Monday, 14 May 2012

Van on the run

Day 20 - Santillana del Mar and San Vicente de la Barquera

Santillana del Mar, Northern Spain
Santillana del Mar, Northern SpainAnother early start to avoid the traffic we head to nearby Santillana del Mar.  It’s a typical old Spanish town with charming traditional stone buildings and red tiled roofs.  There are cobbled streets and some utterly striking architecture.  It really is a stunning location and the kind of town I would love to discover as a hidden gem on our travels.  Santillana del Mar has however already been discovered and butchered into a tourist mecca.  Whilst the original charm can be seen, it really is marred by tacky tourist shops crammed into chocolate box houses and adverts for nearby hotels hung on historic buildings.  It’s a bit sad really, these places have to make money I know but it really is at the detriment to this town’s beauty. 
Santillana del Mar, Northern Spain

 After a little while we head back to the van for lunch and then off to Comillas for the rest of the day and an overnight spot.  Our wild camping spot is a car park overlooking the sea…perfect…until we saw what is becoming a familiar sight in Cantabria, ‘no parking for campervans’ signs.  There are 3 very clear signs and it turns out the car park is right in front of the local police station too so there’s no point trying to push our luck.  We head around town trying to find somewhere but there’s only one other car park, its full and only for short stays.  I’m really let down as I was looking forward to visiting the Gaudi designed building here and it looks to be a picturesque town but we’re just not welcome.

We go onwards to San Vincente de la Barquera around 20 minutes away where there are supposed to be 3 wild camping spots.  We head to the one furthest out of town next to some sand dunes.  There are some scruffy surfer campers down there but the familiar ‘no parking for campers’ signs.  We pull over to ask the price of the official campsite close to the wild spot, and the surly assistant tells us it’s a whopping 20 euros, despite the signs suggesting more like 8!!!  We spot a police car doing a tour around the car park and we see many of the scruffy campers making a sharp exit so  decide it’s not the place for us.  The other two spots don’t look to be a good idea either so we end up in a car park next to a sports centre hoping we don’t get moved on. 

Life on 4 wheels was intended to give us freedom but we feel so restricted here.  I’m hoping it’s just Cantabria and not other regions of Spain because it’s really unpleasant to feel so unwelcome.  I saw a bumper sticker on a Spanish VW camper a little while back saying ‘Free camping is not a crime’ and now I can understand why because here at least you really do feel like you’re on the run.


  1. Hi guys. Sounds daft I know, But I'm pretty sure we went to the same spot and the tourist office told us of we asked the police they'd be fine with us staying there out of season. Ju's the tourist office queen now, they always seem to know where you can and can't stay. Cheers! Jay

  2. Looking back it would probably have been worth asking at least. I just hate the idea of getting moved on from somewhere and find it hard to relax if I think we'll get in trouble, silly I know!