Subject: David´s spanish itinerary
Hi, David. I´ll try to be short and to the point. Sometimes my writing meanders and goes far away of the main theme... 1._ The Guggenheim is usually closed on Mondays, unless they have a big exhibition on and it is a long holiday weekend. This is not the case, so it won´t be opened (unless you are a celebrity, of course, in that case...) But I wouldn´t worry. Seeing that you will be on your way to Santander, I think you will have enough with findind a parking place, go for a walk, have something to eat and continue driving towards Santander. I´ll write later a small itinerary about Bilbao.

2._ I agree with Joel that 3 days might be a bit too much in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, but you could fit a few visits. Right now I am thinking about wineries, Nájera, San Millán de la Cogolla with the two monasteries of Suso and Yuso and the birth of spanish as a written language. I was there last year, and I think that the tour of the monastery was only in spanish, but both of them (the oldest one is barely a tiny church and a cave) deserve a visit. You probably will be able to see people picking the grapes. Check with the Parador, to see if they can inform you about which bodegas have tours and if any of them are english-speaking.

3._ Don´t miss Burgos. The cathedral was finally renovated a couple of years ago. Another places to visit include the women´s monastery of Las Huelgas, la Cartuja de Miraflores and San Pedro de Cardeña. A couple of things to try in Burgos : buy Tizona (green or yellow), a medicinal liquor prepared by the monks in San Pedro de Cardeña, and eat roasted lamb and morcilla (kind of black pudding, with rice, a bit of onion and blood, but really yummy). I like the ones from La Paloma - not a bar, a shop -, but any of them will do.

4._ I think that from Burgos you could follow the Way of Saint James, in the opposite direction, towards Santo Domingo.

5._ From Santander there are a few day trips. You can go inland (places like the Valley of Pas) or to the coast. Of course, Santillana is a must. Altamira cannot be visited, and I am sorry to say that the fake cave won´t be ready, probably, when you are there. There was a reportage on the local newspaper last weekend (I might be able to search for it in the web, but if it´s there, it will be in Spanish), and it was quite an interesting story, the way they are trying to build, respecting the environment. I think it will be a good idea, once it is up and running. More places: Comillas (visit the Capricho, from Gaudí and eat there), the dunes of Liencres, San Vicente de la Barquera,...

6._ After Santander you have three days. I think, that given that you have already spent a couple of days in Santander (and surroundings), you should head towards Asturias. Nowadays everything is quite close, so write down all these names, look in a good Michelin map, and think what would you prefer. Mountains. - From Cabezón de la Sal, drive to the valley of Cabuerniga. - Travel towards Potes, in the valley of Liebana. You have to drive from Panes thru the Hermida. In this gorge you will find the very small visigothic church of Santa Maria de Lebeña. Afterwards, in Liebana, you will see the monastery of Santo Toribio (this is a jubilee year also there, not only in Rome). - Or drive to Cangas de Onís, already in Asturias, the rebirth of the spanish nation, and drive up to Covadonga (yes, there is a place with that name), visit the cave and go up to the Lakes. Coast. Llanes, Ribadesella, any of the small fishing villages will do. Cudillero, very small, very pretty, eat hake (merluza) at any of the restaurants in the harbour. Candas, Luarca. I am trying to remember the name of a cape in the Asturias coast, absolutely amazing, near Candas (here you must eat grilled sardines (sardinas or parrocha). I was there last Easter, awful weather, but brilliant scenery...

8._ Oviedo will have its yearly festival, San Mateo. If you can, go there and visit Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, two of the bunch of small pre-romanesque churches in Asturias, so small and so pretty.

7._ A small thing about the Hotel Real. It was built, many years ago, to host the royal entourage when Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia spent the summer in the Magdalena Palace. It is perched high above Santander, and the views are gorgeous. I don´t which one I would choose. The only drawback I can see is the situation (going back uphill can be tiring), but you can always hail a cab. Don´t miss the Magdalena peninsula, now belonging to the Santander folk. It has a small zoo, with seals and lions, and it is a good place for a walk. In fact, all of Santander is a good place. Go to Cabo Mayor for the views or for the golf, have something to eat in Puerto Chico, near the marina or in the fishing harbour, gamble, if you want, in the casino. Across the bay you will see Pedreña, Seve Ballesteros home village.

I´ll try to find a few URLs for you during next week. Don´t forget to buy a good map, Michelin ones are quite good.

A nice weekend to every one.

Rgds from Covadonga in Bilbao (Spain)