Tuesday, June 29, 2010


European adventures continued...

So, that first Monday afternoon we went across for a paseo into France to see the other face of Basque Country and get a glimpse of the area where the guys had been cycling earlier that day, 57 miles in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
There are three Basque departments or provinces in France, so the formula for Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) is 4 + 3 = 1. We learned that on the French side they are much more into the folklore. You see the flag and the lauburu everywhere and on everything.

We walked, talked and gawked.

Some shops caught our attention for different reasons.

Sweets, macaroons, and Basque cake.


A memorial to honor Basque fishermen, mariners, and corsaires--good pirates commissioned to prey on the commercial shipping or warships of an enemy nation?!
So much to see and learn!

And best of all the people!
Our day ended with a meal at Gonzalo and Elena's. He had prepared Spanish tortilla.

They are neighbors, colleagues and close friends of our hosts and share meals together once or twice a week. We felt immediately accepted into their circle. Gonzalo even loaned us a vehicle to use during our stay. 

 Thank you, Gonzalo and Elena!

Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Week 26: Welcome back!

The week began with a welcome back dinner as a family and ended with a welcome dinner for our Basque teens. Most of the days in between were spent getting ready for Amaia's arrival.

We were eager to return to chef-son's Monday meal and be with that circle of friends again. The food was great!

A type of flat bread with wonderful pesto

Polenta with meat sauce, tomatoes, fried squash and goat cheese.

Fresh pineapple, sliced paper thin, with sherbet
My camera stopped working in Europe, the lens refused to retract. I sent it in for repair or replacement, another reason why I've struggled with photos this week.

The World Cup holds our attention (and takes up our time!). Here next to the computer I have a pop can that I brought back from Spain. Of the seven possible collectibles, we were served Coca Cola from these cans. Is that cool or what?

Argentina won twice. I couldn't watch the game today, but am going online to look at the 600+ photos...or not.

Friday was the long/exciting/scary day. 
Very looooong for those traveling from Basque Country. Amaia's family got up at 3:30 to take her to the airport in Bilbao and the group finally arrived in Fort Wayne at 5:30 pm our time, near midnight their time.
There was much excitement at the airport, families with brightly colored welcome signs...and some scared bewildered faces of the new arrivals.

We did not have a sign this year, but could have stolen borrowed this one from another family:

These, BTW, are the names of the three girls in our Upland group; they are common Basque names.
As the bus drove by Dane and Laurie's house, next to our destination, we saw they had put up the Basque flag. We knew they would be so excited to see Amaia again, so we walked over to their house. As you can see we also welcomed our granddaughter Kayla for the month.

Saturday was Orientation and Welcome Dinner, and then all the young folk played some get-acquainted games.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Arantxa's Place

Our lodging for the ten days in Basque Country was a lovely apartment belonging to our host's sister, Arantxa. Her family was not going to be there any of those days, so we were graciously allowed to stay there.

Where the roses are growing through the fence is the back yard.

The first evening we had a lovely dinner on the terrace prepared by our host.

Laurie loved the flowers and plants and sweeping the patio first thing in the morning.

Alberto preparing a wonderful salad of tomatoes, tuna, corn, olives, fresh garlic, and of course olive oil. That was the first course, and the second was an amazingly tender and tasty cut of beef in sauce.

Before dinner we all went for a stroll along the river.

We could see the cliffs of France on the other side.

Then we came back to the gated community and to Arantxa's place.
I thought it interesting that they use the English word on the STOP signs.

I was especially amused by this sign: "We beg you to take control of your dog's poop."

On the last day we were privileged to meet Arantxa in another town where she works.

Thank you, Arantxa, Alberto et al!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Fuenterrabía / Hondarribia / Onyarbi
Which name do you prefer?

Fuenterrabía is the Castillian name, Hondarribia is the proper Basque version, and Onyarbi is local jargon for the lovely town where our host family lives in the province of Guipúzcoa/Gipuzkoa.

I will go with the local name, it is shorter, more friendly... and makes me feel like an insider!

As we traveled throughout the Basque region we saw that most cities and towns had signs in both languages. Sometimes Spanish name first, others Basque first. However, Hondarribia uses only one, the Euskera. I asked about this and was told that each township decides. Obviously the Basque sentiment is strong in Onyarbi!

This town, on the Bidasoa river across from France, draws many many tourists.

The first morning we were there, after the guys left for their 50-60 mile training ride through the foothills of the Pyrenees, Laurie and I took off walking toward the downtown and the old town.

We stopped and talked to people and took many pictures.
The first person was Eugenia, an older woman sitting on a bench, soaking up the sun. She told us that her late husband of 50+ years had sat there every morning waiting for the bread man. He talked to everyone that came by. He told tourists exactly where to stand to get the best photo of the picturesque houses that used to belong to the fishermen.
One day, a while back, a visitor approached and begged to be allowed to ask a question.
"Go ahead," she said, "I'll answer if I can"
"Well, there used a be a gentleman sitting right there every day. Do you know about him?"
"Yes, that was my husband. He died a few years ago."
 Tourists have asked permission to take photos, and then requested her address, promising to send a copy. So we did the same.

More quaint houses, flower boxes, a store or business on the lower level...

 People milling about. It was a beautiful day.
We met 89 year old Manuel who told us much about the history of fishing in the region. He and his sons had worked in the industry for 50+ years. They caught tons and tons of tuna, a large variety, using poles.
He told us his name was one of the names of God. 
"Yes," I said, "It means God with us."

Laurie and I kept on wandering, taking our time, enjoying every moment, oblivious of the hour.
We ended up in the old walled city, el Casco Viejo. Finally we decided to stop for refreshment and WiFi in a small eatery--Bar San Nicolás.

