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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guethary, the beauty of the French Basque country

Well, the idea was to travel to the Delta of the Ebro river for the long weekend but it suddenly changed to a more family oriented plan when our friends Silvia and Pepe invited us to their house in Guethary, in the Basque area of France, very close to the border with Spain on the Atlantic side. We knew this place from before and accepting the invitation was an easy task, such is a beautiful area and such good hosts we had.

Travelling to the Basque country is quite a long journey from Madrid but is a pleasant trip altogether. You go from the up and down roller coaster of the "Sierra", the mountains nearby Madrid, to the flat lands of Castilla and finally among the green hills of the Spanish Basque country.

Once you cross the border with France and head to San Juan de Luz, the first major town along the coast, you start appreciating the mixed feeling you get from being so close to the sea and yet fully immersed into a green and agricultural landscape. Cows everywhere, surfers with bikes and their boards heading to the beaches, happy campers and all different kind of tourists, mostly relaxed and laid back.

Guethary itself is a nice and tidy little village. Not many houses, not terrible traffic, and a smooth atmosphere, peaceful and enjoyable. What really gathers your attention is the buildings. Is very unlikely to see a house that is "out of tune" with the other ones, the vast majority of them maintained the typical Basque style and are very much well taken care of. Freshly painted, shiny wooden windows, beautiful gardens and nothing around that mess up with the overall beauty.

This is a part of the world where people enjoy being outside, dining outside, drinking outside. Bars are pretty much everywhere, as well as restaurants, with many along the seaside, something, I assume, we all love.
During our stay we "tested" few of them and apart from one, they all rated from good to excellent.
Since the weather was not so great we decided to burn some calories walking with my friend's 4 dogs. I think I have a pretty decent idea of the geographical map of the town itself, as well as the close beaches. Of course both my friend Pepe and myself carried around the Nikons in search of decent images, and the beach was quite a hot spot for some shooting.

Last but not least we had the opportunity to grab an idea of what the "Cesta Punta" is. The typical Basque game also known as the "Pelota Vasca" really caught my attention for being so fast and entertaining. To add thrill to the game we watched, a local "howler" entertained us and blew our ears, yelling like a mad man (as he probably was) for a good 20 minutes. Then, disappointed with the referee he abandoned the court with major relief for those sitting at least in a 50 meters circle around him!

No fishing this time, just hundreds of shots with my aged D80. Some you can find here. Many thanks to our good friends for allowing us to repeat such a nice trip, we truly enjoyed it.

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