Basking in Basque: Part 2 - País Vasco (Spain)

From Pays Basque, my friend picked me up in Saint Jean de Luz and drove us the 20 minutes it takes to get to País Vasco, the Spanish Basque country.   We're greeted by "Hola" at the toll booth and I begin to practice speaking with my Spanish lisp, gratheeiath.  (I still like the Mexican accent better, I have to admit.)

View from my hotel balcony in San Sebastian.  You can see the corner of La Concha on the left.

What can I say about San Sebastian?  Well I have to mention my friend Dave, who has officially reported that he is unhappy his name has never appeared in my blog.  In all fairness, Dave and I have never traveled together though we have spent many moments meandering through Paris when he is in town for work (he is a colleague.)  But today I'm going to mention him.  Why you ask?  Because Dave has a dream.  To retire at 40 (with a few other details that I can't share) and to do so in San Sebastian.  And I think Dave may be onto to something...

Maybe it's the people - warm, welcoming, always adding a bit of humor to any situation.  Maybe it's "La Concha", the seashell shaped bay that adds beauty to the city.  Maybe it's the pintxos, or Basque tapas, as they are simply amazing washed down with a good txakoli (local sparkling wine).  Whatever it is, David will stay my friend because that means I have a place to stay in San Sebastian in a few years.  :)

Contemplation on La Concha

Pintxo Bar Deliciousness

From San Sebastian, we zoomed along the Basque coast in our red, convertible Mini Cooper, stopping at whim in other little coastal villages.  The bilingual signs disappear and we are left to decipher what we think they should mean.  We guess that "mercatoa" means market and end up there - we didn't fare so well on some other guesses and drove in circles up and down meandering streets.

It was a weekend full of energy, as a big soccer game was about to take place.  Athletic Bilbao were playing Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey.  What's amazing about it is Bilbao is one of the only teams to sign native players to its team, and it explains why everyone is so fiercely proud of them and the flags we see strewn off of balconies, in pintxo bar windows and on little boys' bikes.

It was also a weekend full of surprises - the kind that happen sometimes when you don't make a plan and everything comes perfectly together.  We stop in a little town called Getaria and find ourselves in the middle of a Basque festival, eating local food and drinking cider from the town barrel.

Basque Dancing

Filling up the cider cup.  I wonder what they do with what falls in the bucket.

Next we stop in Zarautz for a snack, but end up choosing to stay the night here, in the old home of a famous Spanish TV chef, Karlos Arguinano.  We have another good meal and see one of the best sunsets I've seen in a long time.  In a way, this city reminds me a bit of Santa Cruz - it seems to revolve around the tides and surfing and when the tides are down, the skateboards come out.

Corona + sunset = heaven

Our trip ended on a quiet Sunday in Bilbao, where I was overtaken by how amazingly beautiful the Guggenheim is.  It never ceases to amaze me what people can imagine and then create.  Though I'm not a modern art fan, I also discovered a few new artists, like David Hockney and his colorful landscapes.  His newer works have him doing truly interesting things with digital media.  One of my favorites are drawings on an iPad via an app called "Brushes" that are then converted to canvas three times my size.  Another was a video wall, showing parts of a complete landscape that he had filmed over the course of many months with multiple cameras. He took the best light from each camera and put them all together in a stunning video wall that moves and almost lives.  I was mesmorized, but I think it's something you have to see with your own eyes.

Me!  With the Guggenheim Bilbao adding to my beauty.  ;)

Think this is all?  Oh no...there is one more thing that must be shared from my time basking in Basque.  Stay tuned for post #3 and my Michelin Star adventure.


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