Santillana del Mar is said to be one of Spain’s prettiest villages and luckily enough for us it was on our route through Cantabria. As we travel through the North of Spain the building style is noticeably different, really attractive with warm, honey coloured stones, wooden balconies and a style we’re more used to seeing in the mountains. We parked easily in a large, leafy parking lot just on the edge of the old town and within 2 minutes we were walking through the charming, partly pedestrianised, cobbled streets.
The town was instantly captivating, with a warm, cosy ambience that had nothing to do with the equally warm weather. It’s a wonderful place to while away some time with beautifully preserved medieval buildings and some interesting little nooks and crannies. There are few shops dotted about, several restaurants and small cafes but it wasn’t packed with a ton of pointless tourist related gifts which was refreshing.
Cider is serious business here and in Asturias. Unlike the type we’re used to, it’s mostly natural, ie still, not gassed and a lot less sweet. Not only that but it has to be poured in a special way, from a great height, onto the rim of the glass which breaks it up for perfect oxygenation. There are even special wall-mounted contraptions for doing just this, with the bottle cradled in the top and the glass at just the right angle below. We sat outside a ‘Sidreria’ to have our first glass and were surprised when just about an inch was poured – apparently this is also all part of the Asturian tradition.
There were plenty of other gastronomic delights on show and many of the small shops seemed to stock the same few things, like cheese, dried beans and cake. Fabada Asturiana, is a rich, hearty Spanish pork and white bean stew known as the region’s signature dish. These packs contain cured meat, blood sausages, bacon and fava beans and chorizo. You just need to add oil, onions and garlic to cook up your own Asturian feast.
As we walked through the town we saw signs to the Museum of Torture, the Spanish seem to just love these! We gave it a miss as we’ve already had this gruesome experience before in Granada. The pretty buildings were more of interest and as we came to the end of town the large 12th Collegiata de Santa Juliana, a former monastery, appeared in front of us. The road then opened out into a large plaza with an attractive arcaded facades and wide open space.
We’re not sure why the town is called ‘del mar’ as it’s definitely not by the sea! It is probably quite worthy of its title as one of the prettiest villages in Spain though. We only spent a couple of hours here, wandering around and stopping for a drink as it’s quite small but definitely worthwhile visiting.