Living in the Basque Country is like a constant, cultural learning curve. The language is far from Castellano/Castilian Spanish, the landscape is hugely different to parts of Spain I have seen before, and you may find yourself treading on someone’s toes if you refer to them as Spanish, or indeed living in Spain.
I learned this the hard way at school with Primary 6 in my Christmas themed lesson before the holidays. As a starter, I wanted to brainstorm any known differences in traditions between Spain and England; a fairly simple question, or so I thought.
Instead of the fairly tame comparison exercise I had lined up, this sparked a huge class debate about my geographical and indeed cultural knowledge of the Basque Country and I faced a group of fairly angered eleven-year-old children informing me they were Basque and not Spanish.
In hope of redeeming myself and indeed improving my cultural knowledge of El País Vasco, some friends and I decided to venture across the border for a road trip to Le Pays Basque.
We started in Bilbao and drove across the border to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, which welcomed us with beautiful sunshine – a huge change from the Txirimiri of Bilbao!
After a few hours walking along the beach and pottering through this Basque seaside town we hopped back in the car and drove inland to Bayonne.
Bayonne has just enough for a short, but sweet visit. The interior of the cathedral is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and the free water taxi to cross the river vamped up our weekend from a road trip to a cruise!
Admittedly, our weekend coincided with a couple of Six Nations matches, and so our afternoon was mainly spent supporting our respective rugby teams in a local Irish bar! After a glorious win for Ireland and my two friends Marie and Jess, we dashed out to get a taste of French/Basque culture and headed back for the second half of the Scotland – England game. After a not-so-glorious loss for England, we crossed the river and stopped off for an Italian before heading back to the hotel to chat for hours and indulge in a few games of Uno!
The next day, we headed straight back along the coast to stop off in Biarritz, by far the most tourist-targeted of the three locations.
After finding our morning French fix of crêpes avec nutella and a stroll along the beach it was time to head back to Bilbao.
What surprised me the most about our trip to Le Pays Basque was the considerable lack of Euskera, which is so prominent here on the ‘Spanish’ side of the border. Other than a few road signs here and there, all the spoken language we heard out and about on our travels was French, and there didn’t seem to be a particular focus on Basque culture, as the towns all looked considerably French, too.
The weekend was the perfect chance to brush up on my French and an all-round fantastic weekend as an honorary Irish girl along with Jess and Marie!
Thank you for reading, and watching my latest installment of Alice’s Adventures !