Across the sapphire green to San Juan de Gazteluagtxe

This beautiful stone walkway is the only flattish part of the approach to the shrine dedicated to St John the Baptist, which is built on steep, raggedy rocks off the Basque coast. The little chapel is up beyond the point from which this photograph was taken.

Looking back now, I think how lucky we were to have the time to add this on to our trip to Elantxobe. The day had neither melting sun nor fierce rain, and the post-Covid crowds, clearly anticipated by the carpark, still seemed to be keeping their distance.

The walk was long – down and up, and down and up again – but worth every step just for the curvy joy of this bridge over the water. I have read somewhere that the walkway dates from the 11th century or earlier, some attributing it to the Knights Templar. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but what seems definite is that there have been endless fights over the island, even Sir Francis Drake getting involved. The chapel that now stands at the top was re-opened in the 1980s.

Here are two more photographs to give a feel of this lovely place – the star of the final postcard from the Basque Country.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Over the hills to Elantxobe

On a day when the sun neither came nor went, we decided to go for a drive to the fishing village of Elantxobe. We wound up and down through wooded hills, until we found it gleaming beneath us.

We parked beside the fishing boats, and wandered out along the wide concrete arms of the harbour. It was hard to imagine storms in the calm, but the muscle in those protective limbs made it clear that the town remembered.

From the harbour we took the cobbled street that twisted up through the houses behind. It was so steep that we abandoned it after a short while, opting instead to walk back up to a cafe we spotted on the edge of the road we’d just driven down. This boulder was outside the cafe. Below it was a sign which said that the rock weighed 301kg, and that it had been thrown to that point by the storm of the 30th of January 1990.

Suddenly the geography and forces of nature surrounding the little harbour became much clearer.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

A postcard for Sunday – Arántzazu

This photograph was taken on a wet, cold, windy day in September 2022. The church is part of the Franciscan Sanctuary of Our Lady of Arántzazu. We found it at the end of the lonely road we’d followed up into the Aizkorri mountains after our lunch at Oñati.

The drive was dramatic. Forested limestone valleys, drifting with clouds, dropped away beside us, the edges getting steeper the higher we climbed.

It felt truly remote and wild, with the exception of the excellent road which delivered us to a huge car park, with the church at the far end. Both were virtually empty. The closer we got to the church the more imposing it became. It was unlike any religious building I had ever seen – more knuckle duster than warm welcome. The entrance was down a ramp beneath the barred windows on the right. Once inside, it didn’t feel much sunnier.

The wonder for me were the mountains, and the view of the sanctuary complex from behind the church.

If you’re feeling curious here is a link that explains the context and the architecture of the church

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023