Chapter 35 - Labastida, Basque Country

Trip Start Jun 18, 2013
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35
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Trip End Aug 20, 2013


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Where I stayed
AIRBNB Apartment

Flag of Spain  , Basque Country,
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

After we settle in, we decide to walk around the town again. The flat is located in the modern part of town, just a block from a magnificent public swimming pool and new recreation centre.

Miryam decides she would like a nice plate of soup to end the day. We walk through the town. Every restaurant and bar is full of people enjoying the summer evening, but when Miryam asks for soup, the waiters look at her in astonishment. Finally someone explains that in summer restaurants just don't serve soup (we should have thought of gazpacho!).

Even if there is no soup, it certainly is a lively place, with half the population out enjoying beer, wine and good cheer. It’s a relatively small town built on a steep hillside with the central core dating from medieval times. Originally it was a walled town, but only bits and pieces of the walls remain now. It has two ancient churches, but neither is open during the time we are here. Obviously the bars and restaurants are much more popular. It’s quite well known in the area for its Jai Alai team, with a large fronton right in the middle of town.       

We have chosen Labastida, being that accommodations in Vitoria-Gasteiz, our planned destination, are surprisingly expensive. Later we find that we have requested space during Vitoria’s annual week of festivities. Labastida, located in the Rioja wine district, is an alternative choice and is just 50 kms away, a half-hour drive. Bryan will join us for the weekend and we collect him from the train station in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Later we realize that we are to be treated to several more festivities in this area, including our own Labastida’s annual festival.

The first day we witnessed the lowering of "El Pellejo", which is loosely translated as “skin”. We are intrigued, and find that “the skin” is, in fact, a large skin of wine which is lowered on a rope from the tower of the church to a window of the town hall, located opposite across the Plaza, meanwhile spewing prodigious amounts of wine on the exited youngsters dancing around down below. We presume this is not vintage wine. Afterwards city officials launch huge rubber balloons over the Plaza Mayor to the delight of all concerned. This event is followed by concerts of traditional and popular music into the wee hours.

The next day we are scheduled to leave, but first we re-visit the Plaza Mayor where they will release “novillos” (steers), into the plaza for brave young bloods to practice the art of bull fighting. Bryan had run with the bulls at Pamplona several years ago, and is tempted to jump into the plaza to join in the fun, but has second thoughts. The novillos have rubber protectors on the horns, but several daring youths are snagged by the bulls, though fortunately there are no serious injuries either to the steers or to the lads.    
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