Le Pays-Basque

I don’t typically tag along for an entire rock-climbing vacation with J, but since this time it was only a week after the wedding, I wasn’t up for spending so much time alone at the house. So after our mini-moon, we headed down to the Basque Country with J’s sister and her boyfriend for two weeks of escalade.

We didn’t actually know where we were going exactly until the night before, which made for very little planning. I had at least looked up camp-sites for the two rock-climbing sites he wanted to go to and written down the addresses.

The first place J wanted to go is called Araotz, and it’s a cliff not far from the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Araotz is in the middle of mountains, and the nearest mid-sized city is called Oñati. While J’s sister and her boyfriend have a van that they’ve fitted out for camping (fridge that works when their solar panels get enough sun, sink, mattress), I was not prepared to spend two weeks without a toilet. So J and I stayed at a campsite that was 18 kilometers from the cliffs, but a thirty-minute drive what with all the switch-backs.

To give you an idea of why it took so long to get from the cliff to the campsite, here is a picture of our tent:

View of our tent from Lakiola Campground

View of our tent from Lakiola Campground

A walk farther up the hill brings you to this type of view:

View from above Lakiola

View from above Lakiola

We spent a little over a week there, taking one rest day to go to the beach at Deba. The sanctuary of Arantzazu is also right near Araotz, so we went up there one evening to see this very modern-looking church

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

The Sanctuary at Arantzazu

Looking out from the sanctuary

Looking out from the sanctuary

Next we headed down to Valdegovia, where the campground actually was full (fail for rock-climber-style vacation planning there), so we spent two days on a “squat” taking full advantage of J’s sister’s van. Fortunately the village pool nearby let us take showers there for two euros.

Valdegovia is pretty cool though, pretty much a meadow leading up to the cliff-face, which is different from any other rock-climbing site I’ve seen. They typically involve walks up a mountain-side. Valdegovia did require some cow-pie-related vigilance though, since the meadow is occupied by Spanish cows who keep the grass nice and short.

The cliff at Valdegovia

The cliff at Valdegovia

Cliff + meadow

Cliff + meadow

For a second rest day we went to Bilbao where I mostly wanted to see the Guggenheim and eat pintxos.

We started with the Guggenheim in the morning, where we spent most of our time in the Jeff Koons exhibit. Then J’s sister and her boyfriend joined us and we walked to the Casco Vieja where we ate pintxos for lunch and walked around. We stopped in the North Face store to buy me a backpack and finished at the beach at Solepa, which to our surprise was a nudist-friendly beach, so no pictures of that, even though it was really beautiful.

The Puppy

The Puppy

In the Casco Vieja

In the Casco Vieja

Turron in the Casco Vieja

Turron in the Casco Vieja

Street sign in the Casco Vieja

Street sign in the Casco Vieja

Building decorate with umbrellas in the Casco Vieja

Building decorated with umbrellas in the Casco Vieja

Looking up from a covered walk-way in the Casco Vieja

Looking up from a covered walk-way in the Casco Vieja

In the Casco Vieja

In the Casco Vieja

While we did end up staying in the campground for the last four nights, it was so crowded that I think we might have been happier at the squat with J’s sister. I’m just still really attached to toilets. But all in all, it was a fun time, though it might have been more fun had I had time to prepare more, as in research things to do besides read books at the cliff-side. It has made me more curious about the history and culture of the Basque Country, so I hope to read up on that at some point.

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