Wednesday, 2 September 2009

10. Signs of Autumn

So, looking back, we did amazingly well (and were extremely lucky) to have found a house so quickly. Bearing in mind we arrived on 1st September, we managed to sign the Compromis de Vente to buy the house just ten days later.

We’re well on the way to sorting out the new kitchen & bathroom, we’ve got the social security sorted out for our health care, we’ve got the car all done and dusted now with French registration, insurance and a new number plate.

There’s a rowing club in Bayonne that we pass every day on the way into town – when the dust has finally settled I’ll probably join as I understand they have a veterans section.. (hard to believe I qualify for that but there we are). The Adour is very wide at this point and there’s very little traffic on it. I’ve seen an eight out on the water as well as a few sculling boats. André, our friendly Basque bank manager has threatened to take me to watch Bayonne rugby club and then go for a few beers afterwards..! There’s a lot going on around here – it seems to be a very active area for all sorts of things. There’s a big jazz festival here in Bayonne every summer which used to attract big names like Ray Charles (didn’t he die just recently or am I imagining that?), and cinemas that show films in English, guided tours around the towns, rambling trips in the countryside and everywhere there are cycle paths (so we can finally get the bikes out).

One Saturday evening, we were invited down for drinks with M and Mme D.. It was still warm and we sat outside. He had a bottle of pastis, a bottle of home-made pineau and a bottle of malt whisky on the table. He speaks French with an accent so strong you could lean on it..! At one point he was talking about his love for his land, his farm and his animals and his eyes clouded with tears.. In their parlour, there is a unit along one wall and the top is covered with trophies and cups from his successes at breeding champion Blondes Aquitaines - the breed of cattle local to this area. The Basques have a visceral attachment to their 'Pays'. Madame D served us some home-made paté and Madame was directed towards the pineau while I had three industrial strength whiskies… we had a good laugh with them. M’sieur D was feeding Chibby paté by the end of the evening.. I’m told that I snored heavily that night!

Most Sundays we go back to 'our' village to have lunch at Bernadette & Philippe's restaurant. They’re so kind to us there.. As soon as we sit down, they offer us an apéritif.. don’t think that would happen too often in the UK. Or anywhere else for that matter.. They really spoil us.

Back to re-decorating - curiously, paint is very expensive here. If we’d known, we could have brought some over in the van with us but then we didn’t think we’d find a house as quickly as we did. We’re both still surprised at what we managed to achieve in the first month.

I took the dog up the lane one evening at the beginning of October just as the light was fading – aka l'heure bleue.. The sky was cloudless apart from some high contrails that were orange in the setting sun. There was not a breath of wind and it was absolutely still. Sound carried for miles in a way you seldom if ever experience it in England. I could hear a dog barking from waay off in the distance.. The lane is lined with oaks, a couple of tall Scots pines and a sprinkling of palm trees.. The leaves on the oaks were just starting to take on the suggestion of a yellow tinge. Every now and again, there was the sound of an acorn hitting the road as it fell down from on high. You got the feeling that autumn was just starting to make its presence felt – although on Sunday, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, all the trees were still fully green. According to M’sieur D, there are wild boar around here as well as foxes, deer, pheasant and rabbits. On Sundays you can hear the guns as they go hunting.

Sit back for a moment and relax with these beautiful images of La Rhune and the Pays Basque accompanied by the distinctive voices of a Basque choir.
video
One evening, Mme D brought Madame a carrier bag full of fine green beans. We had some that same evening with a little steak.. mmm.. very tasty. The problem with all the many plans for the house we had running was that if I woke up in the wee small hours, it was impossible to get back to sleep. I woke up at 3am one morning and after that, I just lay there for what seemed hours, unable to get back to sleep for thinking about bathrooms, tiles, timescales, painting, who should do what first, kitchens, where things would go in the house when the removals lorry finally came here..

We used to wonder what Biarritz, St Jean de Luz and Bayonne would be like in the off season.. Well so far, the only sign that things are slowing down is that it’s a little easier – but not that much - to find a parking space. We were worried that in moving to a tourist area that everything would be closed up for the off season. So far that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Bon continuation..!

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