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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hondarribia and the Trenhotel to Lisbon

Travel Date 19th-20th June 2013.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

One of the advantages of travelling the way I do is serendipitous surprises, encountering towns like this that I had never heard of and would never have seen with a guided tour.
Hondarribia, in the Basque country, was damp but interesting. It is on the present border between France and Spain, with Biarritz 35km to the north and San Sebastian 25km to the south-west. Historically it has been the meat in the sandwich between Castille, Navarre, Aquitaine and Arragon and has been fought over many times. There are mouldering remains of old fortifications in several spots.

I slept well in the Palacete Hotel in the old town section of Hondarribia. I was only staying one night as I was booked on the Sud Express night train, the Trenhotel, from Irun to Lisbon that evening. Irun and Hondarribia are effectively one population centre, although they have retained separate names. Over the river French Hendaye is also part of the same population centre, despite the different nationality and languages.

When I arrived in the rain the night before my French cab-driver, despite being given the address in French and Spanish, presumed I was going to the Parodores Hotel. It is a converted fortress dating back to the 10th century, well above my budget. He could not get to the front door and deposited me around the back. 

The damp trek along cobblestone streets to the Palacete had one advantage later. I knew how to find my way back to this restaurant for an evening of wine and tapas and good company.  

I spent the morning leisurely strolling around the town. After wandering the historical old town my greatest pleasure was re-discovering true Spanish tapas. Not the imitation tapas we have in Australia, with over-priced wine accompanying highly priced snacks. In Hondarribia the system is to buy a glass of wine for ~ €1.60 and select a small snack from the bar display for another one to two euros. Ten years ago when I visited Granada the snacks were included in the payment for the wine, but it is still a cheap way to eat and drink.

Lunch became a moving feast. I decided to sample one red wine and associated tapas from every establishment in town. I took it easy, chatting to those locals who could speak some English when I could, and taking my time. I made a valiant attempt to visit every tapas bar in Hondarribia, but failed in my quest - there were still more restaurants and tavernas to visit as I departed. I came across this New York Times article after I visited: A Dining Explosion in a Tiny Basque Town.

Although I did not eat any complete meals in Hondarribia, only a series of tapas, I would have to agree with their assessment of Basque cuisine from my limited experience. The variety and quality were marvellous. 

The riverside walk.

Hendaye, France, across the river.

Back up the hill to the old town.

The last taverna before boarding the train.

Surprisingly, I was still sober when I arrived at the railway station.

I shared my 4-berth sleeper with an Indian gentleman on a pilgrimage to holy places, en-route from Lourdes to Fatima, seeking a miracle cure for a liver condition. I had an interesting chat about his other condition, type 2 diabetes, and wished him well in his quest. I may be an atheist but I understand the help that faith can be for some.

Sleep escaped me in a berth designed for someone considerably shorter and narrower than I. At 1am we were joined by a lawyer from Mexico who had been invited to speak at a convention on electoral systems. At 5am the seeker after miracles left us. When he woke I had an interesting conversation with the Mexican.

On arrival in Lisbon I was ready to fall into bed and hoping desperately that the lady meeting me at the apartment would let me check in early. She did; thank goodness. 

Cheers, Alan

1 comment:

  1. Found your blog on reddit. :) awesome!