The Basque Country – August and the Hoards

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The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

August is not the best time to come to Hondarribia, as the French are on holiday en masse and at times Calle San Pedro is so full of people, it is hard to walk down the street, let alone find a spot to have a drink and a pincho. Getting the ferry to and from France means queuing and sometimes you have to wait for a couple of boats to fill up before you get on board.

the ferry from Hondarribia to Hendaye

If you are here, you can avoid the crowds and go to the calm town beach before 11 and leave as the crowds arrive at midday. I went to the surf beach in Hendaye by paddling across the river with my body board or stand up paddle board. But for the best swims, the locals head down to the far end of Hondarribia, at the port. Though this is a working harbour, with fishing boats offloading their catch for local stores, restaurants and beyond, you are still able to access the port wall (unlike other parts of the world where we have lived, where they have used the flimsy excuse of terrorism to make the port off limits to the public). People swim from the breakwater and the first year, I used to swim around the giant buoys that the fishing boats moor at. Or I would walk on to the rocky beach of Playa de los Frailes (beach of the monks), where the crystal clear water was very inviting on calm days.

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A Month in Totnes, Devon

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1975 rag top Land RoverWe are now in slow transit, making our way back to NZ. The next couple of months are based in the UK to sort out our stuff, including Billie, our 13 year old jack russell and Gertie, the boyf’s 42 year old Land Rover.

Since the Land Rover mechanic is near Seaton, we rented a place near Seaton. But, because it is August and the West Country, that isn’t very near at all. We are spending a month in Totnes, Devon. It is fun exploring a part of Devon that I don’t know very well and being here for a month, I’m hoping to get a bit of drawing and writing done.

wheelbarrows in Totnes

 

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The Basque Country – Hondarribia’s Cider Day – Sagardo Eguna

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It is our last weekend in Hondarribia and fitting that the Sagardo Eguna (Dia de la Sidra, or Cider Day) will be celebrated on Saturday in Plaza Gipuzkoa, which is the square below our flat. So, sort of our going away party and a good way to say goodbye to the locals.

Hondarribia Sagardo Eguna - Día de la Sidra 2016

The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

Around the middle of July, there is a cider festival in Gipúzkoa Square in Hondarribia. For 5 euros, you get a glass that you can fill up as often as you like (though it is bad form to actually fill it – you want to put in a couple of inches at most). The admission price also includes a pincho of either chistorra (like a mild, skinny chorizo), or tortilla (the potato and onion Spanish omelette), though given the amount of cider on offer, it is worth going back to buy more pinchos. The square is surrounded by big barrels of cider, manned by the producers who release streams of it to land in your glass. You need to catch it low, move the glass up and move away as the next person comes in behind you with their glass. Catching the cider low and having it spatter on the glass mixes in air, which improves the flavour. Needless to say, there is an art to the cider pour that we never mastered.

A Basque Diary - Living in Hondarribia cover with borderYou can read more about Basque culture, food and places by checking out
A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia.

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Never Mind The New York Times – I’m in El Diario Vasco Today!

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You can read the article (in Spanish) here:

http://www.diariovasco.com/bidasoa/hondarribia/descubrimos-hondarribia-amor-20170727003719-ntvo.html

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The Basque Country – Kutxa (Box) Day

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woman with a box on her head in Calle Mayor, Hondarribia, Spain

The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

25th July: Kutxa (Box) Day

Our friends in Amona Margarita tried to explain this festival to us the first year and, because our Spanish wasn’t very good, we thought we had mistranslated it. They seemed to be telling us that a woman would parade with a box on her head, accompanied by fishermen, from the big church to the archway of the Brotherhood of the Fishermen. But this is exactly what happened. What we ended up calling “The Procession of the Woman With the Box on Her Head” is actually known as the “Kutxa Entrega (or Handing Over of the Box)”. We were close. The box contains fishermen’s papers and when the woman (a daughter of a fisherman) reaches the archway of the Cofradia, accompanied by the fishermen and a marching band, she spins around and around to bring prosperity to the fishermen. It was one of my favourite fiestas.

Where the woman with the box on her head turns around: the fishermen's restaurant arch in Hondarribia

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An Inconvenient Truth – the Arctic is Melting

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Today begins a series of Arctic Circle cartoons about how climate change is threatening the Arctic. You can read more about this in the New York Times.

The series was written because the movie, An Inconvenient Sequel opens at the weekend. It has been about a decade since An Inconvenient Truth came out and Arctic Circle celebrates 10 years in syndication this summer.

When the first movie came out and was a commercial success, I felt such relief. Finally, everyone was talking about climate change and what could be done. Some fantastic things have happened in the intervening years (solar power becoming affordable and electric cars becoming mainstream, to name but two), but it is distressing to me that it has become such a partisan issue. I’m sure this is because of the way the money that pours into politics corrupts the politicians who receive it. And that money comes from fossil fuels. But enough of that. Here is the first cartoon in the series:

I’m in the New York Times!!!

