Basque Bedlam

Trip Start Aug 03, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arriving in Bilbao I was met by Ana  and we headed off to Eibar, a small industrial town built in a valley (which has very impressive escalators in the street) where her folks live to celebrate her birthday with a few drinks around town and dinner at the Sociadad. In essence, Sociadads are club houses for groups of male friends centred around indulgence in scrumptious home cooked  food with the best local ingredients and fine (primarily but not exclusively Spanish) wine - the Malbec I had brought back from Argentiona would be consumed another time. Only the members cook in teh Sociadad, but, all the family (and, ahem, esteemed guests) are welcome to enjoy the grub. After a fantastic dinner prepared by Ana's father, during which I had to dig deep to utilise my entire arsenal of mispronounced Spanish to converse, Ana and I headed over to San Sebastian where, struggling to stay awake after the journey I enjoyed a great nights sleep.

The following day Ana and I did the only thing you can really do in San Sebastian on a bleak and wet wintery day - ate and drank. Not only is the town extremely picturesque it prides itself (mind you as does the whole Basque Country) on its food and it is pintxotastic (pintxo's are small delicious treats of savoury goodness that come in a multitude of varieties served in every single solitary bar and, they are quite irresistable). In the evning we met up with a some of Ana's friends but, again struggling to recover from my travel the previous day I again fell foul of tiredness.

After another sound nights sleep it was on the road again to the small fishing village of Mutriku where, surprise, surprise, an evening based on food and drink had been arranged. Mutriku, a delightful village of roughly 5000 people built climbing the slopes of a cove is another place famous (at least amongst the Basque people) for food and partying. Staying with Ana's sister in her flat, we found ourselves visiting a number of the local hostelries and I quickly attempted to embrace the local custom of enjoying free pintxo's with the local tipple(s). A great dinner with Ainhoa and Miguel followed the first round of bars and post dinner, round two proved equally as enjoyable (as did the 2 minute walk back to the flat).

So to New years eve which can be compartmentalised into three specific chapters.

1) The hill climb
2) The dinner
3) The chaos

Bright an early Ana and I met up with a group of her friends to go rambling and climb a local hill (with an unpronouncable Basque name) that looked out over Mutriku, the neighbouring village of Deba,  the rolling Basque countryside and of course the choppy Atlantic - okay, so it's the Bay of Biscay but it's still ferocious. Surrounded by 10 women (feeling slightly like Colonel Gaddafi with his elite female bodyguard) I headed up to conquer the 600 odd metres of hill. After a thoroughly enjoyable walk we found ourselves at the cross that marks the summit and enjoyed some great views of the landscape. The eleven of us enjoyed a feast of jamon bacadillos washed down with some "interesting" Cava before descending and going to the old port in MUtriku for more food and drink.

Having concluded phase one of the day we headed home and prepared for the (arguably) main event, a dinner for family and friends (and jet setting boyfriend) in San Sebastian. After nipping out for a pre-dinner pintxo (you may get the impression that all people do in the Basque country is may be correct) 15 of us sat down to enjoy a magnificent meal and exquisite wine in a local restaurant. Shortly before midnight, the fancy dress hats and disguises made appearance (a first for me) and as the clock struck it's chimes to signal midnight I found myself engaged in the tradition of consuming one grape (not seedless I hasten to add) at each of the twelve chimes - this is not an easy thing to do! After wishing everyone a happy new year, Ana, her sister and myself headed to the car - narrowly avoiding revellers delighting in setting an enormous box of firework rockets in the middle of the street that would have had John Simpson running for cover  to make a dash to Mutriku and the chaos that would ensue.

Arriving in Mutriku arriove 1 am, hats were donned, toasts made and then we were off to join the festivities throughout the village. Being such a small place it was hard not to keep bumping into the same people over and over again (and observe the symptoms of over indulgence rear their head) - From bar to bar we hopped (stumbled will certainly have applied to some) - the occasional bout of dancing (I maintained my, I'm British, I don't dance stance) breaking up the seemingly endless party. As the clock struck 8 am I finally found myslef back in the flat more than ready to sleep - I have no idea how people do this year after year it truly is a wonderful mix of chaos and carnage (rather unsurprsingly the following day Mutriku is similar to a ghost town).

The rest of New Years day was spent doing very little as was my final day, 2nd January, as Ireturned to London that evening. Flying back into Stansted I felt very strange coming back to the UK after 5 months away....but I needn't have worried, my plans for another little excursion were already well under way and it was just a case of "when and where"

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