Mutriku Mackerel Madness – Déjà Vu!

Welcome To Mutriku!

The Hounds made the pilgrimage to the Mutriku Mackerel Fest last year, but because detailed info on the when, what & how was next to non-existent, we opted to set off quite early in old Gertie the Land Rover to avoid any crowds & parking hassles & pulled in just short of the 10AM mark. The town was absolutely vacant, and we had a couple of serious doubts about the possible success of our mackerel fest quest. But a quick chat with the Tourist Information folks confirmed that it was all a “Go!”, but kicking off shortly after 12PM…

Mackerel Pintxo Numero Uno y Dos! Our First Port of Call – Taberna Ametza.

The only substantial mistake we made last year was that we missed the BIG MACKEREL GRILL OFF that capped the day at around 6PM (due to driving & drinking restrictions). So included in this year’s operational plan was an overnight stay. There are only 2 places to sleep with a dog in Mutriku & we lucked out with one of the 3 rooms @ Hostal Rin. Perfectamente location…

Our greatest advantage in attending this year’s fest was that we pretty much knew the score, and queued up for our fave spots from last year. First stop, Taberna Ametza, where we sampled 2 different mackerel pintxos washed down with a pair of  zuritos (small beers) on the town square – off to a solid start…

Batzokia’s Excellent Mackerel Strips in Olive Oil with a Drizzle of Balsamic…Top Pintxo By Far!

We next made a bee line for our top voted bar from last year’s visit – Batzokia. The front of house service @ this taberna is all women & they were: (a) super friendly and (b) massively efficient. In a brief chat with one of the women we learned (if our Spanish was up to snuff) that the bar/restaurant is run as a co-operative and is somehow part of or supported by a Basque political party called EAJ-PNV (we have one in Hondarribia). And, once again, we were not disappointed to find our most desired pintxo still being dished out in quantity (and free!) at the bar. We found it hard to leave…

Mutriku Scenes…

The Weather Gods, though not fully co-operating, were indeed most kind to us. As every time we headed into a bar or taberna for a drink & a snack, the heavens opened up & hosed Mutriku down. Then, miraculously, just as we zipped & buttoned up to battle the elements, they flicked a switch & it all ceased & desisted. Two hats off to the Weather Gods!

Mutriku Scenes – Billie Strolls the Harbour…Buildings of Mutriku.

Top Left: Mackerel Pintxos & a Croqueta; Event Poster; Yet Another Taberna – Bar Zubixa; Mr. Mackerel Stokes Up the Crowd

Top Left: Bar Zubixa Political Poster; Da Marching Band!; Boat

Top Left: Mutriku Port; Boat Houses; Family Pic; Duck Fountains

As the arvo wore down, it was fast approaching the kick off time for the Big Event – a grand scale mackerel grill up & pintxo fest port side. We developed a plan to: (a) make an initial foray into the crowded fest as Hound #2 had a great fear of missing out on some mackerel a la plancha; then (b) return Billie to our hostel room for a siesta; (c) wander the Old Town & sample some more pintxos at any bars we might have missed; and (d), end up back at the port for some more mackerel pintxos & some live music.

The Big Verdel Event – Top Left: Plate of Grilled Mackerel & a Cold Beer for 1 Euro!; Da Crowd; Festival Menu in Basque; Up Close & Personal Verdel Pic; From On High Crowd View

Parts (a), (b) and (c) all went to plan & success was achieved on all fronts…but when part (d) rolled around, something was clearly amiss. We arrived back at the port shortly after 9PM (give to take 15 minutes) and everything & everybody had vanished – no mackerel food stalls, no people, no stage and no music…party over! We were going with the general consensus view that the Spanish like to party & stay out late, but I guess the stall vendors & musicians had other ideas. But it was true that the gente (people) fullfilled their mantra ‘eso si que es la vida‘ (this is the life) & saw the sun rise…we could hear the riotous crowd noises from our paper thin walled room. And it was not much help on the sleep front when our two neighbours stumbled in (and I mean stumbled in) around 4 or 5AM.

Top Left: ‘Mackerel Day’ in Basque; Professional Txakoli (local white wine) Pourer; Two Fun Late Night Pubs…For Young Folks.

Zumia Pit Stop…

Up early for a quick walk round the Mutriku port, then headed home with a quick stop in Zumia for a second coffee and a wee squizzy around the Old Town section…safely back in Hondarribia for lunch. Excellent adventure had by all…

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Mutriku’s Mackerel (Verdel) Fest!

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Fishing Port & Town of Mutriku…on a Perfect Spring Day.

When we first arrived in Hondarribia in June 2015, we dutifully scanned a mass of tourist brochures & magazines to identify anything that might be of interest to the Food Hounds. One that stood out was a mackerel festival in the port town of Mutriku in April – so it was duly recorded on our adventure calendar.

As we approached April, we did a bit more research as the tourist brochure stopped at telling us the festival was: (a) in Mutriku, and (b) it was in April. A bit of Googling did indeed confirm the date to be Saturday April 2nd, but other than that (all the info’s in Basque) we knew no more than we did before (time, events, etc…).

Wanting to make the most of the day, we 3 Hounds headed off in the trusty Land Rover (Gertie) shortly after 8AM for Mutriku – a beautiful coastal drive that winds its way through the seaside towns  of Orio, Zarautz, Getaria & Deba. We started to get a bit worried as we entered Mutriku as we fully expected a bit of a traffic bun fight (we’d just driven through one in Deba due to a bike race) and a parking from Hell experience…but nada. Easy peasy. What’s up? Did we get this TOTALLY wrong?

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Mackerel Fest Evidence & A Few Of The Locals…

We had a good wander round the port and could see evidence that something was going to happen – but when? No posters were up anywhere, no crowds, no nothing. We decided to stay calm & have a couple of coffees in a picturesque town square which just happened to be by the tourist information office.

A quick consultation with a very helpful & friendly person @ the oficina de tourismo confirmed it was all happening – beginning at roughly noon (after all, it is Spain) the bars & tabernas would start offering FREE mackerel pintxos! There would also be music at one of the squares and some wee accordion marching bands. And it would all culminate with a mackerel BBQ at the port. When we headed back outside to the square, the scene had quickly changed to folks streaming in from every direction with the square filling up & the tabernas ready to go…

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Mackerel Pintxos – Free!!! From Top Right: Mackerel Slivers in Oil with a sprinkling of Vincotto; Mackerel, Mayo & Balsamic; Smoked Mackerel & More Mayo & Mackerel

Now Hound #2 is an almost rabid mackerel aficionado – if fresh mackerel is on ANY menu we come across, the mackerel is a done deal order. For me, not so much – I tend to find mackerel a wee bit too much of a fishy fish but hey, I am here at a mackerel fest, in a port town widely known for its very fresh fish – so taste I must. Wow – what a pleasant surprise…Hound #2 was a bit stunned that I actually ate far more mackerel than she did (she scolded me a couple of times for taking more than my ‘fair share’). I think the real key is the level of freshness, which makes all the difference – and fresh this mos def was.

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Fest Is Kicking Off In The Square….

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We All Join In….Even Billie!

Thanks Mutriku – we had a blast. We rated it a 9 out of 10 day out & we highly recommend the Mackerel Fest if you be in Spain, in April or there abouts.

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Insert Mackerel Pintxo Into Mouth, Sip Cerveza, Repeat…Billie Wonders When It’s His Turn.

And not to leave any options unexplored on such a gorgeous day, we made pit stop in Deba so Hound #2 could have a boogie board session, and then on to the Basque Geoparque Flysch Coast walk. Estupendo! Never knew rocks could look so cool…

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Basque Flysch Coast