I got up in plenty of time, but having inadvertently spent too long admiring the sea views on the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) walk into town, I ended up missing the 10:30 bus to San Vicente de la Barquera. No matter, I would buy tickets for the 12:15 Alsa service and then go have a coffee somewhere.
Seeing the long-ish queue, I opted to use the self-service machine. I chose my tickets, inserted a €10 note (£8/US$13) and waited. The machine swallowed the note and refused to spit out either the money or the tickets. I managed to get help from a member of staff – evidently this wasn't the first time the greedy machine had done this – and then, tickets in hand, went to wait for the bus. It turned up ridiculously late and by the time we reached San Vicente, the skies were looking decidedly grey.
|Looking across the estuary to San Vicente de la Barquera|
Despite the overcast day, I was determined to do some sightseeing. I had no map and I didn't know where the tourist information office was, but I figured that the town was probably too small to get lost in. So I just picked a likely looking street and went wandering. Before long I had reached an old stone arch, which I later learned was the gateway to La Puebla Vieja (the old town). To the left was Torre del Preboste, where taxes where levied in medieval times.
|One of the original gateways to the town with Torre del Preboste on the left|
|Entering La Puebla Vieja|
|A splash of colour on a grey day|
Just beyond this gate is Palacio del Corro (the Palace of Corro), a Renaissance palace built by the family of the inquisitor, Antonio del Corro (1471-1556) whose crests can still be seen on the façade. In the 16th century, the palace was used as a hospital for pilgrims en-route to Santiago de Compostela, and today it is home to the Town Hall.
|The former pilgrims' hospital|
|The inquisitor's crest|
Outside the palace were two signs. To the left was the church, and to the right, the castle. I opted for the church. On the short walk uphill I was rewarded with stunning views across the valley below.
|Looking down on the valley|
|Echium vulgare, more commonly known as Viper's Bugloss or Blueweed|
Sitting on top of the craggy outlook near the well-preserved remains of the medieval walls is La Iglesia de Santa María de los Ángeles, a Santander Gothic-style church with two Romanesque doors. Building work commenced in the 13th century but continued well into the following century. I walked all around the building and then went to explore the fortifications.
|The mighty Iglesia de Santa María de los Ángeles|
|Looking out towards the valley|
|The perfect picture frame|
|Stunning views across the valley|
|One of the Romanesque doors|
|The church interior|
|Looking back towards the organ|
|A simple shrine|
I later learned that I had missed the church's key feature – the tomb of Antonio del Corro. This is where having some kind of tourist information comes in handy! Fortunately, thanks to the power of the world wide web, I can see what I missed out on.
|The tomb of Corro (photo © unavueltadeldestino.wordpress.com)|
The town's other famous site is that of El Puente de la Maza (the Maza Bridge), a bridge that was built in the 15th century during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, King Fernando II (r. 1479-1516) and Queen Isabel I (r. 1479-1504). Over half a mile long and with 32 arches, the stone bridge stands on the site of a 6th century wooden bridge. It really is quite impressive...
|View of the harbour looking towards El Puente de la Maza|
|Boats at low tide|
|Boat stuck in the mud|
|One last look at the mighty bridge|