In Search of Andraka in Spain’s Beautiful Basque Country

One of the reasons for my recent trip to Spain, as I shared in an earlier post, was to see the ancestral lands of my Mom’s family in the Basque region of Spain (Euskal Herria in Basque).  My Mom’s last name (Andraca, in Spanish) is the name of a home that existed a long time ago where the family originated near Bilbao, Spain in the province called Bizkaia (or Vizcaya or Biscay).  We wanted to see the place but it was only one of many places we had in our roughly-sketched family tree (which also included the neighboring province of Guipuzkoa).  So, since we were not going to just one place, we decided to take a full day and just drive around these two provinces and take in the landscape of Spain’s Basque country…

All the towns in our Basque country…

Our family tree shows a lot of ancestors coming from the provinces of Bizkaia and Guipuzkoa, two of the Basque region’s provinces.  Many of their last names are the names of villages or towns spread about these provinces.  And, when not, we know which towns they came from.  Places like Bergara, Gorliz, Lekeitio, Ondarroa, Azpeitia, Azkoitia, and others feature prominently in our family history.  We definitely would not be able to hit each and everyone one of these due to time limitations and would only stop at a few even if we passed by them.  But it is not like we would have discovered unknown cousins (first, second or even fourth) – our ancestor who came from Spain to Cuba got to Cuba in 1800 so too far in the past for any real connection with living descendants of his own ancestors…

Zarautz – Beach town

We left San Sebastian, our base for a couple of days, and headed west following more or less the coast.  We had no set plans of where we would stop along the way.  One of the first places we passed caught our eye and we decided to see if we could find parking and get out and walk around some.  This place was Zarautz, a beach town of about 20,000 15km (9 mi) west of San Sebastian, that felt like a very livable place, not just a beach town for visitors.  (The town connects to San Sebastian and Bilbao by train so even if one is not driving there, one can get there on public transport.)

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

The beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

West end of the beach

The beach was long (I read it is about 2.8 km long; the longest in that coastline) and we could certainly see how it would be an appealing tourist destination.  The beach was not packed and it may be that it was likely already the end of the season (but finding street parking was impossible still!).  We sat in the plaza above the underground parking deck and looked out at the beach and ocean.  My Mom, uncle and I decided to walk down to get our feet wet by the waters of the Bay of Biscay as maybe our ancestors did somewhere up or down that coast many centuries ago…

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Mom and uncle walking to the water!

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

16th century Palacio de Narros from the beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Conveniently located to wash one’s feet after stepping on the beach

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

My sis and uncle enjoying the view

More Basque coastline

We both reluctantly and eagerly got back in the car.  Zarautz was worth staying but we had a key objective for the day ahead…  We drove from Zarautz past Getaria (another great-looking coastal town) and, somewhere around Zumaia, turned inland on the road.  It was disappointing to leave the beautiful coast because, as you can see, it was beautiful.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Yet another great beach west of Zarautz by Getaria

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Nice curvy road bordering hills that face the water

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Basque coastline beauty!

A phenomenal Basque lunch

We kept driving and after a failed attempt to reach Lekeitio (there was some festival that weekend with all roads leading to it blocked of – very disappointing as it was high on our list), we went inland.  And hunger was hitting… During a routine bathroom stop at a local bar in the town of Ereño (between Lekeitio and Bermeo but inland), my Mom came and told us the place had a restaurant and it had customers (my cardinal rule is to never go into an empty restaurant in an unknown town…).  The place was cozy, on the ground level of a 2- or 3-story building (can’t recall).  It was Restaurante Jatetxea Atxoste.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

The place we had lunch at in Ereño

It was SUPERB.  The thing I liked the most is the one I did not take a picture of:  the fresh cod sauteed with spinach.  It would be the single most delicious dish I had in the entire trip!  But captured for posterity were the red beans and the rice pudding which were excellent.

