Even though “muxus” (Basque macaroons) had not yet been invented, the Neanderthals must have thought they had found heaven on earth when they discovered the Basque country.
An ocean (for sea bream Spanish-style), verdant hills (for growing cherries), mountains with views (to use as a backdrop for cromlechs and for hiking), caves with cathedral-like décor for making jewels and playing Ludo on the walls.
And as heaven is much sought-after, there have sometimes been quarrels over who can stay. That’s the history of the Basque country. It is full of stories that are themselves full of twists and turns. Stories that overlap (sometimes without touching) in a totally natural harmony, mixing hunter-gatherers, Roman troops, frenzied pirates, smugglers, royal couples and hump-backed whales.
Just like Hollywood, legendary stars have left their mark on the Basque country. Napoleon on the most beautiful luxury hotel in Biarritz, Louix XIV on the walls of the church in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Vauban on the fortifications of Bayonne. With or without fuss, out of pride or love or just because this was the most beautiful place in the world.
So how can such a small territory be the most beautiful in the world? Its secret is harmony. The harmony of the landscapes, condensed and contrasting: rocky mountains that are home to wild ponies, verdant hills scattered with houses in the matching colours of Bayonne’s festival, beaches of soft sand that undulate to the rhythm of the ocean’s moods.
And, on top of all that, the people. Eclectic. Some descended from kings, others from pirates. And others, more discreet, who carve whales from stone or surf the Belharra…
There are so many Basque countries. The one of 80 million years ago, the one of the wide open spaces, the trendier one on the coast. But above all there is the Basque country of its people, of harmony. The most beautiful.
So sit down and watch the show. Ongi etorri!