Saturday, 3 December 2016

Blue skies, and the smell of anchovies

Logrono to Somo, 140 miles, Aire de Autocaravanas, 12 Euros per night, inc ECU, 2 nights. 

Sometimes it seems a bit silly to have so many weather apps on our phones, but a couple of days ago it paid off. Each app offers something different, Wunderground has the best long range forecast, Spain's national weather service - Il Tempio - is good for localised severe weather warnings, and the dear old Beeb, even for foreign parts, provides an interactive countrywide map that shows cloud cover and converts at a click to display isobars. 

While clicking through this, getting ever more depressed at the great lumps of cloud enveloping Iberia for the next week, we noticed a thread of yellow on the northern coast. As the rest of Spain mouldered in gloom, sunshine and warmth was forecast for the Costa Verde. 

This seemed like an unlikely story the morning that we left Logrono. It was grey and chilly. We headed upwards into the Alta Rioja, passing bodegas worthy of a mention in our Hugh Johnson guide; the best Rioja comes from these upper slopes apparently. Not that we could see the famous vineyards, the higher we climbed the foggier it became.

Somewhere north of Haro we reached a ridge and through shreds of cloud the Ebro valley appeared far below us, pale straw coloured, bathed in sunlight. For a few minutes the weather played hide and seek; for a moment or two we would be wreathed in grey, then suddenly through a gap in the cloud we would glimpse the valley - a brief image of a castle perched on a spiky out-crop, or sere fields stretching away towards distant mountains.

On the horizon was a line of pale grey, then light blue; somewhere on the motorway north of Miranda de Ebro we broke into bright blue skies and glorious sunshine. It seemed both a new country and an earlier season. The mountains were green, as were the pine and eucalyptus forests. The trusty BBC had been right, there was an unseasonal sliver of summer clinging to the northern coast as the remainder of Spain embraced winter. 

Once we had decided to head back to Cantabria a few days before our ferry, that raised the question of where to go and what to do. As I flipped through the pages of the road atlas covering Eskuadi and Cantabria one place name caught my eye - Santoña. I remembered an episode from Rick Stein's cookery series about Spain when he visited the fishing port. Basically it is where the best anchovies in the world are landed, most of them ending up in tins. That's where we decided to stop for lunch. It was an inspired choice, not only is Santoña interesting, it happens to be set on a beautiful inlet with views to the mountains.

We loved the place, the weather helped, clear blue skies and warm sunshine. In Santoña the anchovy is king; the boats catch them, small factories near the quayside preserve them, specialist shops sell them, restaurants menus celebrate them, and the entire town reeks of the salty smell of anchovies. Now, as well as wine, chocolate, breadsticks, ham, aoli, garlic, paella spice, lemons, oranges and olive oil, we now have many tins of anchovies stowed away for culinary experiments back home.

It was a short drive to Somo where we planned to stay. The aire is next to a campsite about 2km from the town. It is well designed, has a good service point and a lovely view south towards the mountains. The fine weather is forecast to hold for a few days, so, despite the days ticking down towards 'moment ferry', we are not feeling 'endish' just yet.

It is about three kilometres to the beach at Somo, most of it on roads with pavements. The town itself is part surfer resort, part Santander suburb, but the beach is huge and the sunset over the inlet towards Santander was worth the walk.


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