Spanish Basque and Small Babies!

I am in Ituren, in the  Navarre in the Basque country. We have an adorable a hide-away-from-the-world cottage, on the mountain tops, a long way from the hot temperatures of most of Spain. It is a 20 minute drive to the nearest town. We unpacked after our flight from The Canary Islands, and took a walk with our little dog in the nearby woods. It is packed with Beech, Holly, Cherry and Chestnut trees and the crunch of dry leaves underfoot is s’o’o’o pleasing after the volcanic treelessness of our island home. The peace here is blissful, just the feint tinkle of sheep bells and the trickle of a mountain stream.

Basque Woods

Returning to the cottage in the drizzle  (it rains most days). We dried off the dog  (who has Spaniel type long hair and is not used to being wet). Then we opened a well deserved bottle of wine left by our thoughtful hosts  I sketched two designs I saw in a brochure from the tiny domestic Museum in nearby Elizondo.

Loft style bedroom at Ituren

Embroidery on felt

Then  I sketched   a Tetreskele image I saw on a window shutter of the neighbouring cottage. It is an image we will become familiar with everywhere in the Basque.  The symbol features on door lintels, church pews, windows, furniture, clothes and accessories. The 4 coma shaped head, is an old Basque symbol and very similar to the Japanese tomoe.

Tetraskele image on shutter

Tetraskele image on glass window

After our  evening meal of local wine and crisps (donated by our kind hostess as all the shops are shut), I laid out my scraps of fabric and embroidery silks and developed two of the designs on felt.

The next day, after stocking up with supplies in the nearest town, we drove to Pamploma,  famous for its Running of the Bulls fiesta 7th – 14th July.

Pamploma bull

It is a small, cultured city of historic buildings and monuments, shady plazas, restaurants and bars. I was attracted by the many green parks, and places to stroll. The Pilgrims’ Road to Santiago crosses the Rivers Arga, Sadar and Elorz in Pamplona over the Bridges of La Magdalena and Acella.

Pamplona Figures


We parked for free just outside of the old city walls.  Our walk began at La Magdalena Bridge, where  the city welcomes pilgrims en route to Santiago on the ‘French route’.

In one morning, we breathlessly took in the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria La Real, the church of San Nicolas & San Saturnine, the Museum of Navarre, The Palace of the Kings, the Church of San Lorenzo, the Pablo Sarasate Museum and City Hall. Finally on reaching El Plaza del Castillo with its welcome mass of shady cafe bars and restaurants, we were flagging and stopped for  a well deserved menu del dia.

City Hall

Back at our holiday cottage in Ituren, owned by Georgina Howard who organises walking holidays in the Basque, we have a Wifi connection. I read on the ABC Creativity website today ” your creative genius is all of the most delicious aspects of who you really are, but sometimes it can be hard to access. sometimes it’s so quiet we don’t even know that it’s there“.

I know just what she means, because after our hectic day, driving/walking and site seeing  around Pamplona, my creative drive is barely registering a 3 out of 10. I am so beat. I thought holidays were meant to be restfull!

Even so,  I had to honor some creativity. With little or no tv and intermittent wifie, I threaded  matt red silk in my needle and couched it with gold metallic thread  and I worked on a small piece to develop an idea for my journal during the evening.

Basque snail

I thought it might get the old creative machinery working, and indeed  the next day, a little more revived, it led to me picking up my fabric scraps, getting out my sketchbook and starting ‘Coffee Lover’s Cup’.

I have to tell you, as it is such a pleasure to see. In the  early morning when we take the dog for a walk, there are beautiful glistening spider webs stretching across fencing, bushes and tall grasses for miles. Stunning!

On a trip to the  town of Elizondo to visit the Artisans market, we watched street musicians in the style of troubadours, with bagpipes, guitars and tabors. They marched up and down cobbled streets, stopping to play to beautiful girls, shoppers, children and stall holders. They even entered the small shops, played a tune and sang a song and moved on to the next one. So charming.

Elizondo Muscians

Elizondo is the capital of the Baztán valley and contains the Baroque palace of Arizkunenea, but there are also other buildings of interest such as the town hall where the museum is housed as well as the Datue Palace, the Viceroy’s house and the church of Santiago. In the market I could not resist a sample of  the local speciality ‘urrakin egina’ (chocolate with whole hazelnuts) and nibbled it on our trip back  to the cottage, until there was nothing left except sticky fingers and silver foil.

Basque Musicians

A couple of mornings later,  Georgina-s chatty 8 year old daughter,  came by and showed a lot of curiosity in what I was doing with my fabric scraps and embroidery silks. I love interruptions like this from the young. As it was raining, we spent the whole morning creating  fun textile farm animals on paper scraps. I gave her most of them to keep, but left this one in my sketchbook.

My visit to the Basque was cut short when my daughter, who lives in the UK, went into labour with her second baby. I got a flight from tiny Biaritz airport  to welcome Beau Gerard into the world.

Beau Gerard


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