As well-planned as they may be, every vacation has its surprises and sometimes the unplanned turns out to be the best. This was certainly true of our experience in Ezcaray, a visit brought about when we fell in love with the gorgeous mohair and wool blankets in our San Sebastián apartment. Early on the last day of our week there, I decided to ask our host where we might be able to purchase them thinking there was probably someplace nearby. He explained that these blankets could only be found in high-end stores at rather exorbitant prices none of which were in San Sebastián. He advised us to make a trip directly to the factory where we could acquire them for a mere fraction of the cost. Furthermore, he informed us that it was a beautiful drive and worth making even though it was located two hours south (back in the direction from which we had to come to arrive in San Sebastián). We looked at each other and said, “Well, what the heck? We’ve got the whole day.”
So off we went back through the truly breathtaking Basque Country to the tiny village of Ezcaray (pop. 2,000) that owes its fame to the amazing mantas (blankets) produced by the aptly named company of Mantas Ezcaray in business since 1930. Arriving at siesta time as we Americans often do, the factory was closed and were were “forced” to check out one of two stellar hotel and restaurant establishments in town, Palacio Azcárate. The small, intimate bar had an inviting tapas menu with some unique selections only costing 2-3€ each — prices and quality you often hear people talk about but never seem to find. We tried a few and they were delicious.
Eventually, it was time to head over to the factory. The entrance was adorned with a bench upon which several woven products were arranged enticing the visitor to continue inside even in the heat of summer. Our first encounter was an array of looms used in the weaving process. Then we moved on to the showroom where an extremely knowledgeable and helpful assistant was waiting to show us their wares. She brought out blanket after blanket laying them all out and explaining their various qualities. There were so many designs and colors to choose from that we were like the proverbial “kid in a candy shop”. Purchasing one or two is what I originally had in mind, but Norman had other ideas. As he pointed out, we were never going to be there again. So after much hemming and hawing trying to decide which ones we liked best… we ended up buying FIVE! We chose three large ones for our two beds (so we can alternate??) and two smaller “sofa-sized” ones for each of us to use when we cozy up in front of the TV during the winter. All tolled they added up to less than the cost of a single blanket in a retail store. What a deal!
Our assistant busied herself folding our beautiful new treasures into two gigantic plastic bags specifically created for their products. While she was doing that, we pondered how on earth we were going to get them home. Our San Sebastián host offered to ship them to us, but that would have meant leaving them behind with him and we weren’t sure how that would all work out. In the end, we decided to carry them along on our journey and figure it out later.
These have to be the biggest souvenirs ever, but fortunately, they don’t weigh much. That’s one of the beauties of these blankets. They are 73% mohair and 27% wool making them lusciously light and able to keep you warm or cool depending on the season. Just recently we purchased a large, lightweight, inexpensive suitcase which accommodated all five blankets perfectly. The cost of the suitcase plus the airline’s extra baggage charge will be totally worth it in order to enjoy them in our home for years to come. I know we will experience many comfortable nights and so many good memories every time we use them.