My smuggler trip to Spain

@topffer (37975)
France
August 17, 2018 1:36pm CST
It is not really smuggling, because it is legal as long as it is for personal use, but each time I go to Spain to do some shopping, I feel like a smuggler. I landed yesterday at Biarritz International airport. Half an hour before I had left a warm and sunny city, and I was now under a cloudy sky with a few drops of rain falling on me. Bad luck. I had decided to do some shopping in Spain during this short holiday and there is a big bus station at the airport, it was a good day for shopping. I chose to take a ride on the «Euzkadi Express», from Biarritz to Béhobie, at the Spanish border. Euzkadi means «Basque country» in Basque, and I was in the Basque country, but «Express» does not mean exactly in Basque what it means everywhere else, and it was 1/2 hour late when we reached Béhobie. And completely crowded. There were a lot of people staying up. It is completely forbidden by French regulations in these kind of «fast» buses, where you need to sit and wear a security belt, but nobody had put the security belt and the driver was letting more people enter at each stop. I told it to my neighbor, a woman in her 50’s, who responded with a Basque accent «It would be unfair to wait for a bus and not be allowed in it». That’s common sense, isn’t it ? France is a centralized state, but Basques are following the French regulations only if they find them good enough for Basques. An angry Basque can become a very nasty person, and France has always been very cool for them. Already before the French Revolution, Basque sailors and traders had got a lot of privileges. Later, when their independentists were putting bombs and killing people on the Spanish side of the Basque country (The Basque country is divided between Spain, that has 4 provinces, and France, owning 3 others), they were hiding on the French side where the French authorities were letting them rest between 2 attacks at the condition that they would not put a bomb in France. France cooperated with Spain to arrest them only when Spain joined the EU. Since the border disappeared the Basques have stopped the fight, but it is like Ireland, it may start again at any moment. So, when Basques do not want to follow a French regulation, France does not make anything to have it enforced in the Basque country... Hmmm. If you are a Basque and do not like what I write, I apologize, and be sure that I love you. Think also that it would be a waste of time to put a bomb in my hotel room, as I am leaving your wonderful country tomorrow. At Béhobie I went out of the bus with a few people equipped with carrier bags and rugsacks, and followed them. At 200m of the bus stop there is a bridge crossing the Bidasoa river, the border between France and Spain. On the middle of the bridge, you have a nce view on Pheasant’s island, the smallest condominium in the world (I wrote a discussion long ago about it, read it if you are interested). And on the middle of the bridge there is also a sign telling you that you are entering in «Gipuzkoa». It is «Guipuscoa» in Spanish, but it is written in Basque. The Basque language, which is the only pre-indo-european language in the world, makes use of a lot of «k», «x» and «z» letters, not used a lot, or not at all, in French and Spanish, mainly to annoy us. Basque is a fascinating language : it was already used during prehistoric times, and does not have genders, except for verbs. When I studied Arabic, I learned that a «you» could be male or female, it is the same in Basque, but in Basque everything else has no gender. A few meters after the sign telling me that I was entering in a Basque province of Spain there was a car of the Spanish Guardia Civil parked there, supposed to control people crossing the border. They were not controlling anybody, but I guess that the presence of the police is enough to dissuade illegal migrants to cross the border. On the other side of Béhobie, it is Behobia. There are about 100 shops at the border to sell whatever we want to us, French citizens. It starts near a park area, but when you explore it, it soon looks like a souk in Algeria or Morocco, with narrow streets full of small shops. For a French everything is cheaper in Spain : detergents and meat (50% less), tobacco (40%), alcohol (30%), perfume and chocolate (20%), clothes (10%). It is why I feel like a smuggler each time I do some shopping in Spain. I bought a removable hard drive, a bottle of vodka and another bottle of a Basque liquor, some «pata negra», a variety of Spanish ham made from black pigs fed only with grass and acorns, and a stock of turron, a kind of Spanish nougat that I cannot find in France, and I crossed the border again to take the «Euzkadi Express» to Biarritz.
