For me, this is a very special city and more than deserving of its worldwide kudos and esteem. Sophisticated, vibrant and visually captivating, with some exceptionally beautiful sundown views from 'La Conche' beach to the
In north east
According to the extensive studies of Stephen Oppenheimer, a British paediatrician and geneticist - British ancestry mainly traces back to the Palaeolithic Iberian people, now represented best by Basques, when they migrated northwards to Britain as hunter gatherers, once the ice shelf had receded in Britain after the end of the last ice age. It is therefore said that if you want to better understand the true ancestry of the British - ask a Spaniard, or more specifically.... a Basque.
During the 17th and 18th centuries it has been estimated that some 45% of the population of
I had a great few days here meeting other travelers from Norway, France the US and Spain, deep inside the softly lit maze of streets within the old town fishing quarter of Parte Vieja, that make up 'Tapas Shangri-La'. Roaming freely with my appetite and my nose out on point, from one tempting Tapas bar to another, liberating my taste senses to whole new levels of discovery and culinary delight. It's a bit like a theme park for grown up foodies and at the same time, a proud and determined showcase that underlines why Spanish food culture and their varied dining/eatery experiences, have become so revered around the world. Deserved of the title: 'Foody Nirvana'. I miss it a lot.
Cautionary Note 1 !! - Pointing Etiquette & Conduct ! -- When sitting on a high stool at a crowded tapas bar, often hemmed in by other tourists and locals alike, the accepted method of communication - if you don't speak the language - is to 'point' at your chosen beverage or the plate of delicious looking food that has just appeared in front of a nearby diner. However - as the evening progresses and you become more loose with your pointing gesticulations’ - just make sure you remember to keep your eye on the finger at the end of your outstretched 'pointing arm', as it sweeps back and forth like the boom of a runaway crane, while your other hand is frantically trying to secure the attention of the harassed looking waitress down the other end of the bar.
One evening, I didn't - and managed to clear three full wine glasses, two beers, a steaming bowl of very yummy looking fisherman's stew and an open handbag....all into the laps of the cool and beautifully dressed Italian couple sitting right next to me. Oh dear. Instant commotion & chaos. It became immeasurably worse when some kind soul pointed out that the bowl of missing stew was now hiding in her handbag. God... didn't she scream!
Oh – and that box of perfectly chilled white Catalonian Corbieres (French!) wine with the plain labels, that our fantastic barman snuck out back for, around 3.00am that morning, after his boss had expired behind the sofa. Wow! Your still the man. And your secrets still safe with me. Providing you keep up the payments…..ho ho.
Click the 'PLAY' button to see Celina Zambon in concert performing Flamenco, while you read this post. You'll have to forgive me for the clash of south western 'Andalusian Flamenco' culture with this predominantly northern Spanish 'Basque' blog-ette....
Here are a couple of You Tube links to 'Basque Region' videos and so on:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVeI-VndCTQ&feature=related Great helicopter 'fly by' video short of
and the nearby region. San Sebastian
If while visiting the region, you take the trouble to write down and try using a few basic Basque words and phrases - In Basque, Basques call themselves 'Euskaldunak' by the way - you will be received like a blood brother!
And here are a few essential Basque (Euskara) greetings & phrases I prepared earlier:
* Hello = Kaixo - "Kay-so"
* How are you? = Zer moduz? - "Sere modoose"
* Very well thankyou, & you? = Ongi, eskerrik asko, eta zu? - "Ongee, esk-ellick ass-ko, eh-ta soo?"
* Yes = Bai - "Bi"
* Please = Mesedez - "Mess-eh-dess"
* Thankyou = Eskerrick asko - "Esk-ellick ass-ko"
* Goodnight =
- "Ga-bon" Gabon
*** Bye = Agur - "Ah-gorrr" Note: This is one of those testing pronunciations where they kind of 'gargle/rattle the tongue' as they say the word. Bon chance then!
***Cautionary Note 2: ... for the more determined local lingo practitioners, when attempting to use and correctly pronounce the word... 'Agur' in a public place - read this........
There is often an impulsive desire to make an impression - as wine & beer practice peaks - to appear to be the coolest and most admired new foreigner in town that evening to all your imagined new Basque & worldly comrades, by casually saying 'Agur' - (Basque for Bye) - in front of all your mullered & now happily delinquent friends, as you decamp to the pavement outside --
Know this first, 'pretty please'... If after say 20 minutes of growing confusion & disillusionment, you find yourself now alone but still struggling to get your 'arrrggths' and your 'gorrrthhs' in perfect sinc together for the 137th time on this one, and the bar staff & locals you were going to impress are now collectively arms a folded and frowning darkly... at you! Your tonsils feel sore, your tongue's gone numb and your erstwhile friends have now faded away to another bar..., while those two swarthy looking Guardia policemen that have appeared off the street, are now stalking over in your specific direction --- take my advice, don't try and say another 'Agur' .... just smile...crinkle your nose...wave goodbye ....and withdraw gracefully. You've probably had way too much Cava, and by now, your ex Basque bar friends couldn't care less if you speak Urdu, Welsh or Native American Schaghticoke - - they just wanna go get a Big Mac and crash.
* I'm sorry, but I don't understand you = Barkatu, baina ez zaitut ulertzen - Just point to your pre written text. Much-o quicker-o. You can always shake your head of course - but this can sometimes be misinterpreted with dire results.
* Do you speak English/Spanish/French? = Badakizu ingelesez/gasteleraz/frantzesez? - Just point to your pre written text. Moocho easier-o. If you illicit a resounding "Non!" from this one - either bow politely and move next door, or be prepared to spend the rest of the evening pointing to your wanton desires while pulling increasingly unnatural facial expressions, to the eternal joy and amusement of all your fellow patrons.