vamos: hondarribia, país vasco
Recently, we had a puente, a super Spanish phenomenon that occurs when a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday and the whole world subsequently decides not to go to work on either that Monday or Friday, resulting in an extra long weekend.
A good friend of mine offered to take me around Hondarribia-Fuentarrabía for the afternoon. This Basque town sits meters away from the French border town of Hendaye, but the two towns are very different. The old quarter of Hondarribia is enchanting. Trees line the cobblestone roads, and the outlines of the ancient fortress walls define its shape.
Lately, Hondarribia is getting more credit as a dining destination. Expect an influx of gastronomic day-trippers thanks to this recent article. Many chefs thumb their noses at the expensive rents of Donosti and set up shop in the small, neighboring village, which might turn out to be surprisingly prescient.
The fisherman's quarter of Hondarribia was perhaps my favorite area. Without the stone grandeur of the old part, it's mostly comprised of tiny, almost elfin cottages. Basque fisherman would set off early in the morning, walking out their front doors, down the tree-lined street, and into their fishing boats.
Remnants of the famous seige on the city by the French can be found in the pockmarked fortress that is now a parador, or state run luxury hotel. 16,000 shells were fired into the city, which was almost destroyed but did not surrender. They celebrate this victor with fiestas at the beginning of September.
Finally, we scaled the mountains around the city to stand on cliffs overlooking the bay. An ancient lighthouse that used to guide in the Basque sailors sits at the top of the hills.