I’m sitting in the corner of a busy taverna in the tiny village of Igueldo, a few kilometres from San Sebastian. It’s Sunday lunchtime and the locals are coming straight from the church to the bar with their young families in tow. The men and women form separate groups as they talk about their own subjects. I can only guess that the women are chatting about family and local gossip while the men are debating the finer points of yesterday’s football match. Some of the men are wearing the traditional black Basque beret, pulled forward in a peak. One, possibly the local butcher, is still wearing an apron.
They are all gathering for a social drink before the main event of the day – Sunday Lunch with all the family and friends. It makes me feel rather lonely, especially as I can’t even start a conversation with them. But it is fun to observe their animated conversations and they don’t make me feel like a stranger. In fact I feel very welcome. In general, the women are drinking white wine, while the men have tall glasses of cider poured from a height to aerate it and intensify the flavour. Just as one group leaves, another arrives and it is a constant carousel of local life.
The taverna is solidly built with stone walls and thick timbers across the ceiling pockmarked with termite holes. There are only a few tables and chairs and most people seem to prefer standing at the bar or the counter along the rear wall. A large TV in the corner is showing a basketball match and the music varies from Celtic flute to heavy metal, though it can barely be heard above the lively discussions.