Surprises from the Camino de Santiago Norte

Santillana del Mar, our starting point on the Camino Ruta Norte, welcomes Las Chicas with this display outside a local shop.


This medieval town was built up around the 12th century “Colegiata” (Saint Juliana´s collegiate church) which houses the cloister. Best known for the detailed carvings on the capitals of its columns, Las Chicas also find other inspiring designs.


Our stop in Comillas takes us back to Barcelona, with its Modernist buildings including the Capricho de Guadí, designed by Antonio Guadí for the Marquís de Comillas.



Each day we hear the reports of the Vuelta de España bike race making its way around Spain, currently in Asturias, near where we are walking. Following Mary’s morning prediction, we spontaneously catch a glimpse of the riders in the small town of Unquera,

Version 2

and later watch the parade of team buses dominate the narrow streets.


We are surprised by this festival announcement of La Guía, because we thought the summer festivals in Spain ended in August.


Although we are too tired to wait for the parade to begin at 10 pm, we enjoy the fireworks from the window of our albuergue.


Street art is apparently not exclusive to big cities.


Ribadesella shares some interesting cultural practices with us, including the “Escalera de Colores,” a project inviting anyone who would like to paint a stair and include an inspirational sentence.


In town, we come across the Madreñas, or wooden clogs, the traditional “off road” footware of Asturians who navigate lots of wet weather and mud. Handcrafted, with a special design of the artist, they are worn with socks to increase comfort.


We notice an onlooker just outside San Esteban…


and find fish dominating the beach town of La Vega.


We are also perplexed by the abundance of eucalyptus forests throughout the region. Upon investigation we learn they are a controversial cash crop for paper pulp. Some say they are changing the ecosystem in some part of Asturias, crowding out native species, their oil eliminates insects which are the main source of food for local birds.


We make a new friend near Priesca as we search for the pre-Romanesque Church of San Salvador built in 921, and noted to be one of the oldest churches along the Camino. Directions in our book suggests we find a neighbor who has a key so we can see the church. We find the neighbor, but not the key, and enjoy a few stories of this 13th century church, which is not the Church of San Salvador.


This hórreo, a typical granary of the region, is simple and lovely.


After hours of hiking the hills and valleys outside of Villaviciosa, Las Chicas are joined by fellow hikers Luís and Emilio at a surprise rest stop in the hills. These kind supporters of peregrinos, those who walk the Camino Santiago, provide a vending machine with cold drinks and snacks. Once again Mary’s prediction of a Coke magically appearing along the way, comes true.


Appreciative peregrinos have left their greetings and gratitudes in a range of languages.


Sidre, AKA cider, ever popular around the globe, is said to have originated in Asturias. This tree, often mistaken as a year-round Christmas tree, is a recycled creation of sidre bottles on the beachfront in Gíjon.





More modern art also graces the shores of Gíjon with these designer-type recycling boxes. Que guay!


The shell symbol of the Camino is seen all along the way, in a variety of places and materials, but this is the most portable, for those who want a memento of their journey…


But perhaps the greatest surprise and gift of the Camino, is the instant kinship we find with peregrinos along the way.


© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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