Sipping Hot Chocolate in Mundaka, Spain

18th Dec 2013

Between the Basque cities of Donostia (the Euskara name for San Sebastian) and Bilbao on the Northern Iberian coast (in an area known as The Bay of Biscay) is a very famous surfing spot called Mundaka.  Mundaka is a sleepy sea side village with incredible waves.  Where the ocean meets the river mouth there is a very deep inlet and a picturesque little harbor. At the entrance, a very shallow sand bar catches big surf coming from the fierce North Atlantic. This is where some of the best surfing in Spain is found at the foot of ancient battlements and classic Spanish church.

My business partner and California native, Matthew Lansford is an avid surfer (pictured above at the outdoor flower market).  Every business trip we take to Europe, Africa, South America or the South Pacific he brings his surfboard in the hopes that one of our chocolate customers or suppliers is at a beach or near one.  When Matt heard we had business in Spain he very gladly helped arrange a side trip to Mundaka. 

If you are ever in this part of Spain I would recommend a visit to Mundaka.  Keep in mind your Spanish language skills won't help you as much as you thought in this part of Spain - this region really is autonomous. It has it's own language known as Euskara.  This Basque language is considered one of the oldest spoken languages in Europe with connections to the original Celtic language. But nobody really knows it's origin for sure.

If you decide you'd like to visit an off the beaten track place like Mundaka, I'd recommend you stay at the hotel we did: Hotel Mundaka ( http://www.hotelmundaka.com/ ).  This is a clean and quaint hotel with a super friendly staff and a robust wireless connection (needed if you are business travelers like us).  

Across the parking lot is a harbor side restaurant run by a local family.  The restaurant is called Asador Bodegon and they specialize in authentic rustic Basque style sea foods (salted grilled shrimp is a great choice). The restaurant owner's daughter Irune speaks several languages including English and is probably one of the best trip advisors around.  Irune can recommend the best plate of the day and she can also recommend the best scenic road to take to the most hidden spots around.  She's friends with all the locals and if you know Irune, then you know all the locals too. I found knowing someone like Irune to be a very helpful common sense thing to do whenever traveling in the "back woods" of the Pyrenees Mountains.

After dinner I recommend visiting the local Mundaka corner store and trying the most popular drinking chocolate in these parts: Taza to go by Valor.  It comes as a very thick liquid that you pour into a cup and heat.   It reminds me of a ready to drink semisweet chocolate ganache. Valor is a traditional Spanish chocolate company that was established in 1881 with an illustrious history of having connections to the smaller cacao orchards. Valor's drinking chocolate is sweet, slightly acidic with a slight touch of fruitiness (I bet Valor is using West African forastero cacao - probably from Ghana with a flavor like this).