Transport to the Basque Pyrenees
Transport from San Sebastian. Journey time one hour.
French Safe Houses & Resistance Paths
Drive over the border to the outskirts of Urrugne to see the French safe houses where the resistance network known as the Comet Line hid allied soldiers and pilots during WW2. From here they would make their final night crossing over the Bidasoa River into Spain.
We learn the story of the Comet Line and the fate of André de Jong (Dédée), the inspiring leader of the Comet Line who was captured at the safe house, Bidegain Berri, on 15th January 1945 where she stayed just one night too many. We also try to understand what it was like for the families, women and children, who risked their lives for the resistance, and for the Basque mountain guides who passed the pilots to (relative) safety over the Bidasoa river from France into Spain. We hear about the antics of the enigmatic resistance guide, Florentino Goikoetxea.
After visiting the area of the safe houses, we take an easy to moderate walk into the hills along mountain trails and shady stream valleys. Initially, this walk is gentle, becoming more moderate as it climbs towards the border. This walk can be tailored to your walking level.
The story continues as we drive into Navarra and through the ravines of the Bidasoa River. Here we explore the crossing points along the river. We see the guards’ houses, railway tunnels, rocks and ravines on the border and try to understand what it must have been like to cross the river when it was in flood, in the darkness, wearing ill-fitting, sodden espadrilles, and with the Gestapo on one side of the border and Franco’s police, the Guardia Civil, on the other.
Local Basque Lunch in Donamaria
We enjoy a 'Menu de Degustacion' at a traditional, Michelin-recommended Basque restaurant hidden in a distant mountain valley far from the madding crowd. This award-winning, family-run restaurant only works with local Basque producers and Navarran wines. It is located by the side of the river with beautiful gardens and grounds - so there may be the opportunity for some wild swimming! A talk with its owner about the secrets of Basque cuisine.
Smugglers' Villages & Smugglers' Tricks
After lunch, we return slowly towards San Sebastian stopping off at one of the bucolic smuggling villages near the border. Here we hear about the history of smuggling in the area immediately after the second world war. What sort of contraband did they smuggle? Why did they smuggle, and what were some of the clever ruses they used to bamboozle the Spanish Guardia Civil? What was it that made the Basques, smugglers par excellence?
Transport to Hotel
Transport back to Irun or San Sebastian.