Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Basque and beautiful: Hondarribia

Hondarribia in the Spanish Basque Country is our final stop
before we head home to France.

From its charming waterfront neighborhood to its ancient walled Old Town, we may have saved the best for last on our recent vacation. Tucked up against Irun where the Spanish Basque Country meets France, Hondarribia turns out to be one of our favorite sojourns during this winter's month-long trip to Spain and Portugal. (Note: Hondarribia is the Basque name; previously the city was known as Fuenterrabia.)

Fishermen's cottages along Arrantzale Auzoa in Hondarribia

We have lucked out on accommodations having booked a comfortable room in one of the quaint fishermen's cottages along Arrantzale Auzoa. Our hostess helps us navigate the winding streets and secure a parking space just up the hill. We are happy to discover an escalator that makes schlepping our luggage much easier.

After a quick mid-afternoon snack at an organic bakery, we start our explorations in the Old Town neighborhood.

Bakery along Zuloaga kalea in Hondarribia

Hondarribia has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age and was once a Roman port. Due to its strategic location, a wall was built around the city. This wall, much of which is still intact, proved useful as the town resisted more than nine military blockades during its history. The worst siege, in 1638, is commemorated each year on September 8 with the Alarde parade.

Baluarte de la Reina ('Queen's bastion') in Hondarribia

Within the walls, the Old Town contains beautiful Basque houses with brightly painted balconies, as well as notable Baroque, Gothic and Romanesque buildings. The narrow cobblestone streets lead us to Plaza de Armas, where we rest and enjoy a phenomenal view across Rio Bidasoa Ibaia.

Cobblestone streets in Hondarribia's Old Town

Arma Plaza (Plaza de Armas) in Hondarribia is the parade grown once used for
military training as well as for public gatherings and bullfights.

Colorful Basque homes in Hondarribia's Old Town

Doorway in in Hondarribia's Old Town
Portion of the wall that surrounds Hondarribia's Old Town

Portion of the wall that surrounds Honndarribia's Old Town
Soldier statue in Honndarribia's Old Town

We leave the Old Town and stroll along the bay, where further on lies Hondartza Playa, an 800-meter-long stretch of sandy beach. Swimming isn't on our minds on this March evening, but pintxos are.

Nautical building-topper along Honndarribia's marina

Hondarribia has become a foodie destination with a reputation right up there with its more famous neighbor San Sebastian. The fish soup at Hermandad de Pescadores is legendary, but tonight we crave a little of this and a little of that in the form of pintxos — traditional Basque tapas. Later, we'll sit on the plaza that is teaming with families and listen to a high school band. What could be better?

Getting refreshed in Hondarribia

Pintxos in Hondarribia

We are enormously entertained by a youthful band on the plaza in Hondarribia.

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