Archive for March 7th, 2018

March 7, 2018

How about the pays basque:France/Spain!

I like to talk to you a wonderful region that cuts into two wonderful countries today. I have known them from the family since they talk to me about jai alai or pelote basque or basque games, and I got to know more about them while living in France and Spain. These are the basques, or pays basque =basque country. I like to tell you a bit more about the Basques.

There are intertwine into two countries and different parts. The Basque country includes the Spanish provinces of Álava (Araba), Guipúzcoa(Gipuzkoa),and Vizcaya(Biskaia), Highest point is Mount of the  Basques and the Cantabrian range with Larrasa (1453 meters) as highest mountain. However, there is the Mount Aitxuri,at 1551 meters in the National Park of Aizkorri.

In the 9C the kingdom of Pamplona is on with a coalition of the Basques tribes and the first chief of chiefs; years later early 10C Sancho Garcés I was crowned king and the kingdom is officially created .Many alliances and wars come to the troops of the Duke of Alba in 1513 to attach it to Castille. The courts named Fernando the Catholic ,king of Navarra and he annexed Navarra and Castile. Navarra stayed divided with the south in Castile and the north to France. In 1643,the treaty of Religions (Gero de Pedro de Axular in Basque) is the first document in writing describing the territories of the Basque Country and describe the seven provinces. There are two enclaves in the Basque country that are outside the territory but count as basque, these are Treviño, located in the province of Burgos in the Alava, and the Valle de Villaverde located in Cantabria and part of Vizcaya.

In 1936,the Spanish Civil war begins and the sides are decided. The Basque party EAJ-PNB,(Basque nationalist party) support the Republicans of Madrid, and are given autonomy by the central government. The Navarra takes side with the Gen Franco, while the Vizcaya and Guipuscoa side with the Republicans. Gen Franco attacked the Basque country in 1937 and we saw the paintings of the bombing of Guernica, so beautifully done by Picasso.

Traditionally in France you have three provinces of the Basque country, these are Labourd(Lapurdi),capital in Bayonne ; the lower Navarra or Basse-Navarre (Nafarroa-Beherea in basque),capital is St Jean-Pied de Port, and the Soule (Xiberoa in souletin dialect or Zuberoa in basque),capital is Mauleon.The Pyrenees mountain range the cut the two section between France and Spain. The highest point here are the table of three kings or Table des Trois Rois (Hiru Errege Mahaia in Basque)at 2,421 meters and the peaks of Ezkaurre (2,047 m), and Arlas (2,044 m). Here in France, at the middle ages the Romans were beaten by the Visigoths with the Franks on the northern line of them, in between the territory of the Vascons (Basques) was formed and do not submit to the king of the Franks. In the 8C the moors/arabs invaded the territory and controlled it as the rest of Spain. In 1659 the treaty of the Pyrenees is signed marking the peace between France and Spain as well as creating the frontier as of today as well as permanently dividing the Navarra.

To get around here you have plenty including two harbors port such as the Puerto de Bilbao,and Puerto de Pasajes in Guipúzcoa. The train comes in many forms here with the national network as RENFE with suburban line in Bilbao(Bilbo) and San Sebastian (Donostia). You have the quaint EuskoTren on suburbian of Bilbao and San Sebastian, and a regional line Bilbao – San Sebastián – Hendaya (Hendaye in France). The EuskoTran Tranvía or tramway of Vitoria. There is the line A tramway in Bilbao too. The metro/subway/tube of Bilbao has three lines and covers the greater city area. There is constant construction and addition of lines, and me always love the car! The other network is FEVE part of Renfe and has the suburbian lines of Bilbao-Las Encartaciones (Vizcaya), and regional service to Bilbao to Carranza, Santander, and León. The roads are good and great views, the A8 is superb as well as A1. Of course, the road can have its attractions ::)

To enjoy the Basque gastronomy which is very good, you can try the pintxos ( a sort of tapas) the preparation with codfish ,also kokotxas, porrusalda, pisto a la bilbaina, marmitako , and bacalao al pil pil, talo, queso Idiazábal, the white beans, chuletón de Tolosa, Angulas a la bilbaína, pastel de cabracho , piperrada, pastel vasco, cuajada,leche frita , and the tostadas de crema. Oh boy me translating is terrible, they can be copy and find in Google please. As well as the drinks such as the great wine Txakoli, ciders, Sagardotegis, and the wines from the Rioja Alavesa.

The favorite sport here is the pelota vasca(jai alai, basque ball) with many variations such as the pelota a mano (sort of handball). The on street corrida of the festival of San Fermin,during the month of July in Pamplona are very popular and regularly known as one of the best in the world, if you like to be chase by a +1000 kg bull…!

Things to see and do are plenty;such as Teatro Victoria Eugenia ,San Sebastián, Teatro Principal Vitoria ,and the Teatro Arriaga Bilbao as well as great installations such as the very nice Kursaal of San Sebastian, and the Palacio Euskalduna of Bilbao. Also, the wonderful museum or Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, the Museo Artium of Vitoria,Museo Chillida-Leku of Hernani (Guipúzcoa). More traditional museums such as the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, fine arts/beaux-arts one of the most importante in Spain, Museo Vasco, Museo Marítimo Ría of Bilbao,and the Museo Arqueológico of Bizkaia,latest all in Bilbao. And many others no space now to put them and glorious beaches like La Concha in San Sebastian.

Tourism information on the Basques here:
Tourism in Basque country:
Basque regional tourism portal :
Tourist guide of the Basque country here:

We have come several times to San Sebastian and passing on the others, we definitively recommend San Sebastian/Donostia to anyone. Hope it helps enjoy your visit to this wonderful region of two countries full of histoy and good eatings. Enjoy your week, cheers!!!

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