Peter M Howard ::

10 days in Euskadi

26Apr2005 [france]

Spent 10 days in northern Spain during the uni break - flew in and out of Bilbao... Spent a few nights with friends there and in Pamplona, both of which are in Euskadi, although the actual 'Basque Country' is only three (of five) regions, of which Navarra (où est Pamplona) is not one... Confusing enough? Seems the Spanish government only officially recognise the three provinces as Euskadi, but Navarra to the East and an area of the SW of France are also part of the traditional Euskadi region... The Basques themselves confuse it further, because they tend to admit that 'Euskadi' = 'Pais Vasco', while using a map of the entire region in their protest imagery...

Learnt a remarkable amount of Spanish for only 10 days too - my old school Spanish returned enough that I could understand what ppl were saying and order coffees and pintxos (tapas), which was enough really... The craziest was sitting round the table with James and Julia Burfitt and some of their Spanish friends - between us we could speak Spanish, English and French, though Spanish was the most common tongue, so when we got going we could get three languages at once (which I've decided I love, so I'll have to pick up my Spanish as well when I return from France!)

Bilbao is beautiful but in an 'ugly' way (or should that be the other way around?) Much of it is old and rundown, with bits and pieces tacked together all over the place... Plus it was a filmmaker's heaven, with so many different environments in such a small place (the whole city made me want to return and shoot a film!)... Took lots of photos

Also went down the coast one day, visited Mundaka, a surf-spot, and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a little chapel built on an offshore mountain-thing (or was it an island connected by land bridge?)

Bussed it to Pamplona (more photos) Sunday afternoon (after trying mass in Spanish, and finding I could follow a similar amount to masses in French!)... Liz met me at the bus station and we went back to the apartment she shares with three local girls (well, from the region anyway) -- she's doing the same program I am through UTS, and in all I was extremely jealous... Went out Sunday night for pintxos and had some very fancy creations as they were wrapping up a week-long pintxos-fest... Spent the next few days exploring the town, sampling the food, shopping, eating, plus a day-trip to San Sebastian which was beautiful...

Aside from the rain most mornings, and a hail-storm one afternoon (I thought it was supposed to be spring!) was pretty amazing... And the whole region looked really beautiful (mountains, forests, atlantic coast, &c)

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