15 people like this
12 responses
@pgntwo (22636)
• Derry, Northern Ireland
17 Aug
I wonder if the ballot box will ever successfully replace the bomb in such areas?
5 people like this
@boiboing (13253)
• Northampton, England
17 Aug
Didn't ETA voluntarily suspend all terrorist activities last year and hang up their bombs and bullets?
4 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
17 Aug
A Basque friend told me once : "We are not made like others", and somewhere I believe that it is true : they resisted to a Celt assimilation, to a Roman assimilation, and to a French and Spanish assimilation. When it comes to Basques they will be only satisfied when they will have an independent country. The ceasefire will last as long as they will be allowed to cross freely the border. If the Schengen agreement was stopped tomorrow, they would start to fight again. Actually, it is a sleeping incendiary bomb at the Spanish border.
4 people like this
@pgntwo (22636)
• Derry, Northern Ireland
18 Aug
@topffer So it is with the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - a fact forgotten in these so-called BREXIT negotiations. Please, let them see sense, on both sides...
2 people like this
• Pamplona, Spain
17 Aug
You have described them to a t tops. Happy for you that you have got what you wanted even if you do feel like a smuggler which you are not of course. I like the small Bar which is very near the Border and all sorts of nationalities go in there and I feel vey much at home always.
4 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
17 Aug
Wow, I forgot to tell that I had a kalimotxo in a bar, it is a drink that I take each time I go to the Spanish side of the Basque border. In France we have "blanc limé", but on the Spanish side you have "kalimotxo".
4 people like this
• Pamplona, Spain
18 Aug
@topffer You are right about them being cheap but driving as we were the last time in Madrid we did not have enough chance to get out of the mainstream traffic and I was still having to go back to Pamplona and be a Mom to those two of mine. Its great you enjoy yourself there en Irún. I have had lots of good times when being there also.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
18 Aug
@lovinangelsinstead21 It is the same in any big city, it is why I prefer to take trains. There are many years that I did not went to Paris with a car. Trains are faster, and the tickets are not expensive if bought 2 months before a travel. I am thinking that I saw that there were buses going to Pamplona from the airport of Biarritz. Maybe I will visit you next time?
1 person likes this
@MALUSE (51735)
• Germany
17 Aug
An adventurous day just around the corner so-to-speak. Do the Basque people insist on speaking their language or do they converse in French or Spanish with their customers?
4 people like this
@DaddyEvil (27418)
• Aurora, Missouri
1 Sep
I hope no Basque was offended by your discussion, Top! I don't think they would have much trouble finding your house in France, if they were so inclined! Hmmm... you could try to smuggle some of that ham to the US. I'd like to try it! OH! I wouldn't mind meeting you, too.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
1 Sep
You would like this ham, it is a top quality ham from a species of black pigs fed only with acorns. I do not know if it would be possible to send some by mail. It would have to be done during winter, because a heat would kill it.
1 person likes this
@DaddyEvil (27418)
• Aurora, Missouri
2 Sep
@topffer I used to send foods to Pretty while she was in college and too far away for me to drive them to her, but I always froze them and packed Ziploc bags of ice around the foods I sent her. She said she received them still frozen, but that was just two day mail here in the US. I doubt it would work to send ham from France to the US without it thawing or being "confiscated" and eaten when it arrived in the United States! Not to mention, I wouldn't get to meet you if the ham was mailed to me! Hmmm... is there anything we can get here that you'd like me to ship to you? Not something that would need to be frozen, though. I'd be happy to do that. (pony wants me to ship him a box full of black walnuts. That's something easy to ship and doesn't spoil during shipping.)
1 person likes this
@DaddyEvil (27418)
• Aurora, Missouri
2 Sep
@topffer Oh, I forgot to check on things like that... I know I couldn't send homemade candy to Mauritius but I could send pre-packaged candy there. My friend in Australia could have gotten a big fine if anyone had realized she shipped me two live walking sharks... I'm glad nobody checked the package she sent me!
