|Casa Rural Maialde|
Perched on the crest of a small mountain, Elgeta seemed a long way from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, both in distance and in atmosphere. A town of little more than one thousand inhabitants, it had nothing of its French counterpart’s bustling streets and lively restaurants. But what it did have was the distinct feeling of pure unadulterated solitude. And no wonder. Demanding a 12% gradient to reach its 475 metre summit – in fact it’s the highest town in Gipuzkoa province – you’d need a good reason to make the effort to come up and visit.
Late that evening, as Roz and I strolled down an empty alleyway towards the town’s equally forsaken one main road, we stumbled upon what turned out to be a nightclub of sorts. Empty, most likely for the entire summer, we were greeted by a young couple who were enjoying a drink behind the bar. Apart from our proprietors at the Casa Rural Maialde and a handful of people we’d earlier sighted sitting beneath a tree in the main square, it felt a bit like discovering civilisation on Mars. Very unexpected.
The venue was definitely closed, as we assumed, but it didn’t prevent us from being offered a drink and a table out on the balcony. There, until almost bedtime, there wasn’t another person in sight, nor even a car; just the stillness of the night and in the dark, the half remembered valley below.