Spain 11 – Basque country and a film town….. 2011

We fly from Malaga to Bilbao. This is the airport for the Costa del Sol so there are pleanty of Brits.

Maybe that’s the reason for the sign in the airport restaurant.


At the airport I thought about the young woman, cream skinned, red haired, crying and dressed in a chador whom I had met at Tripoli airport a few years ago. She was leaving her two year old to go to a family wedding in South Africa. Her Libyan husband was an autocrat and had stopped the child from going with her. She was working to support his family and on it goes. We corresponded for a while and I owe her an email. What has happened to her now the fighting is continuing? Chance encounters and departures.

I spend the flight thinking about all the people I had departed from, mostly men; sometimes sad, sometimes weird, sometimes funny but in retrospect mostly poignant.

San Sebastian

As soon as the bus leaves Bilbao airport, it is clear that this is another country. Verdant hills  and a different type of farm-house – we seem to have left Spain and entered Europe.

Bullet holes in the Belle Epoque

This is confirmed when we hit San Sebastian with its Belle Epoque architecture reminiscent of the French. The bullet holes though are another reminder of the bloody civil war only 80 years ago. The style is not surprising since the French border is only 15 clicks away.

This is a lifestyle town….packed bars that are open late into the night, more elegant shopping than in the south, a regional cuisine that has been written about worldwide, cooking and tasting tours,  AND 3 urban beaches within 2 minutes of the town. There are about 185000 residents with 16000 of them at the university.

Here more than anywhere in the south I think about global homogeneity as joggers go past (imagine,you really can do a jogging tour here); mobile phones go off;  smart prams are wheeled. We in the west are all marching to echoes of the same drum. I wonder what cultural wonder will be left to entrance my grandchildren.

This little place is punching way above its weight.  Can you imagine an Australian town of this size where the bars are packed with young and old well into Sunday night with a major festival every month.

It was light until 10  last night and we ordered from a menu written in Basque where we didn’t understand a word. I loved the saffron crab and whatever else.

All the lovely little tapa!

Tapa here are called Pintxo and these Pintxo say it all. Cocktail sizes morsels more nouveau than new…the freshest anchovies on prosciutto, fresh cheese wrapped around fish pate, black pudding stuffed into small red peppers, prawns with salsa on salmon mousse. So different from the broad bean with ham, baked cheeses, and aubergines in honey of the south

Mr Hitchcock welcomes the guests.

The Astoria 7, the uptown hotel where we are staying, is mod. chic with a film festival gimmick. I have the Francis Ford Coppola room and Alfred Hitchcock is sitting reading in the foyer. All the classics are available and one is constantly projected onto the downstairs wall. The real film festival is in September.Bodies

Is there a sight more enjoyable than the sea meeting the wide sky on a clear blue day, fringed with green hills underscored with a sweep of sand where bodies walk and paddle, lie and sit?

The old exercise

The shades are ready

The young laze

The side beaches are full of beautiful young while the large central beach seems 90% people over 60 walking up and down in the shallows. Aging bodies railing against the sagging of the equipment. I think how smart and elegant the thin can look and wish my spare tyre would disappear but hey, realistically, how many 60 year old men do you see with a six pack?

Again, everywhere the colours of summer are white and bright. I have two traveling companions. One is very tall and slim with fly away gray hair, the other is slightly shorter and stout with short auburn hair; I am short and in between. We are all dressed primarily in the fashionable black of Sydney. I begin to see us as the witches in Macbeth. Too ‘out there’ to be Greek widows.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s