1 person likes this
@JudyEv (163688)
• Bunbury, Australia
18 Aug
That's good that you were able to stock up on some goodies. I'd have felt like a smuggler too.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
18 Aug
It is the difference of prices between France and Spain that makes me feel like this. It is difficult to understand why some brands are selling the same item at a discounted price in Spain. There is a difference of taxes, but it cannot explain some prices, like why the same detergent is sold 50% less in Spain than in France ?
2 people like this
@JudyEv (163688)
• Bunbury, Australia
18 Aug
@topffer I wouldn't worry too much about why - just buy as much of the cheap stuff as you are able. Vin paid $12 kg for Canadian bacon the other day. Australian bacon was $25 kg. Go figure.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
18 Aug
@JudyEv It was a stowaway bacon, it did not paid for the travel.
2 people like this
@Susan2015 (24880)
• United States
17 Aug
It sounds like you had a nice trip and sometimes it's nice to shop other places.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
18 Aug
I also love Spain for its civilization and monuments, not only for its shops, but shopping there is a plus due to their low prices.
2 people like this
@jstory07 (79947)
• Roseburg, Oregon
17 Aug
A fun day of shopping somewhere else is always good.
2 people like this
@topffer (37975)
• France
17 Aug
Oh, yes, that is fun, although I am always feeling like if I was a smuggler when I do some shopping in Spain.
1 person likes this
@much2say (35697)
• United States
18 Aug
Ah, that's what you meant by smuggler - some of my friends will say similarly about Mexico or Hong Kong. Wow, that's a very short trip to Spain, but well, I guess that close to France (everything is "far" from here). You came out with some goodies for a deal!
1 person likes this
@topffer (37975)
• France
19 Aug
I was in Biarritz for 2 days, which is close of the border, I would have missed something if I had not done a short trip to Spain to do some shopping. The rest of the year I live a lot more far of the Spanish border than you of the Mexican border. If France is a small country at US level, it is still a bit more large than California. This bus experience was something new for me, and it was funny. I have learned since that Euzkadi was meaning "Basque nation" and not "Basque country", there is a nuance. I saw only 1 Basque beret in the bus, so the Basque nation is abandoning some traditions, the beret being for the Basque what the kilt is for the Scot.
1 person likes this
@much2say (35697)
• United States
25 Aug
@topffer Why didn't I know that - apparently it's 2x bigger - but I guess we have more people. Interesting though - you would think that Basque being a "nation", they would want to keep the traditions alive as much as possible - or they want to keep up with the times to make things more modern? Oh, but does that mean that shopping there in the future may end up not being as inexpensive anymore if they do that?
1 person likes this
@topffer (37975)
• France
25 Aug
@much2say Basques are keeping their traditions and language, but they are very modern. The Spanish Basque country, which is quite independent of Spain (they collect the taxes and give back only 5% to Spain for the army and post office, and take care of everything else : police, education, culture, trade, etc.) is the richest region of Spain, before Madrid. If it is cheaper, it is partly because there are less taxes in Spain, and partly because the brands are selling the same item less in Spain than in France. The reason is that the South of Spain is quite poor, and the brands fix a price for all the country.
1 person likes this
@kepweng (24364)
• United States
10 Sep
why Not migrate in spain if everything is cheaper in Spain ??
1 person likes this
@topffer (37975)
• France
10 Sep
Because I live and work in France, and I love my country.
@sol_cee (19596)
• Japan
4 Sep
A hoarder in the making too! lol
1 person likes this
@topffer (37975)
• France
4 Sep
I work a lot to write discussions looking messy.
@owstalaga (4556)
• Philippines
28 Aug
Must be nice to live in a country that's not an island for once. Seems like you can take cross border trips like this and not worry about visas and such!
1 person likes this
@YrNemo (16548)
18 Aug
When you said 'landed' you mean you had to go by air just to get to that airport? THEN the bus to go to the Basque border & to Spain. Wouldn't the time + the fares (cost of travelling) add up in the end and cancel out the saving you got from buying things in Spain? (I am curious. By the way, you are very diplomatic to Basque readers .)