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7

Rice pudding dessert

Euskal Herria, Basque, Spain, Espana, Zarautz, Andraka, Bizkaia, Vizcaya, Guipuzkoa, driving, Bay of Biscay, Samsung Galalxy S7, food, red beans

The red beans – I could just have ate them all!

I always prefer the small mom-and-pop places where, though service may not be stellar, the food typically is.  Great find, Mom!!

Driving through history:  Guernica

After lunch, on our way to Andraka, we made it a point to drive through the town of Guernica which suffered a massive air attack during Spain’s Civil War in 1937 by Nazi Germany, a bombing that lasted about 2 hours.  Picasso captured the pain and horror of that moment in history in a famous painting named after the town.  There is a mural in the town center matching the painting.  We did not plan to get out of the car but I did snap a quick side photo of the mural…

Guernica, Spanish Civil War, Basque, Spain, Gernika, bombing

The mural

Guerica, Gernika, Pabo Picasso, Guerra Civil, Spanish Civil War, Spain

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

The main event:  Andraka

Andraka is not a town by my definition; not even a village, just some homes laying around (a few under construction) and a restaurant right by the road.  But it has the typical European signs announcing the ‘town’ and letting you know when are leaving the ‘town.’  If there was an original home from over 200 years ago that could have been our ancestros’, we did not see it; and that really didn’t matter that much to us.  After a quick walk around an old, abandoned house and snapping a couple of pix by signs that said “Andraka,” we got back in the car and continued on our drive, satisfied we had gotten to that area of Bizkaia where the last name Andraca originated for our family…

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

How the area of Andraka looks

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

The old home taken over by vegetation

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

My uncle

Andraka, Bizkaia, Basque, Vizcaya, hamlet, ancestors, family history, Spain, travel

Mom, sister and yours truly

A truly unique and fun experience to have shared with loved ones!


Drive the amazing Basque coast!  Pin this to your travel board!

Basque, coast, coastline, vasco, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Spain, España

 

Biarritz: The Pearl of France’s Basque Country

There are places that are semi-legendary in your mind.  And when you visit them, they live up to that vision.  And sometimes they don’t.  Biarritz, France is not a place I knew a lot about but I did have an impression that it was for the rich and famous.  Its location, in the southwestern corner of France abutting Spain (just 22 miles from the border!) facing the Bay of Biscay, seems ideal with warmer climate and perhaps not the throngs of partying tourists that the Mediterranean coasts can attract.  It sits in the Basque region of France and is home to 20-30-odd thousand residents.

So, as we went from San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, France this past September, we decided to stop along the way.  It was not a long drive but we wanted an easygoing day.  As I looked at the map, I realized there were several neat towns along the coast and inland (like Bayonne).  As I talked to my Mom, she shared how she, when she was a girl, would read a novel with her best friend that took place partly in Biarritz and how they always daydreamed about Biarritz.  That settled it for me:  Biarritz would be our stop!

Our visit was short.  A walk around the shopping district after a meandering drive into town. Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

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Saint-Eugenie Church

 

Biarritz’ place on the coast certainly offers beautiful vistas and spots to take in the views – or get on a boat and see the city from the water (which I wish we could have done!).Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

And then, we just picked a place on the beach (the ‘Grande Plage’ – or great beach) to have lunch -not because it had the look of a great establishment, but simply because of the view out and the fact that we would sit in open air enjoying the great weather that day.

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

We ate at a cafe off to the right

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

The Grande Plage (big beach) of Biarritz

Biarritz most distinctive or massively impressive structure is the Hotel du Palais (of which, unfortunately, I took the picture split by a lighting pole…) built in the mid-1800s by the wife of Napoleon III.

Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

Hotel du Palais – and the pole in the middle of the photo

So, I can’t share much about Biarritz, its history or all the ins-and-outs of what to do and see.  But, if like my Mom, you have wondered what Biarritz looks like, I hope this post checks that off your list!

Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

With my beautiful mom and sister!!

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

My sister!!!

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

The teenager in the Biarritz of her dreams! It was about my mom that day!!

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