Last weekend was another long one. Friday was off for some reason almost as inexplicable as some of the days off I had in Thailand. All that really mattered was that my weekend started at 4.30 Thursday afternoon.
For the weeks running up to it, Tamara and some of her friends had been discussing the potential of a trip to ‘hacer snow’- to go snowboarding. Or in my case, probably skiing. Last weekend however, I was told that it was unlikely. I didn’t have my hopes up but Tamara had said she’d let me know. By Wednesday evening, when I hadn’t actually seen my housemate for three days, I began to give up on the idea. I sent messages around to various friends to see if I could cadge in on any of their plans for their three day weekend (or in my case, five).
Twenty-four hours later, a plan was in motion. That didn’t stop me being a little bit peeved when I bumped into a suitcase laden Tamara on the streets of Eibar, off for a weekend in the snowy French Pyrenees. But nevermind.
That night at midnight, I baked up a lemon drizzle cake and at midday on Friday I got picked up by Arantxa and Aitzul and taken off to Durango.
This weekend was a big Basque festival in Durango and I’d been told it was 90% basque literature. Whoever it was who told me that neglected to mention that the other 10% was not Spanish literature, but Basque dancing!
Arantxa and Aitzul both have done basque dance in the past and were able to explain to me a little bit more about the mixed dance which more than resembled Morris Dancing, right down to be-belled legs and wooden sticks. The giant dancing ogres had less of an explanation. I just regretted leaving my camera in the car!
The second best part of the day (after the delectable calamares we had as a snackette) was the discovery of Olentzero. The Basque Country and its people is much much older than the rest of the Iberian Peninsular and for this reason it has a few of its own traditions. This is my favourite so far…
Olentzero is a giant who mines coal and lives in the mountains. On Christmas Eve he comes down aback his donkey and delivers presents to all the good children and what else but coal to all the naughty ones. In the current economic climate it wouldn’t surprise me if more parents were persuading their children to be bad for the extra fuel! No one has been able to explain to me why this yeti-like hermit makes these kind gestures, but I did find an amusing array of Christmas cards of Olentzero getting one over on either Father Christmas or the more traditionally Spanish Reyes Magos (the three kings to you and me).
After lunch it was back in the car and off to Donostia, via Hernani and Rocky the cute little panther kitten, for an early night before our 5am start. We were off to Astun!!
I’ve got to say this, Spain might be warm, sweltering at some points, but at 5 am in December it is BLOODY FREEZING!! I was warmer on the piste!!
When we arrived, Aitzul and two others headed off for a bit of a ski mountaineer, whilst Arantxa took me to get some skis before we headed up on the lift.
It’d been nearly a year and usually I take at least the first morning quite gently, but as we were only there for the day I found myself pelting down the first red we found screaming inside my head ‘OH MY GOD WHY DID I NOT GET A HELMET!’. I think i might make a future investment there.
It was BEAUTIFUL. And as the day wore on the sun came out and baked us as well. unfortunately it also frazzled Arantxa’s head, giving her a migraine, meaning she stopped but egged me on to do a bit more myself before the men folk came back and we all packed it in. We were back in the car by three, but it was a good day all the same.
We stopped off for a picnic on the way back. The shade in December is also a place where you want several layers of clothing, but we had chocolate, chorizo and cake so I couldn’t complain all that much.
After a lovely dinner I dozed off for a second night in the Donostia flat and made my own way home on Sunday to veg out and bask in the comparative lowland heat.
Sorry this is a bit garbled, but if I think this through I’ll never type it up!!
Home a week today!!