On to Getaria and Zarautz

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Getaria Harbor

Leaving Zumaia, we followed the coastal road for what seemed a short distance, probably 10 minutes, before arriving in the fishing town of Getaria.

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The harbor in Getaria

Like Zumaia it was very busy, but luckily we found a parking space at the harbor where red and green fishing boats adorned the sheltered waters.

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Umbrellas for sale

Street vendors lined the walk ways selling tee shirts and souvenirs.

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View of Malkorbe Beach

We followed the walkway to the top for the best views of the coast.

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Panoramic view of the harbor.

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Monument to Juan Sebastián Elcano

Monument to Juan Sebastián Elcano

Getaria is known for being Juan Sebastián Elcano’s hometown, a seaman well-known for being the first man to circumnavigate the globe in 1522.  There is a monument honoring him and his crew located above the harbor.  The large figure at the top of the monument was sculptured by Vitorio Macho.

Names of the crew sailing with Elcano

Names of the crew members who sailed with Elcano.

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Main Street Nagusia Kalea

Our visit to the Getaria would not be complete without checking out the Old Town,

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Main Street Nagusia Kalea

where we enjoyed a cafe con leche and people watched on the main street Nagusia Kalea.

And a quick tour of the church of San Salvador before getting back on the road to our final destination Ciboure, a small coastal French Basque town.

#1IMG_8360FullSizeRender_2On our way we approached the surfing town of Zarautz, and being a surfing fan I was thrilled when Koldo pulled into a parking spot for one last stop before crossing the French border.  It was just a short walk to the beach.

#1IMG_3343b Zarautz FullSizeRender,A long, wide promenade, with cafes and surf shops, frames the beach in Zarautz.

#1IMG_3350 Zarautz FullSizeRender_1#2IMG_8364FullSizeRender_3Zarautz has the longest beach on the Spanish Basque coast, 2.4 km.

#2IMG_8367bThe surf was high enough for a couple dozen surfers although it was cloudy and cool discouraging sunbathers and swimmers.  We were there in late March but in the summer Zarautz gets very crowded and sunny.

#2IMG_8370 FullSizeRender_4Zarautz has a super chill vibe similar to most surfing towns.

#2IMG_8372 FullSizeRender_5#1IMG_8371 Zarautz FullSizeRender_1The surprise stop in Zarautz was a treat before getting back on the road.

Next post: The French Basque Coast: Ciboure and St. Jean de Luz

 

 

On the road to the Basque Coast, first stop Zumaia

When planning my trip to visit Lauren in Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2016 I considered traveling to another destination on my way to her place since it would be my second time in Vitoria and I had seen many of the sites.   But Lauren reassured me that there were many amazing day trips from Vitoria and since Koldo had a car the three of us could also take a road trip to small towns that would be difficult to get to by bus.  I was thrilled with this idea since exploring small, out-of-the-way towns are my favorite destinations and visiting more popular cities like Barcelona or Lisbon were places I could always get to easily on my own in the future.

So Lauren researched possible places we might travel to by car allowing me the luxury of sitting back and enjoying the ride when I arrived.  She wanted to surprise me which was fine by me as it gave me a break from being the intense planner that I tend to be.

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Zumaia Waterfront

Our 3-day road trip began on the Friday before Easter.  We headed north toward the Basque coast arriving in Zumaia in about an hour.  The cafes along the waterfront were buzzing with other holiday travelers.

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Map and points of interest in Zumaia

#2IMG_8280We took a walk

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Itzurun Beach

to the Cantabrian Sea where steep cliffs and diagonal rock formations defined the Itzurun beach.  It was chilly, cloudy and lovely.

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Hermitage of San Telmo

We climbed up a road passing by San Telmo hermitage,

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View of Itzurun Beach

then followed a path down the steep hill for spectacular views.

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San Telmo Hermitage with view of Itzurun Beach

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Itzurun Beach

The Flysch rock formations are unusual and geologists from all over come to study them.  I had noticed similar geology in San Sebastian.

#4ZumaiaIMG_3284 The view of the sea, beach, mountains and town were amazing and unusual.

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View of the church of San Pedro

After taking in all the wonderful scenery and fresh sea air we headed back into town for lunch.  As we approached the Old Town we first saw the Church of San Pedro, a Gothic church dating back to the 13th Century.

