Traveling Through The Basque Country

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 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.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Twelve Hours In Paris With A Wedding Dress

Twelve Hours In Paris With A Wedding Dress

“Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn

Check into a hotel so you do not leave the wedding dress in a taxi. Put the wedding dress in the closet.

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See Syrian refugees begging for money and militia on the streets. Give away my Euros from Amsterdam. Big reality check.

Drive past Eiffel Tower and Arc Du Triomphe. Take bad photos from moving car.

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Stop for lunch at La Carette.

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Eat croissants, omelet, nicoise salad and cafe au lait. Have everything French in one meal.

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Buy fabulous French pharmacy beauty products.

Go to Versailles.

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Walk around the gardens and Petite Trianon.

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A little Louis XlV and a bit of Marie Antoinette go a long way.

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Drive to the Louis Vuitton Foundation by Frank Gehry. Get out and take a photo so it looks like I was there.

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Crowd five people into a tiny French hotel room with the wedding dress. Two are napping. One is in the shower. Another is fixing her carry on luggage.The fifth one goes downstairs and has tea. The one fixing her carry on luggage left her favorite bracelet from Cambodia in that hotel. They called to tell her.

After much restaurant deliberation, the not sleeping people have appetizers at the hotel. The not sleeping people are the women.

Go back to the airport with the wedding dress. Have macarons at airport Laduree.

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Fly safe to Africa,
JAZ

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” Tim O Brian

The justification for terrorist killings is that there are no civilians. The people in a country pay taxes and fund anti terrorism. According to the terrorists, we are all at war. Terrorism is an abstract noun. It is hard to be at war with an abstract noun.

Terrorism happens when one group faces a much more powerful group where they have no chance of winning. Instead they attack other targets in the hopes that will put pressure on the governments. They attack the powerless. They create fear and chaos. They go after people on planes returning from a holiday, people in restaurants, watching a concert, at work or at a soccer match  –  all different ages, races, nationalities and in all different cities. The terrorists convince themselves that their targets are less than human. They use religion, history, past offenses, current offenses and always the bottom line is the pursuit of a more important goal than human life. Is it easier to kill when you don’t call it murder?

The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong. There is no argument and no excuse that can ever make it right. Terrorism is not part of faith.

We need to stop supporting the countries who fund terrorism. We need to stop our own  secret torturing, killing and cover ups. They don’t seem to be doing any good and give reason to the creation of more terrorists. We do need to defend ourselves.

Turning away refugees, xenophobia and fear of immigration is not an answer either. Didn’t we once return the persecuted back to Germany and Europe? Did we learn anything from closing our borders or putting the Japanese in camps  during World War II? We need to find a way to deal with the threats while honoring our ethical and moral obligations.

There was a surreal feeling in watching the footage of the events in Paris. It wasn’t a movie. People were dying who were just going about the business of life. The blood was not fake. The pregnant woman hanging on the wall saying she couldn’t hold on anymore was not acting. The guy hopping down the street was really shot in the leg.

I have always been fearful. I have the kind of brain that could put together hundreds of worst case scenarios on the way to anywhere. I mourn with the people of France. But fears in hand, I’m still going to Paris in the Spring. I realize that it is important to be aware, but to give in to the fears that random acts of violence create, is to let the terrorists win. #Dontbeterrorized.

Fly safe,
JAZ