“Ongi Ettori” as it could be read on my grandmother’s doormat. For two generations, my family has found its stronghold there, and I take pleasure in coming here to recharge, inhale the smell of sea spray in fishing ports, meditate to the sound of waves and rigging snapping against the masts of sailboats, savor Franco-Spanish specialties during a village festival, and be amazed by the sights and challenge my legs with mountains and cliffs.
The Return to the Homeland!
Like a guard of honor, the Landes forest pines along the A63 indicate that I am approaching my destination. As soon as I catch a glimpse of the Pyrenean peaks and the Pampas grass along the road, I finally feel at home. The taste of pata negra and sheep cheese (with its black cherry jam, of course) soon becomes irresistibly desired.
Chauvinism… yes, and there’s a reason for it!
With my childhood friend Maud, who is from the PACA region, we often played on the rivalry between our beloved regions. Her outside perspective opened my eyes. She ironically pointed out our identitarianism, “you even engrave Basque crosses on sewer grates, stick stickers on your cars to mark your belonging, and plant the local flag in front of every house, already decorated in the country’s colors with their red and green shutters and doors.” She’s not wrong, in fact, I have that Basque sticker on my car. It’s probably this pride that still keeps the local language alive, taught in many schools. If you listen carefully in the countryside, you might even lose track of your own language. With a bit of luck, you might hear the famous song “Egoak” being sung outside a bistro.
We never tire of it!
As with each visit, I try to fit my favorite activities into a busy schedule as much as possible. For maximum change of scenery, I plan a tour by sea shuttle or local train in Spain, to eat in a friendly atmosphere at a tapas bar (in Fontarabie or San Sebastian) or in a cider house. If the weather permits, I organize a half-day ascent of the Rhune, a famous mountain in the region that offers exceptional views of the Pyrenees to the east, Basque villages and the sea to the west. With a bit of luck, a Betizu (wild cow) or a Pottok (wild horse) will come to open our path. The must-see for me is night walks to the Fort of Socoa or the Virgin’s Rock in Biarritz. The city lights, the illuminated cliff’s colors, the roar of the waves, all these wonders offer me a natural spectacle that I never tire of.
Between the sea and the mountains, this territory offers the possibility of hiking and surfing in the same day. I have not finished discovering this magical place. I am convinced that its nature, its history and its distinctive culture will captivate you as much as they finally captivated Maud ;).