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Standing in the entrance to the church of San Pedro.

The church was closed but interesting to look at from the outside.

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Looking out from the church yard to a typical building in the town.

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Pouring glasses of Basque wine Txakoli

It was a party in the Old Town; people spilling into the streets enjoying wine and pinxtos.  Somehow we found a table inside.

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Lauren and Koldo happy to be eating soon.

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Tech rules even in a small, coastal town in Spain.

I found Zumaia to be a lovely seaside town in a beautiful location.  If I were to return I would take a longer hike on the trails along the cliffs.

Next post: On to Getaria and Zarautz

To the top of San Vicente de La Sonsierra

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Approaching San Vincente

After passing through the small town of Elciego we continued on our roadtrip through the Basque wine region in the province of La Rioja.  The valley was green and wide and rimmed with mountains.  It was a lovely drive and in the distance I noticed a town high on a hill, something out of a fairy tale.  I didn’t know if we were on our way home or if there was another stop planned and then Lidia turned the car toward the hilltop.

Lidia explained that the Semana Santa procession was a popular event in San Vincente and was scheduled for that evening.  When we arrived there were cars parked everywhere.

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The main square in San Vincente de La Sonsierra

There were a lot of families and groups mingling in the plaza mayor

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Another view of the plaza mayor

#2IMG_8251while others had began the climb to the Church at top of the hill we had seen from the highway.

We followed them up there and discovered that the Santa Maria La Mayor Fortress Church was built built in the Gothic style, within the walls of a castle and is a National Monument.

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Choir members enter the church

Just as we arrived the choir entered the Church as a service for Semana Santa was about to begin.

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The Church of Santa Maria La Mayor

We stepped inside for a moment and quietly stood in the back while the choir sang.  It was beautiful and moving and truly memorable.

#3IMG_3248The floats for the procession stood behind me in a row.  Some were decorated with fresh flowers.

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The main street in San Vincente

After the service locals would carry the floats down the narrow street to the Plaza Mayor while spectators lined the streets to watch.

#3IMG_8265Homes and businesses located on the main street hung banners from their windows to mark the route of the procession.

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Window display

It was getting late and we needed to drive back to Vitoria so we did not stay for the procession but it was a treat to see San Vincente as it geared up for this big event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1IMG_3250 The Semana Santa procession would begin at this church many people carrying the religious “floats” all the way down the narrow street to the main square.

#3IMG_8265Many of the businesses and residents on this street hung banners from their balcony to mark the way.

Next post: On the road to the Basque Coast

 

Passing through Elciego, Spain

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Elciego, Spain

After completing our tour of Laguardia, it was on to the next quaint town in the beautiful Basque wine country with Lidia and Jose Ramon as our tour guides.  It wasn’t long before we entered the town of Elciego, home to the popular Hotel Marques De Riscal designed by Frank Gehry.  After visiting the Guggenheim in Bilbao, seeing another Frank Gehry design was high on my list so I was thrilled to be stopping in Elciego.

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View of Hotel Marques De Riscal from up the hill in the Old Town in Elciego.

We spotted the twisted colorful titanium design in the distance and parked as close as we could hoping to get a glimpse inside.  But as we approached we were turned away since we weren’t guests of the hotel.  Later I learned that the starting rates are $620/ night and out of reach for the average traveler.  For myself,  I am thoroughly satisfied with my visit to the Guggenheim which is very affordable and truly amazing.

#1IMG_3240The more interesting part of Elciego was our walk up the hill toward the Church of San Andrés which stands high and mighty above the town.

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Church of San Andrés

The church was closing when we arrived, then Jose Ramon recognized one of the two priests who were locking up.  Generously they allowed us a few minutes to peak inside.  I walked up the aisle and took in the beauty and serenity of the place while the others chatted at the entrance and waited for me.  It felt like a special moment that would be interrupted if I fumbled with my camera so I left without any images to share.

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The Main Plaza in Elciego

Although the parking lot below was quite busy, the Old Town was surprisingly quiet inspite of it being a holiday week.  Most tourists were apparently visiting the dozens of wineries in the area.

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Plaza Major

#3IMG_8225Stores were closed for siesta but we found a cafe for afternoon coffee which we enjoyed outside.

