Pays Basque or the Basque country straddles two countries, France and Spain. To get both sides of the story, we decided to stop in Bayonne on the French side for a day before crossing the border. However, we were disappointed because it felt very French and as the whole town shuts down on Sundays and Mondays, it was largely deserted while we were there. But as promised by the guidebook, the shutters were very pretty so in that regard it totally lived up to expectations.
So the real action in Basuqe country began in Sans Sebastian which was a city we loved almost instantly. A way to an epicurean’s heart is through the stomach, and by God the food was good (and cheap!) in Sans Sebastian. We hopped from bar to bar and got drunk on red wine and ate tapas to our hearts’ content. The Basque are known for their food and rightly so.
In order to see a bit more of Basque country we caught a bus to Bilbao for the day. The one thing which felt more obvious to me was a subversive element which was not so apparent in Sans Sebastian, perhaps because it is also a tourist destination.
There were quite a few shops in Bilbao selling punk clothing for example. (NB. “Euskadi” which you can see in the top right corner of the photo is the Basque word for “Basque”).
But perhaps the most obvious strain of subversiveness we came across was an ETA bar that we decided to hang out in for a while after some initial deliberation. It was surprisingly cosy inside and not at all dodgy – well, except for the fact that there were lots of photos on the wall of martyrs who had died for the cause of Basque independence…
(The Basque corporate font!)