The first thing I remarked about the Basque region, was the prominence of the Basque language or Euskara. The major highway signs from Biarritz, France to San Sebastian, Spain were written first in Basque, and then in Spanish or French, depending. This was my first time seeing the language and when looked at, the Basque language had it's own font or typeface if you will, sort of Hawaiianish if you can imagine. The French or Spanish that followed was in "normal" print. And the Basque words were not at all recognizable. You know how you can kind of figure out Spanish, French, Italian and even German if you had to? Well there was no figuring out this Euskara. It was full of mysterious letters like x's, k's and z's.
Later research (internet browse) revealed that the Basque language, Euskara is considered a language isolate, meaning it has no language relatives, and it is the only pre-indo european language. Well, well. No wonder it was so FOREIGN to me, "kaixo" meaning "hello" and "zer modez?" meaning "how are you?"
A few days after arriving, I met a Basque man named Pierrot and he spoke a few words to me. It's like nothing I've heard. It doesn't sound French or Spanish which is weird because it's been surrounded by these languages for centuries. And isn't that kind of cool, to actually meet someone named Pierrot (who was in fact wearing a black beret)? Before this encounter, Pierrot was the clown all in white who is mentioned in the French folk song, Au Clair de la Lune. I never suspected that anyone would have the name, not that it can't be a serious name, too.
So, my first impressions of Basque country, in addition to the lush green hills decorated with timbered frames houses, were of the interesting highway signs, of which I wish I had a picture to show. Actual pictures of the area to follow.