Next stop: San Vincente de La Sonsierra

Laguardia: In the heart of the Basque wine region

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View from the bus; Logroño to Laguardia

After enjoying 24 hours in Logroño, Lauren and I boarded a 9am bus to the small walled town of Laguardia.  I had never heard of Laguardia before visiting Lauren but the tourism office in Vitoria suggested it and any place new sounded good to us.

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Laguardia is perched on top of a hill in the middle of a beautiful valley of vineyards, Rioja Alevesa.

After an hour bus ride we met up with Koldo’s relatives, Lidia and Jose Ramon, who offered to show us around Laguardia and then drive us to other areas in the Basque wine region.  How lucky were we as a car would allow us to visit a couple of other smaller towns not easily accessible by bus.

The main square.

The main square.

We entered the walled town through the main square.

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Within the town of Laguardia are many narrow streets

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The Church of San Juan Bautista

There are two main churches in Laguardia, one on both ends of the town.  As we admired the stone walls of the church of San Juan Bautista, an elderly woman came up to us and remarked that she still was amazed at how the buildings were constructed even though she had lived in Laguardia all of her life.

The Church of San Juan Bautista

The Church of San Juan Bautista

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A float in preparation for Semana Santa procession

We entered the church and explored the interior on our own while people worked on floats for the Semana Santa procession to be held later that week.

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Ancient book on display in the tiny museum in the Church of San Juan Bautista

We discovered a tiny museum in the back of the church where ancient looking books and clothing were on display.

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Map of wine storage tunnels beneath the town

Beneath the town are a labryinth of tunnels and passageways originally used as shelter and escape routes but today family owned winerys store their wine in the caves located beneath the shops and houses.  A visit to the tourism office led us to the family owned bodega Vinasperi which offered a tour of their cellar while we were there.

Being claustrophobic I was a little uncertain about descending beneath the ground into the caves but Lidia assured me that I would be fine since she has the same issue.  And she was right, the caves were more roomy than I expected and I enjoyed seeing where the wine was made and stored.  At the end of the tour we were given a tasting right from the barrel.

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“Viajeros” by Vitoria-born sculptor Koko Rico.

The Church of Santa María de los Reyes is located on the north end of town.  Adjacent to the entrance of the Church is a sculpture by Koko Rico entitled “Viajeros” (travelers) inspired by the footwear of the Camino de Santiago Pilgrims who pass through the town.

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Polychromeda Arch, portico of the church of Santa Maria de Los Reyes

We joined a guided tour of the Church which was in Spanish but I could still appreciate the beautifully adorned portico without needing words.

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#3IMG_3189 The Church of Santa María de los Reyes

It is a spectacular church inside and well worth visiting.  The church was locked when we tried to get in on our own but the tourism office has a schedule of times when tours are given.

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Abbot’s Tower (Torre Abacial)

Next to the church is the bell tower, Abbot’s Tower.

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View from Aboot’s Tower

Finally it was time for lunch.  The town was more crowded than usual since it was a holiday week but we found a place with outdoor seating that served a delicious Menu.

Our next stop; Elciego.

Logroño; it’s all about the Pinxtos

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While visiting my daughter in Vitoria-Gasteiz during spring break we had several free days to explore other places. Vitoria-Gasteiz is centrally located within the Basque Country and offers many daytrips to interesting cities including Logroño, Pamplona, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Burgos and Santander, all are easily accessible by bus.  Since Koldo (and his car) weren’t always available to join Lauren and I, this was a great thing.  For our first day trip we decided on Logroño to experience a bus wine tour (Logroño is in the heart of the wine country La Rioja) and because I had never been to the city.  However, as we honed our plans we discovered that the bus wine tours didn’t coincide with my visit so we decided to spend the night in Logroño to explore the city instead.

#1IMG_8126We left the Vitoria bus station mid morning, passed lush valleys and vineyards as we rolled along through La Rioja, arriving an hour later in Logroño.  The bus staion in Logroño is conveniently located downtown just around the corner from our hotel and a ten minute walk to the Old Town.

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Breakfast: In mid-March it was cold and overcast so we opted for a cozy table inside.

