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.  


South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

Updated 12 July 2020

South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair, wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?” she told Arab News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned are never acknowledged as “beautiful” or how light-skinned South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the mentality that ‘white is superior’,” she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she received the response that “this is what most parents require.” She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company and the latter started an online petition.

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful. Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice, violence, bullying and social sanctions,” the petition reads. “The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is ‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it is an entirely socially constructed perception based in neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st century.”

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the world,” a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,” said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on how light skin is an advantage in society.

The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has been associated with privilege, power and superiority,” she said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited (Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing. To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color, size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like them in the mass media,” said Dr. Rasmi.