Please keep in mind that I do not say anything on this blog intending to sound judgmental. I do not travel to pass judgement, I travel to see what the world is really like, without expectations. I do not typically go to the tourist destinations when I travel, partly because it’s winter and a lot of them are closed but mostly I just want to walk around and check things out…the architecture, the people, the geography, all of it. How is it different, what works well and what doesn’t, what can I learn?
I have spent the last 5 days in a region called Basque country, spreading across the northeast border of Spain and into the northwest(ish) border of France along the Atlantic coast. These 2 countries share a common language in this area apart from their relative native tongues. Much like Morocco, I have had my challenges with communicating and although it has not prevented me from doing or buying anything, I haven’t had a conversation in English in over two weeks that wasn’t on Skype!
It has been interesting trying to decipher the “Basque style”. For me its usually the architecture that sets a place apart, nope, not here. Between the two countries you can see their respective influences but overall I found Basque architecture rather bland. There is not much color used here, not in the architecture, clothing, or cars. The buildings are typically cream colored with adobe roofs and shuttered windows in muted colors in styles that, to me, appear a touch Bavarian…..or Swiss?
This area must just come alive with summer sunbathers and surfers. There are tons of apartment buildings shuttered for the winter. Not unlike my own island home, drawing thousands to their vacations homes when the weather is good. I have found most coastal towns are nearly empty in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to travel in the off season. I feel it gives me a better sense of the true nature of a town and it’s culture. But it lead me to wonder…what would the world look like if we each only had one dwelling. How many of these big empty buildings would disappear? The skyline would certainly look different.
As I always do when arriving at a new coastal town, I drop my gear off at my accommodations and head for the beach! I typically plan to arrive someplace new in the late afternoon so I can scope out the area grab some dinner and make a plan. The next day I set out, if the first beach yields nothing, on to the next. Rough work, I know….
Since most of the areas I am visiting this time are all coastal towns I refer to Google Earth to see which are the favorable beaches for glass and the best way to get there. I use Airbnb almost exclusively when I travel. I prefer to stay in a home and a little closer to the culture than a hostel, which is my second choice. This also gives me more choices allowing me the opportunity to set my budget and location. I have stayed in some….rather unusual places, no doubt, but I have also stayed in some really cool ones too.
When I was in San Sebastian, the Spanish side of my Basque country travels, the beaches were wide, flat and all sand, not a lot of luck finding glass. After a couple of days of just enjoying a nice beach without having my nose to the sand I headed for the French side of Basque country to Biarritz. I didn’t have a lot of hope that the beaches were going to be different and aside from a more coarse sand, I was right. So I walked on, there are beaches in France that go on forever! There happened to be a little fishing harbor that broke up the beaches here….and it had one tiny pocket beach with gravel. Jackpot!!! I combed that beach until I knew every piece of glass on it! All in all my haul was two double handfuls of some of the most amazing teals, olive greens, dark aqua pieces and even a few marbles. Not too bad!
While I was combing this tiny beach I found myself occasionally in the company of other beach combers. Since it was such a small spot it felt odd not to make conversation about what each was hunting for. Some were rock hunting and other were also looking for glass. Even though we usually didn’t speak the same language it was still a neat bonding moment to share findings and walk away smiling.
At the moment I am heading, via the night train to Paris, to Saint Malo in Brittany for a few nights and then into Normandy for a few more. Next weekend it will be on to Seaham!