60km (37 miles) W of Bilbao, 48km (30 miles) E of Santander, 427km (265 miles) N of Madrid

To an American, "the streets of Laredo" means the gun-slinging Old West. To a Spaniard it means an ancient maritime town on the eastern Cantabrian coast that is now a major summer resort, with hundreds of apartments and villas along its 5km (3 miles) of beach. Playa de la Salvé is to the west and Playa de Oriñón is to the east.

The medieval quarter, Puebla Vieja, retains the traditional atmosphere of Laredo. It was walled on the orders of Alfonso VIII of Castile, who wanted to protect the town from pirate raids along the coast. The hillside Iglesia de la Asunción, dating from the 13th century, overlooks the harbor. It has five naves and rather bizarre capitals.

If you're driving west to Santoña, note the big monument honoring native son Juan de la Cosa, the cartographer who sailed with Columbus on his first voyage to America.