Traveling Through The Basque Country
“The goal of my life is to tie adventure to my feet, stock memories in my pocket, hold imagination in my palms like fairy dust and sprinkle it on my tales.” Mitali Meelan
The best way to explore the beautiful Basque coastline is by car, ferry, train and bus. We ride the bus to Hondarribia which is on the Spanish border with France.
It is the first settlement pilgrims will come upon as they follow the Northern Way of the Camino de Santiago from France on their way to the final destination of Santiago de Compostela.
We walk through the cobblestone streets of the Parte Vieja past medieval stone palaces and traditional Basque wood-beamed houses.
Later, we take the seven minute ferry ride to Hendaye which is on the French border with Spain.
It is a seaside town.
You know you are on the Basque Coastline when you see huge rocks gushing from the Ocean, a rugged terrain with steep and sharp cliffs and very cold water.
We return for a late lunch in Hondarriba. Throughout Basque Country, pintxo bar chefs strive to outdo one another, and formal pintxo competitions up the ante.
In recent years, Hondarribia bars have competed against San Sebastián’s with favorable results, earning regional and national recognition for their tiny masterpieces.
In fact, demand for quality cuisine at reasonable prices means that some of the best places for are surprisingly low-key.
The next day, in a seventeenth century farmhouse, we see the famous Basque breed floppy eared pigs (Euskal Txerria). The Basque pigs unlike many of their pink cousins have a good life.
Afterward we had a not light lunch at the farmhouse and got to try some of their delicious cured ham.
I am usually disconnected from the process of where my food comes from. Being brought up in a supermarket, It is hard to understand that death is part of a process of food production.
I try now, as best I can to make ethical food choices. It helps to know where the animal comes from and how it was raised.
The Wednesday market in the town of Ordizia has been happening for over five hundred years.
The market takes over the town plaza centre which is a Roman or Greek looking Parthenon type structure.
We are lucky to be here on a Wednesday for this authentic market with a great selection of local produce and products.
The most popular food item that you will find in Ordizia is the Idiazabal cheese, a hard white cheese, strong in flavor and high in acidity, made according to centuries-old family recipes (available in both smoked and un-smoked varieties.)
You can still buy the cheese directly from the shepherds who make it from the milk.
We have a lunch on our last day in Basque country at Komentu Maitea a converted monastery in Gordexola. It is Spanish Independence Day and the restaurant is filled with local families having a large midday meal.
The food is fresh and delicious.
Nearby is the city of Guernica (Gernika in Basque). We stop at the Assembly House and the Tree of Gernika. For centuries the Lords of Biscay met under an oak tree in this very spot to discuss the issues of the day, eventually building a more solid shelter (for those wetter days) in the form of The Assembly House.
The tree is one of the best known symbols of freedom for the Basque people. Gernika was devastated by the Nazi Germany bombings in1937 with unprecedented consequences (made famous by the Picasso painting). Both the Assembly House and the traditional oak survived. This strengthened the tree’s already symbolic value to the Basque people.
The scenery in the Basque country is breathtaking.
The cities are picturesque and the food is amazing and there will always be some rain – even in the summer.
I appreciate the efforts of the Basque people to protect their culture, identity and language.
It is a wonderful place to visit especially if you like food. I have to thank to Jim Kane and Cultural Xplorers for another excellent trip.