HONDARRIBIA : A WALLED CITY IN THE BASQUE COUNTRY

The coastline of Gipuzkoa is made up of 60-kilometer long stretch of sandy beaches, secret coves and fierce and high cliffs. Found at the end of the coast is the booming fishermen’s village of Hondarribia. Situated after the French and Spanish border, Hondarribia enjoys its unique location, having mild to wild waters of the Cantabrian coast, and sharing the Bidasoa river with its neighboring French village Hendaia. Aside from having affinity with the sea and river, Hondarribia has also a rich history, as seen from the still standing walls which surround the town. It has an old city which can be entered via different ports or gates. This old town is declared as a historic-artistic monument . This rich history could be seen as one wanders around the old city and sees the palaces and houses with distinct construction styles.

COMING TO HONDARRIBIA

Hondarribia was originally not included in our itinerary, but nevertheless, we came to this town upon recommendation from Mark, a fellow RV traveller we met in La Rochelle. So after climbing the Dune du Pilat, we drove to this village. It was about 270 kilometers drive, and after driving for a little more than four hours, we crossed the French border and arrived in Hondarribia. We were lucky to find a big parking area by the marina where RVs were tolerated to park for a couple of days or longer. We were told that parking is paid during the summer months, but is free from October. It was however full with RVs by the time we came there, which could be attributed to three factors : weekend , vacation in Spain, and a marathon which was held on a Sunday. We stayed here for three days, from October 31-November 2, 2015.

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Our campsite at Hondarribia

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The marina at Hondarribia

Campsite : Calle Puerto Deportivo    20280 Fuenterrabia (Hondarribia), Spain

Coordinates :   N : 43.37715       W: 1.79292

THE NEIGBORHOOD OF LA MARINA

Hondarribia has a big harbour, and the area around and near the Marina is lively. There are several bars and restaurants situated along the promenade; near it is a big sports area and playground, a nice long promenade along the coast up to the city center, and a clear and safe biking routes. Not far from the marina is a functional fishport where big fishing boats are anchored. One can also take a long stroll from the fishing port up to the end of the pier, or up to the lighthouse which is still 2 kilometers away. Along the promenade is a boat service that brings people to Hendaia, the French village located on the other side of the coast and river.

Aside from these nice features, an added special attraction is the colourful fishermen neighbourhood, which is situated just a few meters from the marina. We “discovered”this charming corner when we were biking around the area, followed a sign with points of interest and entered a rather low concrete gate. After crossing the streets two times, we came to San Pedro Kalea and Santiago Kalea. These two streets have lively colourful and charming old wooden houses painted in the colors of either bright green and white, or blue and red. We learned later that the houses were painted in those colors as symbols for the fishermen families who lived in those houses during early years, and that the paints were over from what they have used in painting their boats. The houses have also cute terraces adorned with pretty plants full with flowers. On the two streets are a number of cozy bars and restaurants where the locals normally come. The area was so pretty that we returned here the following day to take more pictures and admire the place even more.

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Charming Santiago Kalea

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Typical balcon in the  fishermen’s area

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A house just around the corner

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Who would love to dine here?

THE HONDARRIBIA BEACH

Our parking area was so ideal that it is located just in front of a big and wide sandy beach, the Hondarribia beach. At the end of the beach is a fenced area where a small dune is found. It was Sunday, and the weather was really fine. The sky was clear blue and the temperature was at least 25 degrees. Because we started the day on the late side, Hans and I didn’t have much interest to go to the old city. We decided, after watching the start of marathon at 11 a.m to just stroll around the marina and spend the rest of the day on the beach. It proved to be a very good decision, as we didn’t have a good weather the following day: windy, a bit cold, cloudy and a bit of drizzle. Anyway, the beach was full of Spaniards on that Sunday. There were even people who were bathing as late as 6 in the evening!

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Hondarribia beach, taken from the pier…

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Footbathing at Hondarribia beach

THE WALLED CITY OF HONDARRIBIA

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Entrance from San Nicolas gate

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Calle mayor

The highlight of our stay in Hondarribia was our visit to the walled city. Packing our bicycles, we biked up to the old city and parked our bikes at the beginning of the Santiago Compostela Kalea. From there we entered the city via one of its old gates, and arriving at Plaza de Gipuzkoa. What immediately caught our attention was the old massive and impressive houses and buildings we saw around. They were made of combination of concrete/stones and wood, with wooden beams, and small steel terraces or balcons. These types of houses were evident in almost all of the major streets in the walled city such as in Calle Mayor, Calle Juan de Laborda and Calle del Obispo. After Plaza Gipuzkoa, we walked to Plaza Armas, which is a very spacious plaza where the tourist information office is found, also the Castillo de Carlos V, which is now a state-run hotel or Parador de Turismo. We took some time out here to enjoy a cup of coffee in the café next to the tourist office. After that, we went to the Parish Church of Santa Maria dela Asunsion, which is located next to the Castillo. But unfortunately it was closed. So we continued our tour in the old city, until we arrived at one of the old city’s main gate : the Gate of Santa Maria. From here, we turned right and walked along the ramparts and saw the thick old walls surrounding the city. After having walked around the old city, we went to a big Eroski supermarket located near the Santa Maria gate. Afterwards, we walked back to our bikes and biked back to our camper.

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Our customary picture together, t aken at Santa Maria Gate

LEAVING THE VILLAGE

Arriving at the parking area, we saw that there were at least still 15 RVs left from the 100 RVs parked here yesterday. The weather at this time has not improved; still cloudy and rainy. We decided to leave the village and go to our next destination, but not qithout first driving to the chapel of Guadalupe, which is located about 4 kilometers from the center, driving to Jaizkebel mountains. The chapel of Guadalupe was luckily open. After saying a short prayer, we went inside and had a nice view of the town of Hondarribia below us. It was our way of saying…Adios Hondarribia…Hasta La Vista!

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