Santander: A coastal break away from the crowds

From the fresh seafood to the yachts bobbing past the promenade, to the epic expanse of city beach, this is a city that lives for the sea. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 July 2019

Santander: A coastal break away from the crowds

  • The Cantabrian capital may be off the Spanish tourist trail, but it’s a great place for a holiday.

DUBLIN: Santander is generally off the tourist radar for most visitors to Spain, which is a shame given how much it has to offer. While it might not have the culinary cachet of San Sebastian, or the artistic offerings of Bilbao, the capital of the Cantabrian region has a charm all of its own. The Bay of Santander dominates the city, and you are never more than a few minutes’ walk from the water. From the fresh seafood to the yachts bobbing past the promenade, to the epic expanse of city beach, this is a city that lives for the sea.

Your first stop should be the city center, which, like those in most other Spanish cities, only gets going long after the sun goes down. Head to the Plaza de Cañadίo, which is filled with cafés and tapas joints. Expect to see everyone from loved up young couples to rowdy teenagers to octogenarians strolling past — it’s a cliché, but it’s true: in Spain the main square is the communal living room. La Conveniente is always packed, which is down to the quality of the meat and cheese tapas they serve up. Get there by 8 p.m. if you want a table, and be sure to order a helping of the local pate.




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Take a post-meal stroll along the Paseo de Pereda promenade — the perfect place to burn off those calories. Its highlight is the Centro Botin, a stunning piece of modern architecture, which juts out over the sea. Designed by the renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, its 2,500 square meters features a host of international modern art, as well as stunning views of the bay. At the other end of the spectrum lies the city’s Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology. Cantabria is something of an archaeological hotspot, with remains found in the region spanning the earliest hominids to stone disks from the pre-Roman Cantabrians, to prehistoric cave art.

Protruding out into the Atlantic is the lush Peninsula de la Magdalena headland, and the walk from the city center offers wonderful sea views. The jewel in the headland’s crown is the Palacio de la Magdalena, which was built in 1909 to house the Spanish Royal Family. It’s the most visited place in the city and worth the walk there and back — a guided tour costs three Euros and is the only way to properly explore the building.




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Head further north towards El Sardinero to discover the more upmarket part of the city, which is also home to some of the longest beaches in northern Spain. There is a definite high-end feel to the place, with its belle-époque architecture and old-money vibe. Grab a coffee at one of the many promenade cafés and watch the clouds drift in from the Atlantic.

When hunger strikes, we recommend heading back into the center of town to La Cátedra, a tapas bar that has been in existence since 1866. It’s tiny, which is why most customers prefer to stay outside, perched on stools. The street it’s on is one of the nicest too, being one of the few to avoid being damaged in the 1941 fire that decimated the city. Go for the oysters, and you will be hard pressed not to return here every night of your trip. For desert, head back to Paseo de Pereda and to Heladaria Regma, which has been serving up local ice cream since 1933. There’s a huge amount to choose from: try local favorite, mantecado. The servings are huge too, but a long walk on the promenade should assuage any feelings of guilt.




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If you want to escape the city for a morning, hop on the ferry across the bay to Somo, which is smaller, quieter and more picturesque than Santander. There are a handful of surf schools around too, if you feel guilty about all that culinary indulgence the night before.

Santander would never claim to be one of Europe’s greatest cities — nor even one of Spain’s — but it has a wonderful mix of food, atmosphere and a rustic charm all of its own. And, the fact it gets overlooked just means that, even in the summer months, it’s never overrun with crowds.  


‘The Sky is Pink’: Priyanka Chopra disappoints, Zaira Wasim shines

Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra Jonas star in the film. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

‘The Sky is Pink’: Priyanka Chopra disappoints, Zaira Wasim shines

CHENNAI: Director Shonali Bose may well be termed the “mistress of misery.” Her characters, invariably women, have been suffering souls.

Whether it be in “Amu,” set in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, or “Margarita with a Straw” and its story of a teenager with cerebral palsy, Bose’s protagonists have been largely unhappy.

Her latest feature, “The Sky is Pink” — unnecessarily long at 159 minutes — is based on the real-life tale of a girl who dies at an early age from complications arising out of an immune-deficiency illness. Aisha (Zaira Wasim) tells us not only her own sad story, but also that of her parents, Aditi (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) and Niren (Farhan Akhtar).

Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar attended "The Sky Is Pink" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. (AFP)

When Aditi falls pregnant, she has already lost a child to the disease, but religious compulsion pushes her to go ahead. Predictably, the baby girl, Aisha, develops the same problem. The parents, who live in New Delhi, rush her to London. Since they cannot afford the treatment, which involves a bone-marrow transplant, Niren broadcasts a plea from a radio station that raises a large amount of money.

But years later, the bubbly Aisha falls seriously ill, and the effect of her decline on her brother, Ishan (Rohit Saraf), and her parents makes up rest of the plot.

“The Sky is Pink” essentially explores the way marriages fall apart after a child gets sick. But Bose weaves into this storyline several distracting features, including Ishan’s budding love affair, which is rocked every time there is crisis in Aisha's life.

Bose’s film could be compared to Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s debut, “A Son.” Set in Tunisia in 2011 after the “Jasmine Revolution,” it also deals with a couple’s turmoil after their son is shot and wounded by a sniper. Barsaoui intelligently scripts how the couple crack under the pressure and their relationship begins to totter. There is not a single scene that is at odds with the plot.

In contrast, “The Sky is Pink” digresses into marital jealousy and a string of dramatically charged moments, diluting the core theme.

Akhtar, who is an excellent actor, seems out of sorts in this setting, while Chopra Jonas fails to convey a mother’s emotional pain and seems far too dolled up to adequately portray a character in torment. In fact, the only high point is the fine acting by Wasim.