Camino del Norte Day 17: Goodbyes, Gaudí, and a castle

Saying goodbye to our two favorite Germans, and exploring two beautiful towns with our favorite Irishman

October 17, 2015
Comillas to San Vicente de la Barquera, 10 miles

After saying goodbye to Ann and Heidi, who had to head back to Germany, Jim, Vann, Dale and I decided to hang around Comillas for a little while to explore this fascinating little town.

A little background: Comillas was founded as early as the eleventh century, but its popularity as a vacation town for nineteenth-century Spanish aristocracy really put it on the map.  The aristocrats built expensive houses here, and there are many fine homes and buildings designed by renowned architects, but there was only one we were really interested in: Antoní Gaudí (1852-1926), one of the most important architects of the twentieth century.  Neither of us know much about architecture, but we learned about Gaudí when we were in Barcelona, where some of his most important and famous works are, and it blew our minds.  He was such a creative artist, a visionary, and his buildings are not only beautiful but fascinating.  He planned everything down to the smallest detail, and every part of every building was significant.

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Camino del Norte Day 16: Walk like a peregrino

Just us peregrinos, making our way to Comillas

October 16, 2015

Santillana del Mar to Comillas, 12 miles

Other than the Spanish, Germans comprise the largest percentage of people hiking the Camino, and as we’ve hiked with some of them, we have come to realize that the German Camino guidebook is way better than the American one.  The maps are more detailed, the information about the trail’s course is more thorough, and it includes shortcuts.  It’s good to have Germans as hiking partners.

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Camino del Norte Day 15: A rambling walk to Santillana del Mar

October 15, 2015
Santander to Santillana del Mar: 8 miles

Today’s stage, from Santander to Santillana del Mar, measured about 37 kilometers (22 miles) and was described in the guidebook as being a significant amount of road walking through dreary terrain—“flat, paved, and little to see.”

After some discussion, Dale and I decided to skip a portion of this section by taking the train to the town of Torrelavega and then walk to Santillana del Mar from there, thus saving ourselves about 14 tough miles.  On several prior days, we’ve debated whether or not we should train or bus past less desirable portions of the trail, and in the past (Day 9, leaving Bilbao), we decided to walk it anyway, and it turned out to be a pretty good day.  Today, however, we opted to take the train for several reasons:

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Camino del Norte Day 14: “No cookies for you!”

The glorious Cantabrian coastline

October 14, 2015

Guemes to Santander: 9 miles

Today’s walk was along the coastline and largely within view of the aqua-colored water, where we watched the waves crashing violently against the rocks.  As usual, it was gorgeous.

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Camino del Norte Day 13: An iconic albergue

Most people leave rocks along the trail, but one person left boots instead.
October 13, 2015
Noja to Guemes: 10 miles

We had another beautiful walk through the lovely Cantabrian countryside.  The people of Cantabria are very friendly, the older people especially.  Most greet us when we pass them on the street, and they don’t hesitate to stop and ask us about our destination ahead or where we’ve been.  My Spanish is still limited but improving thanks to all the locals who are giving me opportunities to practice.

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Camino del Norte Day 11: Poco a poco

Me, kicking this hill’s ass
October 11, 2015
Castro Urdiales to Liendo, 14 miles


Poco a poco. (Spanish for “little by little”).


“Don’t quit before the miracle.”  (A quote from one of our fellow pilgrims and new friends, Philippe).


I’ve been facing a monumental issue over the last few days–whether I want to continue the Camino.

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Camino del Norte Day 10: Castro Urdiales


Day 10-5

October 10, 2015

Playa de la Arena to Castro Urdiales: 10 miles

We began the day on the coast and stayed there for much of the time, enjoying breathtaking views of the Bay of Biscay, which is the enormous body of water that runs along the length of the northern Spanish and western French coastlines.

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Camino del Norte Day 9: Worth the hike

October 9, 2015

Bilbao to La Playa de La Arena, 15 miles

The guidebook’s description of today’s leg of the journey was less than inspiring: “As you slog through the first half of today’s stage, remind yourself that by day’s end you will be in a beautiful place…. Sometimes bleak, often forgettable, the walk… is poorly way-marked and best finished quickly and put behind you.”

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Camino del Norte Days 7 & 8: Bilbao

Our view of Bilbao from Monte Avril as we hiked into town.
Our view of Bilbao from Monte Avril as we approached town.


October 7, 2015

Zamudio to Bilbao, 5 miles

We were excited about today’s destination: Bilbao.  The week before starting the Camino, Dale and I had spent a night in Bilbao with our friend Tamara, and it had been a great experience.  We stayed at an Air B&B apartment in the city’s historic city center, known as the Seven Streets, and it was charming, with lots of restaurants, panaderias, pastelerias, and even a chocolateria or two.  And it was in Bilbao that we were introduced to the sublime pleasure of eating Basque food.

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