A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey. CYNTHIA OZICK

On Sunday 26 October I took the bus from Bilbao to Santander. The landscape is impressive - it's wooded and mountainous; but the towns along this section of the Costa Esmeralda have been spoilt by plagues of crassly and cheaply built blocks of flats. Nearing Santander I caught sight of the snow-capped range of the Picos de Europa - the highest peaks of the Cantabrian mountains. The rain had now set in - Santander is known for being mild but wet. This is the cathedral - renovated after a fire, but some Romanesque features still remain:

And this is the Museo de Bellas Artes:

The centrepiece painting in this art gallery is an 1814 Goya portrait of King Fernando VII (Goya painted many portraits of Fernando). It's astonishing to think what shocking scenes he portrayed soon afterwards...

The next day was my last day in Spain. The weather was still wet and miserable. I hung around in a café opposite the quayside drinking fresh orange juice and feeling tired and rather depressed. The ferry sailed at 4 pm and would arrive in Plymouth at 10 o' clock the next morning. The Brittany Ferries ship was a new one - very smart and clean - and my little cabin a masterpiece of micro-design. I managed a fairly good night's sleep despite the movement of the ship - in fact I quite enjoyed this rolling motion, though I know that some passengers were seasick in the night.

This was the view of Santander as we left the port:

And this my last sight of the Spanish coast before we sailed into the Bay of Biscay:

What would England hold for me on my return? Would it seem familiar to me, strange to me, or "awesomely unfamiliar" as Cynthia Ozick puts it in the quotation at the top of this post? I should see in the due course of time, but I had a feeling that changes were on the way...

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