“Tout Droit” Does Not Mean “Turn Right”

Day Seven: Mogro to Santillana del Mar — My inner alarm clock woke me at 6:30, in plenty of time to shower, tend my feet, and pack my things. I headed out for breakfast and to buy stamps and a few pharmacy items. Then went back to my room for my pack, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the train station. It was time to become a real pilgrim again, and this four-star hotel was a comfort to be left behind in favor of much more walking and the more pilgrim-like simplicity of albergue life.

I’m not sure whether it was the lack of signage at the station or whether my decision to take the train had damaged my camino karma, but somehow I managed to get on the wrong train. My plan had been to catch the train past the town of Boo de Pielago, where I’d ended my walk yesterday, to Mogro, crossing the Pas River bridge the safe and recommended way. But I could only wave to Mogro as the train slowed down at my station. It refused to stop until about 15km later, at Torrelavega. When I arrived there I this time carefully checked the schedule and confirmed the time and location for the correct train to Mogro.

As I patiently (in air quotes) waited for the right train I was surprised and delighted to catch a glimpse of Lizette of Denmark at the station plaza just 50 meters away. Since I’d already checked through the gate, to say “hi” I would have had to leave the station and buy a new ticket. So I hoped I’d have the chance to see her somewhere later along the way. I’m a little surprised she (and presumably Marianne) are here, since Torrelavega is off the camino. I was sad they’d sad goodbye at Santander because they were nice company. But the camino sometimes brings friends back together at surprising moments, so perhaps I’ll see them ahead along the way.

I finally arrived in Mogro at nearly 11:00 — much later than planned. A friendly Spanish couple with a dog was just arriving there by foot (did they walk the train bridge?) and asked if I wanted to sit with them, but I was ready to get walking. Rather than visit I headed across the road, finally to begin the day’s walk.

This region of Cantabria consists of summer homes and rural estates, situated on large plots for views of the verdant countryside. As I walked down toward the factory city of Mar, I met two French bikers, one of whom described his bike journey through the US and Canada some years ago. After visiting briefly with them I walked down a long grade, around the enormous Solvay factory at Mar.

This part of my walk was not beautiful, but it did give me a chance to become more familiar with the French guidebook I brought along. Last night I used Google Translate on my iPhone to look up a few words. Today I finally realized “continuer tout droit” actually means “keep right on going,” not “continue to the right” or “turn right,” which is “tourner droite.” They never tell you these things in high school French class.

After Mar the estates became fewer and the small farms more plentiful. Several times I lost sight of yellow arrows and wondered whether I’d missed the way to Santillana del Mar, but each time I caught another arrow and was led first to Camplengo, then to Santillana itself.

Santillana del Mar is a town frozen in history then thawed out as a lure for tourists. In spite of the tourist shops, hotels and art galleries the town’s cobblestone streets have a genuine charm. I walked its length looking for the albergue, then was directed back to its beginning where I found the tiny albergue down a driveway behind an art museum. I waited with three French people (who were subjected to my attempts to communicate with them in their language), five Spanish women (clearly good friends considering the quantity of giggling) and two quiet Italianos. After a 1/2 hour wait for the albergue’s 4:00 opening I checked in, put my pack on a bed, and headed to the local cafe for some refreshment.

As I rested in the bar, resigning myself to an evening with no native English speakers, in walked John of Calgary. I directed him to the albergue and enjoyed the prospect of a pleasant dinner with this nice, young man. Tonight will be a simple evening of laundry, showering, eating, and maybe the enjoyment of a glass or two of pilgrim wine.


2 thoughts on ““Tout Droit” Does Not Mean “Turn Right”

  1. Wow, what an adventure and challenge! I had to chuckle about the french phrase, I initially thought the same as you, but translating it into Spanish and thinking about what it means (yes this sounds weird) the actual translation makes since especially since you told me about it 🙂 I don’t think that I would have figured it out on my own! Pues, adelante hermano! No debes tener pena hablar solamente en Espanol o Frances! Tu puedes!!

  2. I remember now,a guidebook also said about that train and we intended to go 1 stop after Mogro but the train didn’t stop until one of those big factory towns, your Denmark friends probably did the same,we walked through Santillana, a very nice town.What guidebook did you bring on the Via Plata?

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