Lekeitio, Basque Country

White Knuckled along the Basque coastline

My white knuckled sister said she would never consider renting a car in Spain. And after driving through the middle of several old towns bumping painfully on the cobblestone streets not knowing where we were or worse, how to even find our way back to a main road, my stress level seemed to agree. Miraculously, however, each time we did find our way out of the maze and onto the next village!

The plan was a one-day drive from Bilbo (Bilbao) to Donostia (San Sebastian). There are many old fishing villages to enjoy by following the narrow road that winds its way along the coast sometimes through forests and other times along the water. Driving through the forested areas dappled by the sun, we could smell the hint of eucalyptus and damp earth. The birds were loud with their songs and in several places, we would come across people walking on the road! There are no shoulders, clearly a road of the past linking the villages.

As our confidence and hunger grew during the day, we chose the village of Lekeitio to have our meal. We pulled into the village from the coastal road and started our path toward the center of town. In this case, it is the huge gothic church of San Jose, built sometime in the early 1700s. We bounced along the cobblestones on the one-way street trying to look for both the harbor and that coveted initial ‘P’ in the blue circle. It took two attempts to determine the parking would be outside of the center, but we took it as a good omen that we actually found a spot!

Basque Country coast

Using photos along the way as our breadcrumbs, we took great delight in discovering the harbor and its many lovely restaurants with outdoor seating. Our mixed salad included locally grown heirloom tomatoes, ventresca (the belly of the tuna), and beautiful white asparagus. The grilled fish was seasoned lightly with olive oil and garlic and the postre (dessert) was flan. With the sun shining and a light ocean breeze, it was the perfect temperature to enjoy a leisurely meal, just like the locals.

At low tide, a pathway appears to Garraitz Island which can be explored on foot (just make sure you know the tide schedule before you venture out!). There are other fun things to explore, like the Santa Katalina lighthouse, the Gothic church, and the old neighborhoods. The people of this town (and every town we explored) are friendly and happy to help. The cadence of their Spanish is different from what we’re used to in New Mexico and takes a little getting used to. And throw a few words here and there in Basque into the mix and you’ll be listening hard! But after a glass or two of Txocoli (the local white wine), you will be in good spirits!

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