Basque

Rain On My Parade

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As the rainy season sets in, I find myself mentally preparing for what’s ahead in the coming months. The days are brutally shorter, I’m never quite warm enough, and I’m much less motivated to make the usually pleasant trek to the gym if it were any other time of the year. Every year it’s the same, and every year I find myself looking ahead on the calendar, longing for the impending sun-kissed, lazy days that define life on the Med.

Rain clouds rolling in as our day winds down to a close.
This is why in recent weeks I have surprised myself with an uncharacteristically upbeat attitude despite the dreary weather. Over the weekend Jeff and I whisked ourselves away to the unbelievably beautiful Basque Country in northern Spain. There was something about the soft, green rolling hills dotted with grazing livestock and Alpine country cottages coupled with dramatic rocky cliffs disappearing into an angry sea that stunned me. How could a place so drastically different from Barcelona be a simple 50 minute flight away? And why haven’t I visited before now?! I was in love, and I hadn’t yet experienced this region’s crowning glory…the food!

We arrived in a surprisingly sunny Bilbao Friday morning and we hit the ground running. We knew the weather wasn’t going to hold out for long so we made a beeline for the modestly glamorous resort town of San Sebastian. There we indulged in hikes in the hilltop park of San Telmo and strolled along the seaside promenade. It wasn’t long before threatening clouds rolled in and we decided to head up the coast, stopping in charming coastal fishing towns along the way. As fate would have it, the moment we checked into our hotel, the heavens opened up. The storm, our faithful companion for the remainder of our stay, had checked in too. 
In seemingly any other case, the rain would only be the first of many mishaps to come for travelers, but this was not the case for us. The dreary weather deterred travelers to our tiny seaside town so we had the entire place to ourselves! How were we rewarded? With an upgrade to the junior suite! This was only the first of many pleasant surprises the region had to offer. As the weekend progressed, we spent a shameful amount of time hopping from pintxo bar to pintxo bar sampling the local savory treats.  We explored a prehistoric cave with paintings dating back to 12,000BC, and the creme de la creme was of course the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. In a sense the rain was almost like a rescue for us. It allowed us to enjoy the idyllic Pais Vasco through an entirely different lens. We spent a significant amount of time indoors, safe from the treacherous weather, and we didn’t have to feel guilty about it. 
A selection of Basque “pintxos”
During our flight home I reflected on the rain and I came to realize that several of my most memorable recent experiences happened in less than ideal weather:
  • Jeff and I arrived in Barcelona on a bleak and windy October morning…not exactly the Spanish welcome we were expecting. That fall, winter, and spring turned out to be the soggiest in as long as anyone could remember. 
  • Climbing to Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sanai in Egypt was surreal…and wet. Spending the holidays in an iconic and biblical region would bring even the least of all believers closer to God.
  • A trip to Porto, Portugal with two of my favorite girls, Dawn and Melissa, in March of this year was an altogether washout…until we found the Sandeman Port Cellars. :o) We were in good company with fellow tourists who were looking to make the best of a bad situation. The solution? Port wine for everyone! 
  • Taking advantage of life on the road was a high priority this summer once Jeff got his moto license. Adventures both near and far always brought on some crazy experience, but getting caught in a monsoon takes the cake. We were several blocks from home when the floodgates opened. I admit I was a little afraid riding in the wet weather, but once we parked I was faced with a different concern. We were still a few blocks from home! What else could we do but embrace it? We decided to dance our way all the way back home with an audience of hopelessly stranded bystanders seeking refuge under the awnings of shops and overhangs. For a brief 5 minutes we were on stage, carefree and loving every minute of it!
Even in the darkest, dreariest of days I am able to find rays of sunshine.
Looking across the bay in San Sebastian