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Basque Country or Cantabria?

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I am having a really hard time choosing between Basque Country and Cantabria (into Asturias). With these parameters, can you please offer suggestions?

airport: Bilbao (last night there a definite)
10 nights total
prefer to not rent a car, but it is an option
prefer small towns and hiking
I don't like to sightsee all day, I like to relax--a town with a few bars and restaurants is enough
Food is paramount, hence the appeal of San Sebastian, but in addition to liking small towns over cities, they are more affordable as well

Here is what I was thinking so far: either 1) Head east to San Sebastian from Bilbao and then make my way to small towns in a circuitous route back to Bilbao.
OR 2) Head west, visiting the following towns: Santillana del Mar, Llanes, Luarca, Cangas de Onis/Covadonga.
I am still researching bus and train connections between all of these towns. Thanks in advance--the many Fodorites who rave about San Sebastian and northern Spain in general helped me quickly pull the trigger when an affordable flight to Bilbao came about, but now that I have to narrow down the options I am struggling.

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