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A family trip to Spain creates memories, friendships

By John Arrechea

Our family of 11 left Dec. 18 to visit where my father was born, the Basque area of northern Spain. Lois and I visited there in 1997 and wanted our five grandsons to see where their great-grandfather was born.

Our daughters, Sarah and Katherine, planned the details while their husbands, Gary and David, drove the two rented vans. Lois and I view the varied scenery.

We flew from Memphis to Atlanta, on to Paris and Bilbao, Spain. Several took pictures as we flew over the snow-capped Pyrenees.

Bilbao was on our itinerary since the Guggenheim museum was there. The paintings were outstanding; however, the building’s shiny skin and metallic wit a scale-like texture is made of thin titanium, carefully created to give just the desired color and reflective quality.

While walking along a street in the old town, William, Sarah’s middle son, spied a scallop shell embossed in the street’s sidewalk. This symbol shows the route that St. James took to Santiago DE Compositional, helped the pilgrims follow the route.

We traveled the route AP-8, crossed the Bedosoa River Bridge and entered into France. The International Boundary had left the Pyrenees and at this point was in this river.

Traveling through Henaday, France, we found ourselves along a deserted beach. Looking beyond the waters edge some distance, we discovered some 30 surfers with their boards. They were trying to catch the huge waves just before they broke.

Eleven pairs of eyes were glued to these active movements. Every cameraperson was trying his or her best to catch an action picture. A bitter Atlantic wind was cutting through and through. The contest between man and board and Mother Nature was worth watching to the end.

Returning to Spain, we checked into the Hondarribee Parador. This had been a palace for several Royalties beginning in the 13 Century. A large open square had been used for military activities centuries ago. A near- by church’s name was Santa Marie ASS Untre Manzawd.

Arrangements had been made to have a Basque Tour. We imagined we would have two older Basque men, the tour guide and driver. We were all pleasantly surprised when we met the tour guide, Ester Vazquez, a younger, vivacious redhead. Ester was an excellent tour guide and she would explain points of interest as they appeared or maybe, even before.

The route, off and on, took us along the Bay of Biscay. We saw many harbors protected by jetties for fishing boats of all sizes. Ester explained, “The tide changed every six hours, from high to low and back again.” At low tide, the fishermen may have time to make minor repairs.

Many small towns had buildings, possibly, six or seven stories high. We assumed some were rentals and where people lived to be close to their jobs.

Ester noted that most Basques lived in smaller houses as compared to many in the United States.

She also explained that most Basque homes are whitewashed and covered with red tile roofs.

Ester asked the driver to stop at many of the rugged oceans edges to catch the white foam for a photo opportunity. I was probably about the only one without a camera. I just momentarily soaked it in.

Ester lives in San Sebastian. She shared so many important buildings of interest. We got out to take more photos at Miramar Place and Park on the beach of Concha Bay. Over the years, Spanish royalty enjoy this area.

We next traveled to Gernika a very special town. Basque began holding their General Assembly under an oak tree in the Middle Ages and this tradition continues today. Acorns are planted and the seedlings are grown, keeping the genetics of the original tree from Middle Ages to the present time. This tradition continues today, as the tree stands, celebrating Basque culture and self- government.

After eating a great Basque meal in Gernika we returned to Hondarribia. Ester’s 11 new friends from the USA thanked her for a great tour. Katherine and Ester exchanged email addresses to keep in touch.

John Arrechea is an Oxford resident. Contact him at jonlo@maxxsouth.net.