One thing that I hadn´t understood whilst I was traveling through Euskadi was how, if the region had been so repressed by Franco, had the economy been so well developed and how northern cities, such as Bilbao, had been at the forefront of industrialisation in the mid twentieth century. A fellow I met in Santander, however, explained how Franco´s policy had actually been to develop and industrialise the Basque region to such an extent that it would be brought into the fold of Spain. This was also achieved by a type of latter day settler colony and by encouraging workers from other regions in Spain to migrate to these northern industrial areas to work and live and ultimately to breed out Basques from their own region. A very simplistic assessment of the situation, of course, and still just reflections from an ignorant passerby, but its certainly an interesting place to spend some time.
Thirty kilometres from Bilbao I crossed into Cantabria and left the Basque flags and language behind. While Santander doesn´t get much of a rating in the dog-eared photocopy I have of an out-of-date travel guide, I have really enjoyed my last few days in the city, catching up with some friends and spending time getting to know a place a little better and finally managing my first swim in the Atlantic since leaving Ireland. Destroyed by a fire in 1941, the city does at first seem to lack the old worldiness that has usually been present in the centre of cities that I´ve been passing through, but for me there is a relaxed and unpretentious charm to the city, boasted no doubt by the fact that I´ve found my first bag of porridge oats since central France.
Trip distance: 2285 km