It’s not all about food…

Dear Friends: Here we were just a few days ago…a warm day in the mountains…

…but when we read that a “severe borrosca” – cold, rain, lightening and worse – was heading our way and would last five days, we left our car in a village and took the train to this beautiful, small city of Vitoria (pop. 225,000). It’s not a place we’d planned to visit, but now, several days later, we thank the weather for bringing us here. (Pouring rain and 8 C – about 45 degrees – when we arrived; now, several days later, it is still 45 degrees, and snowing in those mountains). 

We wanted to hunker down a place with good food and drink, of course, but that leaves lots of time for other things, such as museums, maybe movies, and even some music.

Vitoria has several quirky museums, including one devoted entirely to playing cards that we are saving for last. But yesterday was a great treat: the Belles Artes Museum, once a private house, built in 1912 as a wedding present for a titled young couple… There’s Michael, lower right, wondering what it would be like to live there…

We loved the collection of Basque painting, and since I was allowed to take photos in the museum I’ll share a few of our favorites that capture Basque culture and landscape. This one reminded us of the mountainous country we’d just left and the great spirit of the Basque people (though we saw no scenes quite like this)…

And a somber one of miners ready to go down into the mine…

And finally, this one because it reminded us that things have not changed that much – our neighbors still plow this way in Cañar (you can barely see the wooden plow between the bulls).


That left the archeology museum, the arms and armor museum, and the playing card museum – the last an amazing collection by a Señor Fournier, who in the late 19th century created the playing card industry here in Vitoria that continues today.

There we learned one amazing fact that explained how Sr. Fournier became so rich: someone in the world buys a pack of Fournier playing cards every 1.5 seconds. Wealth allowed him and his heirs to become collectors, so today – May 18, International Day of Museums – we discover when we visit the arms museum that the suits of armor, crossbows, swords, knives, spears and blunderbusses, were also his obsession. All the museums here gave out free art books today – beautiful expensive books. I had to stop after three, for the weight alone.

(…no photos allowed)

The rain and cold continued, so we extended our stay in Vitoria and I snuck off on my own to visit the sacred art museum in the nearby cathedral. Forgot my camera, but this from the booklet:

Finally, we ran out of museums and found the cinemas, where tonight we saw an excellent Danish film, “The Hunt,” dubbed in Spanish, by the same director who made “Celebration” a few years ago. See it if you can.

Well, the temperature is up to 12 degrees C (54F) and we can’t linger in Vitoria any longer. Tomorrow we’ll take the train back to the little town where we left our car five days ago, hoping to find it there still with our luggage, and head towards the Rioja region, no matter the weather. We need some of that robust red wine!

Stay tuned…

 (of course we did have to eat now and then. We splurged on one great meal that finished with this – a fresh goat cheese tart with sweet ground nut paste, garnished with a little fruit, uvilla, a ground cherry that we have in Cañar   (thanks to M. For that description)

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8 thoughts on “It’s not all about food…

  1. Jude, bless you over and over for this blog. I love every
    word and every photo and feel like I’m with you every step.
    Your sister Char

  2. Jude, in case you didn’t’ get my comment because I accidentally closed
    the window, it was “bless you for this blog! I love every work and photo
    and feel like I’m with you every step. Such a gift. Big kiss. Love Char

  3. Love your stories…sorry it has to be so cool and rainy, but think of the places you are seeing because of that. The playing cards look wonderful…will check out that info online. Jan

  4. I loved the Basque Country..San Sebastian, the tapas bars, and the the reasure of a famkly dinner we enjoyed, also introduction to “ci-der”. Enjoy each day. Jan

  5. Since I am trying to paint lately, especially appreciated the paintings of Basque dancers and miners.

  6. Hi Laura: rather than write “ground nut paste,” I should have said, “paste of ground nuts”. Then, to confuse things, I mentioned the “ground cherry” in next sentence. I’m a terrible food writer…

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