In the Footsteps of Smugglers: My Life on a Basque Mountain (Paperback)

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Description


After eight years living in Copenhagen, an English journalist, driven by a passion for languages and mountains, finally rebels. With little more than an assortment of Earl Grey teabags, Danish candles and a map, Georgina Howard abandons her all-too-cosy, cinnamon-scented lifestyle and drives south.
The journey leads to wild and craggy landscapes in the Basque Pyrenees on the French/Spanish border, where place names are written in a bizarre, foreign tongue full of 'x's and 'z's. Losing her heart to this beautiful land and her pride to the inscrutability of the language, Howard moves into an isolated barn in a mountain hamlet. While pagan festivals reverberate through the valleys, her Basque neighbours - farmers, shepherds, a gravedigger and a champion female lumberjack - observe her, bemused.
Only when her daughter, Marion, is born - after an unsuccessful relationship with an eccentric Basque miller - do Howard's neighbours drop their reserve and welcome her into their homes. Taking Marion's upbringing upon themselves, they fatten her up on spicy Basque sausages and black bean stews, teach her Basque nursery rhymes and train her to milk sheep. Meanwhile, Howard converts a barn into the headquarters of an international business providing walking, culture and language tours. Resigned to the ineptitude of their new neighbour, with patience and amusement, the locals tow her car out of ditches and teach her how to stack wood, catch mice, unblock septic tanks and drink wine from a leather gourd.
In the Footsteps of Smugglers follows the adventures of an outsider: a single mother, linguist, cosmopolitan nomad and cultural chameleon who paradoxically makes her home among an indigenous people deeply rooted in their land, with a language and culture dating back to Stone-Age times. Unwittingly, she repays their hospitality by luring anti-terrorist squads, blackmailers and spies into their midst as the dramatic past of the Basque Country proves to have unexpected and far-reaching consequences. An inspiring, humorous travel memoir, Bradt's In the Footsteps of Smugglers weaves behind-the-scenes vignettes of daily rural life and historical research to produce authentic insights on all things Basque, threaded with a rhapsody on the theme of identity.

About the Author


Originally from Birmingham, UK, Georgina Howard (pyreneanexperience.com) studied European languages before heading to Copenhagen where she worked as a writer and taught intercultural awareness skills to Danish statisticians. After eight years, she rebelled. With an unsatiated passion for maps, mountains and metaphors, she packed her bags with Earl Grey teabags and Danish candles, driving south to an isolated Basque hamlet in the Spanish Pyrenees. Few outsiders have lived in this remote setting, and even fewer for the 25 years that Howard already has enjoyed. As a single mother bringing up a half-Basque daughter with the help of the local shepherds, she has gained privileged insights into the local culture and Basque mountain life, including its former cross-border smuggling community. Here she set up a tour operator, Pyrenean Experience, which offers an eclectic mix of walking, culture and language holidays. In the Footsteps of Smugglers is her first book for Bradt.


Product Details
ISBN: 9781804692110
ISBN-10: 1804692115
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides
Publication Date: September 1st, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English