One advantage of traveling in a van is the freedom of moving your entire “home” and setting it up somewhere new. The morning brings a different feel to each location. Some are incredible. Some, not so much. I always enjoy pulling up to a place in the evening, unsure of where the best place is to park, only to wake up and realize you’ve hit the jackpot. One of the best surprises was waking up in Espelette, France. I had heard of its wonder through other travelers, but had yet to see it for myself.
Espelette sits at the base of the Pyrenees mountains, a range that spans the southwest of Europe. The Pyrenees creates a natural border between France and Spain, so it was an easy decision to take the road into the hills. It is not very often that we travel inland, as surfing is always the focus, but Espelette was well worth the waveless days.
We drove through the town and parked in the first parking lot we found in town, it was pitch black aside from one street light. When we woke up, we saw where we were, a beautiful spot right next to a field of the famous red peppers.
Espelette is known for its knack for delivering the best red peppers in the region, every building hangs them from their rafters, windows and doors all summer and autumn to dry them out. I naturally took out my camera and took around 200 photos in 2 hours.
We had just missed the annual festival that honored the Espelette Pepper by a few days, but the town was still in a festive mood and overflowing with chili spiced everything, including chocolate, cheese, meats, breads, oils, wines, sangrias, liqueurs, jams and jellies. If you can infuse it: the French did it with style and spice.
The town was quite small and pleasant to walk through. Views of the Pyrenees and far away farmlands with roaming sheep were the norm, red peppers adorned each building, and French and other European visitors seemed just as delighted as I was.
Small cobblestone streets throughout the town just beg to be discovered. Between the bakeries, chocolate shops, specialty wine and spirits and butchers, you could feast your way through Espelette three times over.
I honestly meant to take more pictures of the food, but it was so delicious that the moment I bought it, it was on its way out of the world. Dark chocolate with black cherries and pepper flakes, goat cheese with chili spices, chili jams and sausages, it all disappeared too soon. I took a few snaps with my iPhone, but nothing compares to actually tasting it yourself. So hop on the plane, train or bus and get to Espelette.