We are in Solares, south of Santander tonight, drinking beer and discussing how our experiences so far on this route compare to our other Caminos. We are on bike and not following the walking route so our knowledge is limited to the roads. We are also not staying in the pilgrim Albergues. Unlike the Camino Frances, the Le Puy and Vezélay routes, accommodation choices seem to be either a forty bed dorm crowded with Pilgrims, or tourist hotels. This means that on the coast the price is at times quite scary. Away from the coast there are deals like tonight’s, where we have a lovely double room with private bath and balcony for 35€, but this middle range of accommodation just isn’t available in the coastal towns. But we are not willing to miss some of the more deservedly popular towns on the route, so we are accepting the higher costs and staying in them.
The north coast is very green, with stunning views of the sea and hills, but as with most popular coastal places development has run a bit rampant. We see more of this as cyclists on the road than walking pilgrims do. The towns are also big, with beautiful historic cores, but I miss the tiny villages of the Camino Frances. Of course the Frances has no ocean.
The food on this route so far has been great. For the price of a standard pilgrim meal on the Camino Frances we are enjoying three course menus del dia that are much more varied and tasty. Today we enjoyed octopus salad, lentils with chorizo, garlic chicken and stuffed peppers, finishing with a very good flan and a fresh fruit salad. We were also given a bottle of quite drinkable red wine. People are not as pilgrim weary on the northern route, and as a result we are being greeted with smiles and lots of warmth.