This is the part of France that felt belonged to a part of Spain that didn’t want to be Spanish. Yes, it is as confusing for you as it was for me.
Best way is to get Wikipedia to explain it – The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast. It’ll need more explanation but basically the Basque people are hoping to be independent of both countries.
So here I am in Ascain near the Spain/France border, in a hotel located between the town square and a cemetery, the best of both worlds within easy reach to both vibrancy and tranquillity.
The Frenchman who checked me in Hotel de la Rhune was slightly nervous, just handed me the room key without asking for identification or credit card details. Perhaps this is how they do things in a village hotel.
At lunch, his nerves got the better of him and he tripped over a step, dropped his tray of glasses and a bottle of wine in front of a packed crowd. Could have been a circus act but no one was laughing.
Later I managed to talk to him. Julian is his name. Just arrived from Paris with his family to escape from the spoils of the big city. He’s the three-day old owner of the hotel and was thrown into a million little things running it at high season. No wonder he was puffing like a chimney at the back of the kitchen.
Asked him how he decided on this hotel. It’s the proximity to Spain, the mountains and the beaches all within 30 minutes. Its full house all summer but it doesn’t feel crowded. There’s plenty of space for everyone.
There are little bars and restaurants around the town square but I’ve chosen to eat and drink in the hotel’s pebbled garden with cane chairs below maple trees, a cosy enclosure framed by tall hedges and the church wall. This is a good place for day dreaming and in the heat of the afternoon, I easily imagine being in the forgotten courtyard in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
From city of over 5 million to a seaside town of over 15,000 people to a village of 4,000 (give and take 10 travelling tradesmen), it takes some adjustment. This downsizing is deliberate because tomorrow I’m going to a farm of two plus one including me, for six weeks.
Stay with me, won’t you? Better still – write, chat, message, mail, call, visit – all channels are welcomed to friends.