Monday, 10 October 2011


The sea is always present in the Basque country. Even miles inland in the Pyrenees its influence is felt as fog and rain; the greenness of Atlantic Spain makes a remarkable contrast with the arid landscapes just a little further south.

It also affects restaurant menus: fish, fish, and more fish. Fresh sardines, squid, bacalao (salt cod), merluza (hake)... It's all good. Though I've never convinced myself to try a plate of angulas (elvers), a disconcerting popular delicacy available in bulk packs, fresh or frozen, at the supermarket ("like short spaghetti with eyes"). Unfortunately, my daughter is not keen on fish, and had to stick to duck or chicken whenever we ate out.

Lighthouse at Getaria

From Itziar

At night we would look out onto the blackness of the sea from our hilltop vantage point near Itziar, and see lines of fishing boat lights (presumably fishing for squid) arranged like streetlamps on the vasty deep.

The Basques are legendary sailors, whalers and cod-fishermen, venturing way out into the North Atlantic and Newfoundland fisheries, and crewing the ships of the Age of Exploration. But the Basque coast has a more refined history, too, of summer seaside resorts for royalty and the bon ton of Europe. Nowadays, though, it's the surfing aristocracy that turn up in the summer, as some of the wave breaks can achieve monster proportions. I, of course, have nothing but envy contempt for these waddling body fascists in their wetsuits, clutching their absurd hi-tech planks.



Paul Mc Cann said...

I'm sure your daughter would have liked Calamares Frites if she wasn't told they were fish !

You weren't far from Churassco country for the meat eaters amongst you and I hope you had Churros con Chocalata for your breakfast

Pontevedra and farther North are our favourite parts of Spain.

Mike C. said...

You're kidding -- she's 17 and like totally faddish...

Ah yes, churros... where else but Spain would you get doughnut twizzlers for breakfast? Lovely!

Yes, I like that Galician coast, too, but haven't been back there for years. I remember being in Vigo in the mid-80s and watching the surrounding hillside vineyards burning at night -- no-one could be bothered to put out the fires as the grapes had become worthless since joining the EEC... All day, black smuts would be falling from the sky.

I've recently been enjoying the Sharpe books for light reading, and intend to do a "Peninsular War" tour of Spain sometime.