One of the benefits of not having a list of things to see is that we leisurely explored the Old Town.  Con-cathedral de Santa María de la Redonda with its twin towers was impressive and a popular site during Semana Santa.

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Calle De Laurel in the Old Town, is the street where many of the best Pinxto bars are located.

#3IMG_3111Eventually we spotted the tourism office where we acquired a map and discovered that there weren’t many sites to see without a car, and advanced reservations were required for winery tours, but that the pinxto scene was pretty incredible and located in the Old Town.  Calle de Laurel is the main pinxto hub; a narrow street bustling with hungry people when we arrived.

#2IMG_8098Many of the bars tempt potential customers by displaying their pinxtos in an open window to the street.  We were lucky to find a table at one of the first places we stopped in as people hovered about waiting to grab the next vacated spot.

#3IMG_3091Each bar had a wide selection of creative and delicious pinxtos to choose from in addition to many varieties of local wines.

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“El Champi” pinxtos at Bar Angel

#2IMG_8101The signature pinxto of Logroño is El Champi; mushrooms grilled in a buttery garlic oil, stacked on a slice of baguette and topped with a shrimp.  A few bars serve this pinxto exclusively, including Bar Angel where we enjoyed ours.

 

Satisfied with our pinxto experience we crossed over the Ebro River along the footbridge located close to the Old Town.  The sun had come out, brightening up the city, and we enjoyed the peaceful stroll along the promenade on the other side

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Puente de Piedra bridge

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We returned to the Old Town by crossing over the Puente de Piedra bridge which is the entrance to the city on the Way of Saint James.

 

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Iglesia de Santa Maria de Palacio

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In the evening we returned to the Old Town for a second round of pinxtos, stopping first at a hip wine bar on the way.  From inside one of the bars we could hear loud drumming coming from the street. The procession for Semana Santa was passing by outside.  I had seen this in Bilbao during my previous visit to Spain and I didn’t want to miss it.

#4FullSizeRender(3)We dashed out just in time to see the end of the procession pass by.

#4FullSizeRender(2)It is a fascinating and somewhat eerie tradition to watch from my Californian perspective. Eventually we walked back to our hotel.  The next morning we’d be catching an early bus to Laguardia.

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Camino de Santiago passes through the city

Calle del Laurel, known as “the path of the elephants”

Magic in Mundaka

After spending most of my first day in Basque Country exploring Guernica we continued driving north to the small coastal town of Mundaka.  It had been raining on and off most of the day and as we headed north the darkest clouds appeared to be traveling with us.

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Looking out to sea from the harbor.

Mundaka is known as a great surfing spot although when we arrived the ocean was calm.  We parked in town then walked a short distance to the small harbor with a great view of the sea.

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St. Catherine’s Hermitage

We noticed a small heritage perched on a distant bluff.  Koldo suggested we walk over to the little church to check it out even though it was raining and getting late.

#1IMG_7952It was easier to get to than we expected, only a few minutes away on a marked path.

The chapel was closed but we took a peak inside.

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Looking south toward the estuary.

From the hermitage we had a panoramic view of the sea and the surrounding area.  No other people were in sight.

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View of Izaro Island

As we stood in the light rain admiring the scenery, a faint rainbow appeared over the sea.  A nice touch we thought.  Then the rainbow grew larger and brighter, eventually spanning from Izaro Island to the peninsula across from us.  It became so bright and clear we could hardly believe it.  A second rainbow appeared.  It was magical and breath-taking.  We took many photos but we couldn’t fully capture the splendor of it.

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Double rainbow in Mundaka

#5IMG_8004Then a man appeared out of no where, walked to the edge of the bluff and began to chant and beat on a Native American drum.  All this on my first day in Basque Country.

#3IMG_2875Rainbows typically disappear quickly but these brightened the sky for at least half an hour and we stayed until they began to fade.

#1IMG_2921As we headed back to our car the trail was busy with people trekking out to the bluff to get a closer look at the sky.

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The Old Fishing Port in Bermeo

From Mundaka we continued on our journey to the town on Bermeo which is only a few minutes away.  Bermeo is the most important fishing port in the Basque Country.

#1IMG_8012Lauren and Koldo had been here before and they wanted to show me the quaint harbor

FullSizeRenderand to enjoy pinxtos at the marina before our drive back to Vitoria.