Towards the end of last year, we had days with leave that had to be taken, and no days with space for leave, or time to plan.
A kind friend in Spain did a little research for me. She pointed out that the north west of the country needed a chance to recover from terrible wildfires, and patiently offered a few suggestions about the north east. I followed those up but discovered we were too late for the obvious places, so our search drifted even further north into ‘el País Vasco‘, where it seemed there were still options available.
I’d never visited the Basque Country before, but I’d always wanted to. It and its troubles, have been part of my understanding of Spain. They had coloured my Spanish studies at university, the violent separatist group ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna – Basque homeland and liberty) insisting on attention. In 2011 the violence officially ended. In April 2017 the group said it had disarmed. And the following year – 2018 – ETA announced that it had disbanded.
Now, in 2022, we had the chance to visit, to savour the cooking my professor had talked so highly of.
In a few frantic hours we’d booked our flights into Bilbao, reserved a car and found a small hotel in a fishing town, Lekeitio. Our stay was to be for four nights. We knew nothing about the town, other than what we could find online. This included two significant facts – Lekeitio is one of the most important fishing ports on the Basque coast, and it is prone to be wet and windy.
As we packed our bags I wondered what both would mean for our September visit.
Here is a link to the blog that drew our attention to Lekeitio in the first place
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023
In 1972 I stayed in Ondarroa the next village down from Lequeitio (as it was spelt then. ) I stayed with a Basque family whose eldest son refused to speak to me as I couldn’t speak Basque. However, as I was a guest of his sister he let me go out with his friends to the local bar. They spent the evening unintelligibly plotting- his sister later told me they were very active in ETA and I remember that not long after one of the extremely handsome boys was shot dead by the guardia. They were dangerous times with bombs going off all over the place. Most people could only register their displeasure with Franco’s totatilarian regime by hanging out bath towels in the basque colours on their balconies. You were still allowed to hang washing out !
The countryside was astonishingly beautiful. I haven’t actually been back since. About time.
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Thank you so much for your comment, and for sharing that powerful memory – so vivid. I remember from my time at university that the violence was terrible, but I only knew it from a distance. On our trip last year we never came across any such incidents, thankfully, but I did get the sense that we were rafting along a beautiful river and not able to fully comprehend the waters beneath us. The name Ondarroa is so familiar. I have a feeling it might be the place where we had lunch one day. Hopefully I shall find out as I take another look through my photographs. We loved our time there. Thank you again for sending this.