What is the Basque Country? Honestly, I had no idea until I accidentally stumbled upon this gorgeous part of the world during my travels in May of 2018. Below is an article I wrote for the school’s website at the time of my stay. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
I arrived in the gorgeous San Sebastián on the Bay of Biscay, on a slightly cool Sunday afternoon. I had no real plan or agenda for my stay here, I simply wanted to wander and discover what this little hidden away part of Southern-Europe had to offer. So I followed the crowd, who were all heading towards the Bahía de La Concha aka Bay of La Concha. The people were plenty, and music filled the air. Guitarists singing on one corner and small cafes filled with people drinking and laughing, on the other. I felt the charm and beauty of the city in an instant. Despite it being slightly cool and breezy (May in the Basque country is not what I expected it to be!) it seemed as if all of San Sebastián were here, out for a stroll along the water. Something you don’t see as much in Australia, where in the cooler months, the beach fronts are much less busy and often deserted. I spent a couple of hours here as the atmosphere was so pleasant and the sun was beginning to set. My view of the mountains in the background surrounding the sparkling blue water was simply breathtaking.
Bay of La Concha, San Sebastián
What I found especially wonderful about this city was the proximity of the beautiful coast and mountainous views to the more commercial and central parts of the city. Everything felt like just a 5minute walk. After a few days of relaxing by the water, eating some delicious baked goods, drinking some REALLY good coffee and wondering the streets, it was time for me to leave. I continued my journey south of San Sebastián by bus to the more rural town of Alsasua – Altsasu. I was heading here to explore a more quite, less busy town in the Basque region and also to teach English at an English school in the town centre. The bus arrived in 55 minutes to Alsasua and dropped me off literally… in the middle of the road!
A lovely couple by the name of Juan and Elena were there to greet me with warm, open arms. Juan and Elena are the couple who own and teach at the school – Traveller’s School of English, a school designed for children and adults of all ages who are wanting to learn and strengthen their English and discover more about the world and different cultures, as well as meet teachers from other parts of the globe. I remember reading about Juan’s inspiring story and how he came to open the school and I knew I just had to come here and teach, even if just for a couple of days. Juan and Elena brought me to their apartment, where I would be staying for my duration of time in Alsasua, it was central and just a three minute walk to the school. I soon learnt that everything in this town was just a few minutes walk… this was quite surprising for me as I come from the very big city of Sydney, Australia. Over the next few days I was able to see more of the town and soon realized that everybody knew everybody! Mostly everyone I passed by would look up and smile at me or greet me. I thought this was so nice as this strong sense of community and belonging is something I just don’t get living in a big city.
From almost every part of the town you can see the gorgeous green, lush, mountains in the background. Today I had the pleasure of driving up (and sort of climbing) the mountain Urbasa and standing on the highest point! The view from Urbasa was just breathtaking and I now understand why locals love mountain climbing, hiking, running and cycling so much. They are a fit community and I can see why!…. the vastness of the mountains and forests is huge and I feel like there would always be something new to explore here. What’s even cooler is that the tip of this enormous mountain Urabsa was just a short 15 minute car ride from Juan’s place.
A lovely little street in Alsasua
My experience teaching at the Traveller’s School of English has been an experience I can only speak highly of. Over 2 consecutive days I taught seven different classes with students aged from 6 – 60! Being able to meet, teach and interact with these people from the Basque country was an enriching experience as I had never met anyone from the Basque region before. Every single student happily invited me into their school and I could feel how excited they were to have me there. I felt accepted and valued from the first moment I walked into the class. I shared my life in Australia and all the different parts of Australian culture, history, food, tradition, music, sport. In return, I asked several students to teach me about the Basque culture, history, food, tradition, music and sport. This exchange of cultures and sharing what we each love so much about where we are from was so special. Instantly I could see the pride on their faces talking about the Basque country. I’ve learnt that the Basque people are very proud to be Basque! I think that’s so important, to have such a strong sense of identity. I respect and value that characteristic so much in a community of people, and I now feel inspired to bring that kind of pride and strong sense of identity back home with me to Australia. I believe over these 2 days we exchanged a lot of knowledge, and shared many laughs and beautiful moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, my time in Alsasua is coming to an end, and tomorrow I leave. If I were to come to this beautiful town again, the only thing I would change is to stay for a much longer period of time. I would have loved a few more days of exploring the mountains, waterfalls, lakes, forests and the many other rich, natural wonders this town has to offer. But sometimes it’s good to leave a few things incomplete…. It gives you a reason to come back! Thank you to the beautiful students I had the pleasure to meet and teach. Thank you Juan and Elena for inviting me into your home, for your hospitality, for sharing your stories and for inspiring me to continue travelling the world and leaving a positive impact wherever I may go. Basque country, you have left a big impression on me… I will be back!