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Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Basque Country

It's pouring with rain as I write this and I've got an apple crumble baking in the oven from the meagre pickings from the orchard. It all seems so autumnal that I fancy a sunny trip down memory lane. This time last year we spent a fabulous 10 days in the Basque country, which straddles the border with France and Spain on the Atlantic coast, all nestled into the lower parts of the Pyrenees mountain range.

I've never really shared these photos apart from a posting here about San Sebastian in Spain as part of a 7 day blog challenge back in March, and one of my French Friday postings about the Villa Arnaga, whose gardens were utterly remarkable. The Basque country is so completely different to where I live in Brittany, with the only similarity being that the native people have their own, totally incomprehensible language! The architecture, the mountainous scenery, the cuisine, are all different, although some of the coastline is as beautiful as Brittany, but in a different kind of way; it's still rocky but there are more cliffs the further one gets into Spain. The climate is wet and mild and all sorts of plants grow outside there which are not remotely hardy up here in the north west of France. All that made me want to move there and I felt quite unsettled when I first came back home, but a quick look at the property prices in that part of France and I soon changed my tune. It's obviously where everyone want to retire to - if you can afford it!

The weather was warm and sunny most of the time we were away, sometimes as warm as 25C, whilst our friends who were housesitting for us suffered cloud and gloom and about 18C - pretty much what today is like, plus rain!

I'm just going to pick out a few random photos and post them here, then give you a link to my Picasa album if you'd like to see any more.

Typical French Basque architecture with Piment d'Espelette decorations.
A chocolate/bonbon shop in St Jean de Luz, France.

Colourful boats in front of Fort Socoa, near St Jean de Luz, France.

A spot where we stopped for a picnic.

The lower foothills of the Pyrenees. Wild horses roam free up on the mountainsides.

More beautiful Basque architecture at La Bastide Clairence, France.

Here we are in Spain, looking at the river which marks the border
between the two countries. The town of Hendaye is on the French side,
and the town of Hondarribia on the Spanish side.

Umm, no thanks!

One of the really wild horses who ambled over to check us out,
on our way inland and uphill to the Foret d'Iraty, France.

This point was about 1,500m high and that was the only ski station that we saw.
Further inland the mountains get much taller.

The higher we went, the more the autumn colours became apparent.
It's so mild, lush and green down near the coast it's like we went from autumn back to summer.

A beautiful house in St Jean Pied de Port, France.

This lane is part of the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela,
or St Jacques de Compostelle as it is known here in France.

Lesaka, up in the mountains and just over the border in Spain,
where the houses had quite an alpine look to them

There are some fabulous forests here!

Espelette, the village where we stayed. The small town is famous for its mild chilli
which is used in place of black pepper as a table condiment, and liberally flavours their cuisine.

The local hotel where we ate a number of times and learned to understand and
pronounce a few Basque words on the menu! 

If you'd really like to see more, I have an album in Picasa all in date order and captioned, which I made for my mum. It's not public but anyone with the link can view it. There are rather a lot of photos in it, although you can view the thumbnails and just pick out a few to look at - if you're bored and it's raining where you are too!


  1. Lovely pics Mandy, we really will try and go to that part of Spain/France next year.

    Philippa x

    1. Philippa - you have got to learn to stop turning off the autoroute at the La Rochelle exit!!! Be a devil and keep on driving south! xx

  2. I think we'll be driving North as we quite fancy doing a BF crossing to Santander and then travelling towards Brittany.

    Philippa xx

    1. I think you said that last year about this year! I do hope you get the opportunity though as it's really different down there and a whole new experience.

  3. Thanks for the visit! (Viewed the album and plussed a lot, sorry!)

    1. I know, I found all your comments, as you know! But thanks for looking :-)

  4. Fancy calling this thread "The Basque Country" - I was led here under false pretences, expecting a well dressed coot arse.


    1. LOL! So sorry to disappoint - even the chillies here are not hot!