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...

1 comment:

Kim said...

What a lovely town! How large is it? You did a great job of meeting friendly people willing to talk and share their knowledge!
I'm sure your hosts knew you didn't mean to inconvenience them. It happens!