Friday, May 20, 2011

This & That-Here & There

The past few weekends we have stayed closer to home but been busy nonetheless. I've added a map so you can see where these places are.

Beach Surprise in Algorta
We rode our bikes down to the Ereaga beach just past the Old Port area of Algorta on Sunday May 1 to find some really amazing sand sculptures. The artist was still there putting on the finishing touches. I don't know his story but he welcomes donations from passersby and certainly deserves them considering the attention he paid to details in his work.

Culture in Arrigorriaga
On May 7 we took a train to Arrigorriaga, a small town just outside of Bilbao. They were having their XVI International Clown Festival. We actually didn't see any clowns but we did catch an impressive marionette act, the Grannies from Austria who were 4 men dressed in drag as old hags. They were pretty funny as they took the observers on a tour including scaling a building (losing underwear in the process), "stealing" a bike and a car, along with other shenanigans. Dean and I agree that much of what they did would probably not be acceptable as a public family show in the US. Following that was the acrobatic team Circo Claxon in the pictures. They were quite impressive.

Hanging Out with Friends in Mundaka & Gernika
On Sunday we headed to Mundaka to visit Marina and her family. Marina lived in Madison last year attending High School at La Follette. We took the metro to Bilbao and then hopped on a slow train in the direction of Mundaka. It was an older train that reminded me of RENFE circa 1980's. The scenery was quite beautiful along the way. We got off in San Cristobal where we met up with Marina and her family. From there we started our hike to Mundaka. Not far into our journey we found the Torre Madariaga and museum of biodiversity. We learned about biodiversity in the world, and the birds and wildlife native to the Basque region. One of the coolest rooms was the animal photo room pictured below.

At the top of the tower there were telescopes where we could get a close up of the surrounding terrain. I believe the purpose was for bird watching but they must have all been napping as we didn't see any birds in the hills.

We continued our journey along the water as we approached Mundaka. Mundaka is a beautiful small town on the ocean. While there are people that live there full time it is a hotspot for tourism in the summer months. They are known for their great surfing. Pictured below is a white building on the beach. That's where Marina lives with her parents and her sister. We stopped there for lunch. They had balconies off of each of the rooms. Too small for patio furniture but nice to stand on and get some fresh air. What a great flat and location. I can imagine how relaxing it would be to come home from work and have views like that. The beach is in a cove-like area so the water is relatively warm there. After lunch we took a bit of a tour around the town. On the edge of the ocean was a chapel. The girls found a horse that took a liking to them, or at least to the attention they were giving it.

From Mundaka we grabbed the train heading back in the direction of Bilbao but stopping off in Gernika. Gernika was bombed by the Germans in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and pretty much decimated. Hitler's airstrike was in solidarity with Franco's work to overthrow the Basque government. One surviving item is the oak tree. In years prior to the war, the Basque Assembly would gather under the oak tree to discuss issues of the region. The oak tree died of old age but the trunk has been preserved. Around the corner is another oak tree, an offspring, as its replacement. The tree of Gernika symbolizes the freedom of the Basque people and serves as a reminder of the past. Oak trees in this area are considered sacred and may not be removed. Pablo Picasso painted numerous pictures telling the story of the atrocities of the war and the bombing in this city. At this point, most everything in Gernika is new as the town had to be completely rebuilt after the war.

On the Run in San Sebastian
On the 14th we headed to San Sebastian. Dean was primed and ready for the half marathon on the 15th. We had a slow moving day on the 14th and just wandered around San Sebastian a bit to get oriented as to where we needed to be for the race on the 15th. San Sebastian is known for its tapas/pinxtos which are small appetizers you get in the bars and cafes. We've made meals out of that more than once. That evening we caught a really nice kid-oriented theater production. The Mariantoia Oliver Company is a four person act that combines dance, acrobatics and clowning around.

The following morning Dean ran and did quite well finishing in 1:40:49. The run was along the ocean for a large part of it so the scenery was nice and he felt the race was very well organized.

Taking a break in Hondarribia
Following the race we took a trip along the coast to Hondarribia, a small quaint town on the eastern border of Spain. It was an important shipping area for exports but is increasingly host to lots of tourism and has a port full of private yachts. The kids wrapped up their weekend on the beach playing in the sand and water a bit until they were just too cold with the wind. I took a stroll through town to get a flavor for life on the border of France.

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