This is really cool—my novel is set in Santander, and this city was just featured on NPR. I first went to Santander in 1986 to visit my roommate over winter break. Blanca was a small framed girl who wore large glasses and smoked too much, and she hailed from this city. We were studying in León, about a 3 hour drive away, and it was her first time away from home. She spoke of Santander constantly, and I was excited when she extended an invitation to me to come stay at her house just before New Year’s Eve. As we walked the cobblestone streets, I was fascinated with this ancient port city, its neat little beaches, majestic mountains and quaint streets, and thus when I had to think of where to set my novel, Santander was an easy choice. Blanca also took me to visit some of the neighboring villages, which the characters in my novel also visit. One village that did not make it into my book is Santillana del Mar, otherwise known as the city of three lies: it is neither Santi (holy) llana (flat) or del mar (on the coast.) But it’s definitely worth seeing the next time you are in the neighborhood of Santander.
Santander has a university which has academic exchange programs with several American universities, including The University of Texas at Austin, an excellent school that is the alma mater to 3 of my children (and hopefully the 4th one in another year!) One of the largest Eurozone and Spanish banks, Banco Santander, was also founded in this lovely city.
My husband remembers Santander as the city where he first tasted sidra, that wonderful apple wine that my characters love and I miss, and where he bought a lot of underwear. (It was our honeymoon, and when we landed in Santander, we realized that we had forgotten to pack enough underwear for him!)
On my last visit to Spain a few months ago, I did not make it back up to Santander. However, Chema, the husband of my dear friend, Carmen, is from there, and he was a wonderful source of information. At his behest, his mother sent me recipes of typical dishes and sweets from Santander, and he told me about fun restaurants and mountain hikes which made it into my novel. Thanks, Chema!
It’s fascinating to me to now see Santander all decked out with brand-spanking new devices which are environmentally friendly and will help the city government, and ultimately the tax payers, to save money. The devices are mostly hidden so that the stately and romantic old city does not betray its smart undergarments! Here’s a link to the story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/06/04/188370672/Sensors-Transform-Old-Spanish-Port-Into-New-Smart-City
I hope you can visit there some day, and if you’re still not sure you want to, reading my novel will convince you!