Will Howarth joined the Princeton faculty in 1966 and still teaches part-time in the Freshman Seminars Program. An authority on the history and literature of travel, he has led Princeton alumni journeys to six continents. With Anne Matthews *81, he writes novels and films under the pen name of Dana Hand. His destination of choice: Zarautz, in northeastern Spain.
Why does Zarautz hold such a fascination for you?
I first visited this Basque seaside town with two college friends from the Midwest. At 20, I had never tasted salt water nor slept to the sound of waves. The hotel window overlooked a two-mile beach and our first dinner was a paella with clams and saffron. We came to Zarautz (pronounced Zah-rowse) for a day but stayed a week, reading Hemingway before driving to Pamplona, and taking an insane run with the bulls.
What are the three things one must do “when in Rome,” particularly for the first-time visitor?
- At dusk, find a central café and enjoy the evening paseo, or promenade, while sampling the local wines (including the rough red vino en bota, served in a goatskin bag). Eavesdropping may be a challenge: like many Basque people, the residents of Zarautz speak Euskara as well as French and Spanish.
- For a panorama of town and Pyrenees, hike the two hills that flank the deeply scalloped harbor. Zarautz is an ancient whaling settlement, and its grand architecture plus wild Atlantic setting resemble the shores of Nantucket.
- Enjoy the modern sculptures installed along the seawalk, and note that Bilbao’s daring Guggenheim Museum is an easy day-trip away.
What are the two or three things that one should do or places that one should go while in Zarautz that can't be found in a typical guidebook?
- To catch the variety of art in a land held by Jews, Muslims and Christians over ten centuries, visit the Luzea Tower and the archaeological complex at Santa Maria la Real.
- Gipuzkoa is a province made for serious food buffs. Try pinxtos, or Basque tapas; and salt-cod omelettes with a glass of local hard cider.
- Recommended reading: Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926); Josephine Herbst, The Starched Blue Sky of Spain (1991).