It was there we realized it was 3:00 p.m. and there was a missed call on our cell phone.
Edurne, our hostess, just back from a day's work at the clinic, answered: "The guys have been back for awhile. You have the only key to the apartment."


Oh,  no! What to do? To walk back from where we were would have taken half an hour at a fast pace, and assuming we wouldn't get lost! So our gracious hostess, made some calls, and came for us, even though that put her in somewhat of a bind. She had to drive her eldest daughter to a nearby town to catch the train back to university in Barcelona.

That would not be the last time we would importune them, yet our hosts were so kind ALL the time.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On how to get lost in a foreign country

1. Take off running from your hotel without name and address of the place, don't even lock your room.

2. Don't bother taking a cell phone, but the camera is a must! You'll need it to record your adventure.

3. No time for breakfast or snacks. Just go, go, go. Have fun!

4. If after a couple hours of wandering you begin to feel hungry, tired, or lost, revive your high school language skills and begin to interact with the locals--an enriching experience.

5. Don't forget to take dozens of photos, there are fascinating sights everywhere you turn--quaint houses, historic architecture, parks, statues, people...

6. IF you eventually admit you are truly LOST and begin to worry about those who may be worried about you, go to the Tourism Office and ask for HELP.

7. With city map in hand, be aware of your surroundings at every turn.

8. Arrive at destination and apologize to ALL for suddenly and selfishly abandoning them in your wander lust!

Yes, this is what I did on the day of the guys big cycling event.

It all happened so quickly--the guys gathered on their bikes, off they went and so did I, running after them!
They had given the impression that the start was not that far away.
The women had not made a firm plan. There was talk of sleeping in, or maybe following the guys. Anyway, I thought we were on our own. I did, however, disregard Mike's last words, "Go with Edurne." Actually it was already too late, she had run after them, and she can really run!
As I was jogging, following the cyclists, I thought, "This is such a straight shot down, I could never get lost."
However, when you turn around to go back in the direction you came from, everything looks different. Suddenly there are forks in the road, the market stalls are being set up, people are milling about. The city as you remembered it is no longer there. After a few turns, shortcuts, and going around in circles, you lose all sense of direction. At one point I realized I had wandered into the next town.
But, hey, I DID get to video the hundreds of cyclists from a strategic corner. I was feeling so disappointed about missing the mass start, when I saw a whole line of patrol cars labeled La Pyrénéenne, followed by many official motorcycles and then the unending stream of riders whizzing by.

And an hour later, I talked to two women waiting for their men to come by in the second start, those doing the shorter route. I recorded that as well, because one from our group of friends was planning on that ride.

Here are some of the treasures from my adventure.

Every French town has a monument to honor their fallen.

...and lovely parks.

Old ornate churches...

...and a simpler Protestant church, the only one I saw in our European adventures.

And wonderful people!

This 84 year old man led me to my next landmark. He was fascinated by my world jacket; he had been a geography teacher for 30 years.

I had my geography and life lesson for the day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Weeks 23-25: Some Highlights

Going back three weeks as memory and photos permit.

Sunday, May 30th, we were together as a family to celebrate our birthdays, watch the Indy 500, be together one last time before our trip and eat, of course. So many photos, but my favorite is the one of the five grands.

The last time we went to Monday Meal at Chef-son's Mike won at chess...

...and again today! He is unbeatable!

Tuesday, June 1st, and again on the 16th we spent hours and hours in the air, almost always over or close to the wing.

And Wednesday, June 2nd and 16th, we went through the Madrid airport on our way to and from Bilbao...

home of the Guggenheim museum, contemporary structure seen at the end of this road.

We left Bilbao in a rented car, headed for Galicia in the NW corner of Spain. When we couldn't go any further we decided to spend the night in Gijón half way to our destination.

After finding an open spot to park, figuring out the blue zone parking ticket system, and settling into a small new hotel, we went for a walk to the must-see part of the old city.

We walked and walked and walked. Mike was determined to beat jet lag. Finally in bed by 11 p.m., we slept in till 9:30 and had to run and extend the parking ticket so as to avoid a hefty fine.   
Then, a good breakfast at the hotel and we were off to see our friends in El Ferrol.

We stayed in the house with the girls on their team and had a nice time getting acquainted. We found out as the Spanish say, that "El mundo es un pañuelo." (The world is like a handkerchief, it is so small.)

The girl on the right attends a school in Chicago and knows my professor cousin, Rosie. The one on the left attends a university in TN where Rosie's sister is an administrative assistant, and she comes from the little town where we were earlier this year for cycling training in the mountains.

Friday, June 4th, we took the three on a sight-seeing trip to the ancient and famous city of Santiago de Compostela, about an hour away. There we followed the sidewalk markings to the cathedral of St. James where hundreds of pilgrims were waiting to get in. This is the year of Jubilee.

We are getting back into our daily routines, preparing for the arrival of our Basque teen, Amaia, whose family hosted us so very generously and graciously in Hondarribia. We are also following the World Cup. You can see who I am rooting for.

Speaking of cheering someone on--Saturday I ran a 5 mile race along with  DIL Karen. As I was going along at my own pace, those already turning around cheered me on. I heard many say, "Good job!" as they passed, until I came to the last volunteer directing the runners on the right path. He said, "Did you get a late start?" I reminded him that the last shall be first. Sure enough, I got first place in my age division and won a door prize!

Today, Sunday June 20th, we had another family day--a welcome back from Basque Country, and Father's Day celebration. We shared a Basque style meal along with stories about our amazing experience, and gifts for all.