Thursday, September 19, 2013

HONDARRIBIA, SANTANDER and SANTILLANA DEL MAR

Hondarribia winds around the bay

Entering the old city
Former fisherman's home
Our first stop in Spain was Hondarribia in the Basque region of Spain just over the border from France.  It is best known for its historic walled city atop a hill overlooking the city and bay.  While the rich lived within the walls, the fishermen and workers had to live down the hill near the water. Today their homes have been converted into cute little shops and restaurants.  
Houses in the walled city


Flags celebrate Festival
During our visit, Hondarribia was celebrating its major annual festival honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe and a victory over the French in 1638. 
We walked around this peninsula in Santander
Next stop was Santander, the capital of Cantabria.  This is a fairly large city winding around a waterfront that claims to have one of the world's prettiest bays.  Over a dozen beaches and the downtown are connected by a long meandering promenade.  
Overlooking medieval town of Santillana del Mar

Shops & restaurants line cobblestone streets
Santa Juliana Collegiate
We spent a few days in the charming medieval town of Santillana del Mar. Narrow cobblestone streets branch out from the massive Santa Juliana Collegiate, a huge church built atop a 9th century monastery.   The town is the

Bison depicted in Altamira Caves
site of  the Altamira caves. Considered the Sistine Chapel of rock art, the cave contains the most famous prehistoric paintings and engravings in the world. They are renowned for their quality and the diversity of techniques and styles. Discovered around 1880, controversy raged into the 20th century because many experts did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity for such artistic expression.  But their authenticity and age have been confirmed.  Paintings here and at nearby caves are between 11,000 and 41,000 years old and belong to the Paleolithic period.  The quality of the art forever changed the perception of prehistoric man.