Mundaka and some more of the Basque coast

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March 24th 2013
Published: April 2nd 2013
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With a promise of some sunshine the Basque coast had a real feel of spring about it last weekend. Ok, so it wasn't as warm as a couple of weeks ago, but we weren't complaining. We jumped in the Bogey Buggy and headed to the small coastal town of Mundaka where we stayed in the imaginatively named Hotel Mundaka. It was really comfortable and not badly priced compared to most other options in the area. We were also lucky to find a parking space near the harbour for most of the weekend. In summer that could be a bit of a problem.

As we couldn't check in straight away we had a bit of a wander around. The small harbour is lovely and there is a nice outside bar on the square overlooking it. There are also some benches at the clifftops where you can sit and admire the view. The sea was calm though, so we were unable to observe the phenomenon which makes Mundaka famous in the surfing community - the waves breaking from left to right. The view across the bay was gorgeous and we could just make out some poeple learning to windsurf on the other side. Our wanderings then took us around the small town and out to the basilica of Santa Katalina. This small church is perched on the edge of a cliff at the far side of town but it appeared to be closed when we got there so we couldn't see inside.

We spent the afternoon a little further up the coast. The next town along is Bermeo which is much larger and more "functional" than Mundaka. The marina is nice though and it has a handful of unusual sculptures. Sat squarely in the centre of the marina is a huge iron wave, and nearby is a rather odd looking statue of a man holding what we presume is a paddle and his young son. In reality it looks like some surreal medievel knight of the realm! Near the row of cafes and bar is something called "The Last Wave" but we couldn't work out if it pays homage to migration or to surfing! Closer to the town centre we found a ring of bizarre smaller sculptures which were impossible to figure out. The information was only in Basque which didn't help either. Finally we found ourselves looking at the little girl feeding an apple to a donkey outside some kind of monastic building. After that dose of culture we treated ourselves to a beer and some pintxos overlooking the boats!

Mundaka suffers from rather a lack of nightlife at the moment. As the summer season begins and it's easier to stand outside we imagine it gets much livelier. A bar next to the Hotel del Puerto had it's grand re-opening though, and who were we to say no to a free bar and pintxos? They were very friendly and their snacks were delicious. In the UK people would have taken advantage of the proprietor's generosity but here people just had a drink or two to help them celebrate. Then we went to a restaurant which had two other diners in it. We still can't get used to eating at ridiculous hours and so instead we get used to dining alone. The other couple were French and nobody else joined us all the time we were there. We had a nice steak and a bottle of rose. Afterwards we found a nice little bar that reminded us of many places we used to frequent in Argentina with old photos adorning every piece of wallspace. Again they were very friendly and made us feel welcome.

The next day we set out to visit the hermitage of St John at Gaztelugatxe which we still have no idea how to pronounce! One of Russ's students had recommended this place and we were so happy that she had. We drove along small country roads to get there and then, after finding the car park, had about a 40 minute walk to the base of the steps. There is a tiny car park there but coastal erosion has taken its toll and now there is room for just two or three cars. It was a nice walk down with spectacular views. Then we had to clamber up the two hundred-odd stairs to the church. This really was quite a highlight of Northern Spain for us and we thoroughly recommend a visit. At the top we caught our breath and went inside the church. Unfortunately they were cleaning it which spoiled the ambience somewhat. On our way down we found out that there was about to be a wedding there so we should forgive them really! Don't forget to check out the public conveniences when you're up there. Even if you don't need to use the loo, you'll never forget the sheer drop looming at the end of the chute!!!! The walk back to the car was tiring but the sun was shining and it all felt very pleasant.

A little further along the coast we stopped off at the surfing resort of Bakio. Looking at all of the buildings it seemed that this is a new town. Again there are some weird and wonderful sculptures, the most memorable being a shoal of metal fish floating in the sky! The beach was wonderful too and we stopped for a while to watch the surfers in action. Once again the lure of a cold beer and some lunch was too great, with rabas (squid rings) and salad more than satisfying us.

The evening followed more or less the same routine as the previous night but with a change of restaurant. Once again were two of only four diners and our fellow guests were French. Not the same couple though! This time we went fishy and feasted on Cuttlefish and Rays. It was nice but nothing spectacular. Dessert was very special though, a rich chocolate cake which went down well with the end of the bottle of wine!

We decided to take the scenic route back to Pamplona and see a few other places along the Basque coast which we haven't had the chance to visit before. First of all we had to travel all the way back to Guernica to cross the river. It seems incredible that they have never built a bridge across the estuary but that adds to its beauty. We went via Lekeitio to pick up the clifftop road which meandered its way to Ondarroa. We parked up at the side of the road as we saw cars had been abandoned all over the place indicating a lack of space in the town. We walked down to the harbour with its lovely bridge then continued along the coast on the easy footpath until we could go no further. Well, we could have gone a little bit further but we had no desire to interrupt the activities of the sole sunbather at one with nature. We didn't want to disturb his peace!!

From there the road continues through Mutriku and Deba where it goes inland before hitting the coast again at Zumaia. There we drove through town stopping near the lighthouse. We walked along the harbour walls which gave some nice views back into town. We had expected the cliffs to be a little more dramatic but maybe we didn't find quite the right spot. Lunch was once again rabas and salad with a nice refreshing beer, but this time it was rather more expensive!

The journey back to Pamplona was then quite routine, but to our amazement the sun was still shining when we got back. Please let this be a sign that winter is over!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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