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The Basque Country – Hondarribia Blues Festival

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Hondarribia Blues Festival beach 2017

Last weekend was Hondarribia’s Blues Festival. This really could be the last year for it in this location, as we heard that it might be moving to Zarautz for financial reasons.

Hondarribia Blues Festival 2017

 

The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

electric guitarWe were in Hondarribia for the 9th, 10th and 11th Blues Festivals. The festival is held towards the end of July (the date depends on when the Running of the Bulls is happening in Pamplona, as they don’t like to clash) and it is massive. There is a huge stage near the ferry terminal down in the Marina, a smaller stage in Calle San Pedro and a mid-sized one up in the old town in Arma Plaza. It takes days to set up (and pack up) the stages and the concession stands. The organisers bring in bands from all over the world. It must cost a small fortune to put on and they don’t charge anything for you to go to the concerts. It’s insane and a friend of ours has said that it might not continue for too much longer. Hondarribia council seems to have a lot of money, but we can’t see how they can afford to keep paying for this festival without someone else dipping into their pockets to help. Their only sponsor seems to be Carlsberg and there has been resistance from local businesses to cough up any local sponsorship.

A Basque Diary - Living in Hondarribia cover with borderYou can read more about Basque culture, food and places by checking out
A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia.

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pots of parsley, aloe vera and mint. Plants that grow on my north-facing balcony

Reasons to Move to New Zealand

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reasons why it is good to live in New Zealand

  • People will (usually) understand what I’m saying
  • I can have a veggie garden and it is unlikely that someone will steal my rosemary
  • There is a lot less bureaucracy and the tax system doesn’t scare the bejeesus out of me
  • I don’t enjoy listening to my neighbours pee, tunelessly whistle, or play really bad Europop
  • There is easy access to wilderness and you won’t find any paper factories there
  • You can wild camp and have campfires (within reason. Probably not in downtown Christchurch, though these days, who knows?)
  • You can have a charcoal barbeque without people threatening to call the police (this happened to me last night. Oops.)
  • Decent coffee is everywhere except for in the wilderness and then, who cares?
  • You can cook with ingredients that are more exotic than garlic, parsley and paprika
  • South Islanders’ idea of a traffic jam is hilarious. Try being held up for hours (THIS was why we chose not to live in the south east of England)
  • This means you can travel whenever you like. Even on public holidays. In the summer. Without having to get up before dawn

This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). You can sign up here (and unsubscribe if you don’t like it, or even if you do, though that would be a bit daft, as how many emails do you get that you actually enjoy reading?):

http://eepurl.com/cCOOeD

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Hondarribia Basque Cider Day – Sagardo Eguna

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Hondarribia has a cider day in mid July in Guipuzcoa Square

 

 

The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

Around the middle of July, there is a cider festival in Gipúzkoa Square in Hondarribia. For 5 euros, you get a glass that you can fill up as often as you like (though it is bad form to actually fill it – you want to put in a couple of inches at most). The admission price also includes a pincho of either chistorra (like a mild, skinny chorizo), or tortilla (the potato and onion Spanish omelette), though given the amount of cider on offer, it is worth going back to buy more pinchos. The square is surrounded by big barrels of cider, manned by the producers who release streams of it to land in your glass. You need to catch it low, move the glass up and move away as the next person comes in behind you with their glass. Catching the cider low and having it spatter on the glass mixes in air, which improves the flavour. Needless to say, there is an art to the cider pour that we never mastered.

A Basque Diary - Living in Hondarribia cover with borderYou can read more about Basque culture, food and places by checking out
A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia.

The cider day for 2018 will be on Saturday 29th July.

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The Basque Country – Finding Your Way Around Hondarribia

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The following extract is from A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia, which is available, in print and as an ebook, from Amazon.

A rough map of the Hondarribia area

If you are visiting Hondarribia, your first stop should be the super helpful tourist information centre in Arma Plaza at the very top of the old town (or there is another one out towards the boat marina). They speak English very well (or will endure your bad Spanish) and have free maps of the town and information on what is happening. They also sell tickets to things like the Basque sport of Jai Alai. Opening hours are similar to most shops, except they don’t have a siesta break.

Hondarribia is in the region of Gipúzkoa and about 10 miles away from its capital of Donostia-San Sebastian, but happens to host its airport (EAS). It abuts Irun, its more workaday neighbour, which has local and national train stations as well as a myriad of small shops and chain stores.

A Basque Diary - Living in Hondarribia cover with borderYou can read more about Basque culture, food and places by checking out
A Basque Diary – Living in Hondarribia.

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