Leaving old Asturias we continue west across Spain’s Green Coast into Basque country. Some of the oldest European inhabitants in our home state of Nevada are Basque sheepherders… they left a written record of their presence as carvings on Aspen trees throughout Northern Nevada and in the Tahoe basin. There are pockets of Basques there still, rough and rural as their meaty meals – centered around various cuts of lamb served up family style.
Here in Europe the Basques are old too. Their Euskara Batua tongue is the only surviving Pre-Indo-European language in Europe. Here the similarities end… Europe’s Basques are modern, sophisticated and industrial. And their cuisine is anything but rough – Basque Pintxos are the globe’s hottest haute cuisine, and little Donostia (San Sebastian to you foreigners…) punches well above its weight with over 15 Michelin stars – among the highest star-per-capita density in the world. To keep my wife and life happy we’ve budgeted ample time here in Basque country.
The Sirocco-driven heat wave is still building, so we skip Cantabria towns and opt for a visit to the air conditioned comfort of the Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao. Approaching through town the building’s leaps out of the Ria del Nervion like a steelhead shaking a tight line. The giant flowered terrier out front sets a playful expectation, and the Museum fulfills it – with experiential exhibits teasing and pleasing visitors through color, shape textures and materials. It’s a delightful and surprising place, worth a visit.
Ours is as short as the day is hot, as we must move on to another fun encounter, a meet-up with our old friend Jay Saltzman from our CitySearch glory days. Jay and his wife Rosa have made time to share a late lunch with us in their hometown of Getxo, a Bilbao ‘burb on the eastern banks banks of the Ria de Bilbao’s mouth. They’ve chosen a family-pleasing spot and we enjoyed a few hours revisiting glory days and exploring each others’ family lives… and we hope they’ll come visit in their next trip to California.
Driving an hour west on Spain’s excellent highways brings us to Donostia – (aka San Sebastian), where our HomeExchange host Raul’s mother Nina welcomes us with a bottle of Txakolina and a tour of our home for the week. It’s a modern and tidy 3BR flat; a short drive down Donostia’s chaotic streets to the beaches and tourist sites. Sue and I slip out for groceries and immediately get lost… thank goodness for Garmin and Google.
On Wednesday the heat wave continues, so we coast to the coast and survey Donostia’s famous city beaches: Zurriola wins for its superior surf. Good call… the boys are occupied all day bodysurfing, and the beach is full but big enough to handle the crowds, and it’s a friendly family vibe… all are welcome here. We found some friendly beach-side burgers for lunch… and of course the boys collapsed once home so Sue and I escaped for some modest Pintxos at a local bar.