On Monday, May 6th, we travel from Bilbao to Santillana del Mar, along the coast.
From Bilbao along the Ría Bilbao to the sea
Our GPS takes us to the modern and well-kept residential area with apartment buildings on the right hand side of the Ría Bilboa. Soon, we reach Portugalete.
Ursula talks about crossing the Ría using a puente colgante with a cabin. I am a little worried: I see our Audi hang above the river. But then it is easy: The puente colgante is a ferry boat that works like the four Rhine ferries in Basel (a wooden boat is attached to a rope). This ferry is larger (for cars) and attached to a metallic rope that glides along an iron beam, the design of one of Eiffel’s pupils. The guard tells me strictly that I am not allowed to leave the car…
After having crossed the Ría, we continue north to Santurtzi, located at the sea. We park our car in a narrow parking house.
The sun makes the port sparkle, and in the background, I can see the Puente Colgante that we had used half an hour ago.
We continue crossing mountains and ugly beach resorts with beautiful sand beaches, until we reach Laredo. It is another old city center with another sandy beach and many more ugly apartment houses.
I am hungry. Heavy traffic here and not one single free parking lot. Finally, we find one single free slot right in front of a pintxo bar. We have some tapas, drink some water, and as we want to leave… we find our car locked behind two cars parked on my side. One driver sits in his car and leaves. The second driver is nowhere. Ursula contends that now it is possible to get out. I am not convinced. Maneuvering on to the sidewalk around a tree and a hydrant and with the help of Ursula, of two more men and one women showing to me, how close I am to all that, I finally get out – but I am not really amused. “Land und Leute” or “country and people”, Ursula says, shrugging her shoulder. Hmm. I am not against “Land und Leute”, but to my opinion, there are limits…
We take the motor way and, one hour later, we arrive in La Casona de los Güelitos in Santillana del Mar. I do feel at home in this quiet old country house that has been tastefully renovated.
The sun shines and after a short siesta we decide to visit the mountains south of Santillana. Ursula has selected Bárcena Mayor that is said to be a typical Cantabrian mountain village. Driving through smooth, green hills with pastures, we reach a large parking area. A signboard promises restaurants, shops, hotels and guest houses. We get to a well-kept pretty village with thriving flowers all over, but it is empty. Not one shop open, not one restaurant open, everything dead. Pretty, but empty on this Monday.
We leave this place and continue uphill, uphill, uphill. A gorgeous panorama here. Smooth hills, green pastures with cattle – cows of all colours, goat and sheep.
After the Puerto de Palombera on 1250 above sea level, we reach a high plateau with the Alto Campo and the Pico Tres Mares behind us. The rivers that emerge here go either to the Atlantic in the north, to the Atlantic in the west or to the Mediterranean (hence tres mares). Signs point to the source of the Ebro. We find it, blue-green, in a lush forest.
It is a pozo (well) that emerges from the karst ground. The water comes from the creek El Hijar that originates at the sides of the Pico Tres Mares, disappears and appears again here, near Fontibre. The water is blue-green, due to the plaster, clay and limestone that the water picks up underground before emerging. This is one of several wells of the Ebro, there are more that have the label “source of the Ebro”.
What starts here as a small creek, flows through Spain – 910 km – ending in the Ebro Delta with its abundant bird life and rice fields (photo taken in November 2018).
We return to our Casa de Güelitos to have dinner in the small restaurant. I have three kinds of cheese from Cantabria, a solomillo and a glass of Rioja tinto.
We sleep well in our quiet guest house. In the morning, I can hear a cock crow.