We left Santillana del Mar mid-morning after a fairly brisk walk through the cobblestone village that attempts to capitalize on their proximity to Altamira.
We had visited the Neocave last night, The actual cave was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985. Extreme volume of tourist traffic began to erode the integrity of the caves and they were closed to visitors in 1997. The “Neocave” a joint venture of Santillana and the regional government of Cantabria, claims to replicate the original in scope and detail of the cave which was inhabited between 22,000 to 13,000 years ago. Certainly to the unpracticed eye, the facsimiles are very beautiful and impressive especially having grown up in the Picasso era of primitive art influence.
The drive to Bilbao along the rugged Atlantic coastline and in and out of craggy mountainous valleys, was fresh and sparkling once again after a night of soft rain.
Entering Bilbao along the river and suddenly confronted with the Frank Geary’s Guggenheim was absolutely jaw dropping. Traffic congestion soon swept us up into concentrating on Emily (our GPS named for our granddaughter). Dense crowds blocked all the main arteries of commerce and tourism protesting the sudden raise in taxes and expressing fear about the Spanish economy. We had read on line about protests in Madrid, but this was the first that we had encountered.
We walked to a highly acclaimed restaurant, one part of the “Slow Food” network worldwide, for an incredible late “lunch” which has become our habit. We are way too old to handle dinner at 9PM!!!
Walking back to our hotel we were swept up in women and children protesting, students carrying banners and workers carrying signs fearful of what this means for their retirement all under circling helicopters.
Tomorrow is Guggenheim day for the Nelsons.