And a short distance from San Sebastian … Hondarribia!

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What I continue to love about travel … exploring a culture and its people … to learn and experience something new and unknown previously. As a tourist, that can be virtually impossible in certain cultures, although most people, if treated with respect, will open up and share a little of their lives …. and so it continues, here in Hondarribia, a quiet city abundant in medieval and marine history, home to fifteen or so thousand, as well as one of the most beautiful cities in the Cantabrian coast …. almost smack dab on the French/Spanish border. Although English is not spoken much at all here by the locals, and despite my limited Spanish, we still manage to communicate. I discover my arrival in Hondarribia coincides with yet another celebration and festival! I have always loved that sense of historical celebration the Europeans display at every opportunity! My accommodation? ….. a thousand year old castle perched on a hillock, (love this term for hillside) …. overlooking the harbor below!! …. known as a Paradore …. In fact, the name of the Inn is actually Parador …. fully restored on the inside but the outside walls appear much as they did hundreds of years ago, displaying signs of the many invasions that took place along these fortified castle walls, some successful, most not, including a failed attempt at one point by Napolean and his troops ….. While traveling through Portugal with Brian, Sarah and Tim almost a dozen years ago, we stayed in many similar places called posadas in Portugal …. restored monasteries, castles, former royal palaces, providing a wonderful historical component to our travels! If available, I would always opt to hang my hat in such places but they are far and few between. As in Portugal, Spain also has a network of historical accommodation and how fortunate I am, to find the only room available in this castle on one of their busiest summer weeks!! (albeit, it is most certainly a ‘small town busy’) I sit down for what I thought would be a quiet pintxos style dinner in the small town square right below the old castle walls. My afternoon had been spent exploring the many terraces and quiet corners along the cobbled streets of this historic and medieval old town quarter, with a late afternoon walk along it’s marine-flavored streets below. As I sit, soaking in this marvelous ambiance, the music of flutes, drums and the thunder of hundreds of marching feet slowly permeates the air! Within minutes, a parade of local town folk, young and old alike, all dressed in the basque colors of white, black, topped off with red caps and scarves, march right by my dinner table, rubbing elbows yet! …. amazing …. from my charming host at Parador, I learn that there will be a musical parade every evening until Saturday, September 8th, a date important in this region …. commemorating the important victory that ended the “Thirty Year War” with the French in 1638. It will all culminate in much celebrating on Saturday, with music, fireworks and general partying :). The victory over the French was attributed to the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Hondarribia, hence there will be a 5 km walk up a hillside to the Hermitage of Guadalupe located on the slopes of Mount Jaizkibel early Saturday morning … hundreds if not thousands will walk the streets to this church ….. I may join them! Some views outside my Paradore windows, inside the castle comprising the lobby and various museum style tapestry rooms available for guest viewing as well as a modern addition … Internet area with the red chairs 🙂

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