Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Cantabria - Day 1, The Twilight Zone
Less than two weeks after returning from Andalusia in the south of the county we were returning to Spain but this time to Cantabria in the north. The lure of £10 return flights had tempted us to travel again even though it really was far too soon after our last journey but I have to say that I find it almost impossible to let these bargain flight opportunities pass by.
My man flu had got worse during the week so on the day of travel I was feeling pretty wretched but I was sure that foreign travel would cheer me up. At the airport I began to feel really awful and I think I even wondered if it was wise to leave the country especially when the medication that I had requested only arrived after a lengthy detour around the duty free shop! Actually nothing was really going to change my plans but once on the plane I went to sleep even before the safety lecture was completed. I thought that this was important because I was embarrassed about coughing and sneezing and spreading germs and calculated that if I were at least sleeping I wouldn’t be irritating anyone. It was only a short flight of just over an hour and a half and I only started to wake when the plane started to come down and the cabin pressure started to drop and the cracking in my sinuses made my face feel like crazy paving. It was an agonising landing and I was most pleased when the plane hit the tarmac.
We picked up a hire car at the Sol-Mar desk and after completing the formalities found the car and headed west on the Autovia to the tourist town of Santillana de Mar and the nearby village of Ubiarco where our accommodation was booked.
It was an odd thing about the accommodation but when I checked the web site a few days before I couldn’t find the hotel again and I had worried that perhaps my booking had been cancelled or the place might be closed for the winter. Eventually I found it through my booking reference number and everything seemed to be in order so I stopped worrying. I was perplexed however that when I entered alternative dates just to check, there was never any availability and there were no more rooms available for this weekend either. I convinced myself that the place must surely be full of people all enjoying £10 flights just like us, but there was another strange thing because there were no customer reviews posted to the site, which has to be a little bit unusual.
It took only about thirty minutes to get to the village and most unusually for me, we found the place almost immediately and drew into the car park. There was only one other car there and the place was in almost complete darkness except for a creepy light seeping through the cracks in the curtains at a downstairs window. It was locked but when we knocked on the door a kindly elderly couple invited us in and explained that they had been waiting all day for us to arrive and I was surprised by this because I was certain that I had advised my late arrival time when I had booked. It was immediately obvious that there were no other guests and the man took us to our room on the first floor. We asked about restaurants and bars but he told us there were none close by and as it was about half past nine we weren’t in the mood for driving any more so we decided to settle in, have a bottle of wine and play cards in the lounge.
We didn’t see the lady again but the man was downstairs and he seemed to know instinctively when we needed something from his bar. First we ordered beer and later a bottle of wine and he was always available when we needed him but at this stage I didn’t find that especially strange. The wine said 1974 and I hoped it wouldn’t be expensive, on the coffee table were a pile of very old magazines and the television programme was an episode of something like Dallas dubbed in Spanish and the place began to feel more and more unusual and curious the later it became.
We finished the wine and went to bed and I went to say goodnight but the place was deserted except for us so we went straight to our room via the creaky staircase and settled down. After a minute or two we heard soft footsteps in the corridor and whoever it was stopped outside our door for a second or two and then moved on. I felt a shiver dart down by spine but I told myself that it was just the owner making sure we were all right and I thought that was a nice touch and that I should be sure to mention it in my hotel review. I had a restless night because of my cold and at some point I heard the footsteps for a second time but I had no idea what time it was. The room was pitch black and although we were on the village main road there wasn’t a single sound to punctuate the total silence that lay on us like a thick blanket. Wild thoughts raced through my brain, I thought about the web site, why were there no guest reviews? Why was no one else staying here? Why did the room go cold and the lights dim when the man bought us the wine? And then I heard the footsteps again so pulled the sheets over my head and tried to go back to sleep.
It was the longest night of my life and I grew weary from straining to listen for strange noises but eventually it was morning and when we looked outside there was a promising clear sky and an unexpected view of the sea. We made a cup of tea and then went downstairs for breakfast but were surprised to find the place deserted and all of the furniture draped in dust covers. It was cold and eerie and no one responded to our holas!
I didn’t like it at all so we went outside and down the street there was a lively little café that was full of customers so we went inside. I asked for the breakfast menu and told the owner that we were staying at the Posada San Telmo next door. He turned pale and gave me an odd stare and when I looked surprised he said ‘Senor, you must be mistaken, no one has stayed at the San Telmo for thirty years, the hotel has been abandoned since 1976’. My blood froze and the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention and I suddenly understood about the empty web site and the ghostly footsteps and I couldn’t wait to get away so we drank our tea and left rather quickly…
Our Spooky Room......