|Day 1, Santander:
From Irun we needed to catch a three hour bus ride to Santander. As we waited for our bus at the Irun station, a live feed of the running of the bulls came on the restaurant TV. We would see the running of the bulls after all, if only on live TV a couple of hours away from the actual event. This would have to do for now. When we arrived in Santander we managed to find a hotel quite easily. Our hotel was two blocks from the town's main beach, which was ideal. We threw on our bathing suits and headed straight for the beach. When we awoke from our power naps on the beautiful and clean Santander beach it became clear that we had thrown the dart at the right town. Santander is a small town with about 200,000 residents, great beaches, a lively downtown shopping area, and good restaurants. It is the capital of the Cantabria region of Spain. The coolest thing about the town is that it was a weekend get-away for the Spanish (mostly from Madrid) - so while it was a resort beach town, there were hardly any tourists from outside of Spain. For dinner we had some good tapas and wine. During dinner Steph and I agreed that she should take advantage of being in Spain to work on rolling her Spanish "R's." We spent the rest of the evening at an outdoor café near the beach working on her first lesson and drinking some great local (i.e. inexpensive) wine. Keep in mind that the "lesson" consisted of us taking turns making funny noises with our mouth...the wine helped!
Day 2, Santander:
After breakfast we went right back to the beach. We spent the full day reading and power napping. It is amazing how much reading you can do when you are sitting on a beach in Spain with nothing to do (and with no job, cell phone, or blackberry!). For dinner we had more tapas and went through lesson number two. More funny noises and more good wine.
Day 3, Santander:
On this day, we woke up early and took the bus into town (about a ten minute ride). We spent an hour or so at an internet café getting caught up on email. After lunch we did some window shopping through the central commercial areas and then went back to our side of town (and back to the beach). For dinner we went to a small restaurant/bar across the street from our hotel. We had been eyeing this restaurant/bar since we arrived in town. Steph had done some light investigative work and identified a new (albeit small) flat-screen TV inside the restaurant. We implemented our battle tested strategy for soccer viewing in Europe: arrive early enough to get a good table in front of the TV and then continuously order drinks to keep the table for the match. The locals filled the small restaurant/bar around us and we had a great time watching the World Cup final. The best part was that there wasn't a single tourist in the bar...all locals. Sort of funny side story - at one point early in the evening I walked up to the bar and noticed that the only beer on tap was Amstel. I asked the bar tender if he recommended any good Spanish beers. He thought about it for a minute, gave me a highly pensive look, and then pointed to the lone Amstel tap. Apparently, Amstel is the adopted beer of Spain! Who knew?
Day 4, Santander:
More beach time in the morning and a train to Madrid in the afternoon. That's it for now...