with the paucity of tourists on this late January day, it would not be worth their while opening. One shop, however, was open for business. We stooped through the low beamed door, and were confronted with an old weathered looking gentleman selling ‘milk cakes’ (or that is what we deduced from our translation). Apparently four previous generations of this man’s family had baked these cakes, and he was eager to sell us some. We suggested to him that we would take two pieces, feeling slightly peckish having not had any lunch. But he was having none it – he gestured that we needed to buy a whole box of cakes. Lacking the enthusiasm to be confrontational, we feebly bought an entire box of the things. Opening one out of it’s package as we walked back to the car, Howard was clearly underwhelmed by our purchase. They tasted a little like dry Madeira cake, but not as good.
We continued on our way, and eventually reached our campsite in the Picos de Europa just as the sun was starting to set. We caught tempting glimpses of these magnificent snow clad mountains as we negotiated the steep twisting road up to our campsite. When we arrived, we discovered that we were the only ones staying that night.
Perhaps all the sensible souls have read the weather forecast for the next few days in the Picos? Heavy snow is forecast the day after tomorrow. So far this trip, snow seems to have been a recurring theme. I guess if we get snowed in though, at least we can feast on dry milk cake!

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