Travel 2017. Day 3. Argoños Wednesday, September 27/17.
Run by two sisters, the Posada El Trasmerano is low-keyed and off the beaten tourist track. There are, however, several beautiful beaches and a salt-marsh nature reserve on a bird migration route nearby (Parque natural de las marismas de Santona y Noja). The old fishing port of Santona –located within the park– is now popular with the sailing community and with Spaniards on a summer holiday retreat from the sweltering heat of the interior.
We got up refreshed and enjoyed a nice breakfast with freshly pressed orange juice, potato tortilla/omelette –a favourite offering for breakfast— crisp, homemade bread or toast, fruit, biscuits and tea or fresh coffee.
After breakfast, we opted for a trip inland. One of the pleasures of the northern regions is the numerous valleys formed by rivers cutting through the mountain ranges. We didn’t want to overdo it the first day, so following recommendations we headed for a morning ride towards the small town of Solórzano on the River Campiazo. It was a good choice. From Argoños, we passed quickly along the edge of the salt-marsh reserve, touched on the A8 highway, and then started up the valley of the Campiazo. We’d forgotten how green and beautiful the north of Spain is, and the valley here was wide with small villages, farmhouses dotting the landscape, fields divided by hedgerows, and gentle, sloping hills some partially covered by trees. Having been brought up in the countryside ourselves, this rural landscape appealed to us very much.
A quick call back at our posada, and we were off to the village of Isla for lunch following the recommendation of one of the sisters at the posada. The road to Isla was picturesque and there was a scenic view from the village towards Santona: a combination of trees, farms and wooded hills.
Outside the village, we came cross 2 striking casonas, manor houses. The first was an imposing, stately stone building, surrounded by a stone wall with fields in front of it and trees behind.
The second was of cream-coloured stone located along the road. Both had heraldic shields alluding to some historic significance attached to the house.
Similar buildings with heraldic shields are not uncommon in the north. There are two possible sources for these heraldic emblems. 1. They might indicate the nobility of the individual who ordered their construction, and point to a past when “to be from the mountains” of the north (ser de las montanas), was a sign of pride in one’s purity of blood. The reason for this? It goes back to when the Moors (Muslims) invaded the peninsula across the Straits of Gibraltar in 711. Many Christians fled to the mountainous northern fringe of the country, which became their centre of resistance. Therefore, the understanding was that the inhabitants of the mountains were Christians with pure, uncontaminated blood. The 16th century was obsessed with purity of blood because it was a distinguishing feature between “old” Christians and “new” Christians, that is, Muslim and especially Jewish converts to Christianity. To claim to be “from the mountains” was, then, understood to be noble and racially pure. 2. Many Spaniards who enriched themselves in Latin America (Las Indias), upon returning to Spain, often built mansions as indicators of their wealth and status, even to the point of adding shields to their buildings. We took a photo of each on the way back from Isla. You can just make out two heraldic shields above the main entrance (to the left of the photo) in the first manor. The second, a three-storied house is grandly built with a wonderfully ornate shield tucked under the corner eaves on the upper right hand side. (The large opening on the ground floor suggests that this lower area originally housed animals, again a common feature of farmhouses, which this building might well have been.)
Oh, the lunch at Isla… something of a disappointment. The restaurant was very busy, the waiter seemed overwhelmed, the menestra (cooked vegetable dish) was tired as if prepared from tinned vegetables and the main course, a cocido (stew), uninspiring. This left us with no appetite for dessert.
Back in Argonos, we decided to do some laundry. This we did not expect to be easy, given our experience on our 2103 trip with our son John and his family. On that occasion, we had found it impossible to find laundromats (i. e. a self-service coin-operated commercial laundry), with one exception … in Madrid. To our amazement, there was a laundromat in Santona. We found it opposite the pretty 13th-century Romanesque (with later Gothic alterations) church of Santa Maria del Puerto.
The facility was very new and spotless, with two washing machines and two dryers. The washing was made easy with powder added automatically, thus avoiding purchasing it separately. The total cost for washing and drying was 11 euros.
Image of Santa Maria del Puerto by Nicolás Pérez: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7227823