Thursday, 29 April 2010

60. Bidarray

29th April 2010. Somehow I don't think that the old English proverb 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' can apply here - even though the French have a similar proverb - 'En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît'. This translates as 'In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please'. Yesterday the thermometer (in the shade) on the terrace here showed that it was still 28C at 7pm..

We've been in shorts and t-shirts for a week now. And a couple of days ago we drove out to Bidarray which is  a typical rural Basque settlement.

Like nearby Saint Etienne de Baigorry, it's largely a scattering of farmsteads and hamlets. Entry to the village is via the old  Pont Noblia, built in the 14th century to allow pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostella access to the old 12th century priory in Bidarray. The centre of Bidarray sits on a plateau west of the main road along the valley of the Nive with Spain lying on the other side of the nearest hills 3 or 4 km to the west. The hills were sprinkled with a number of stunningly bright white Basque houses. 
The Church of Notre Dame has perhaps the best situated and best kept terraced churchyard I think either of us had ever seen.. If a graveyard can ever be called a happy place then this was a happy graveyard, with its grandstand view of the magnificent jagged green hills. Not a sad, damp, unkempt and gloomy place at all - but it had the feel of an auditorium in a very grand theatre - with the ancient 12th century church (some of the graves we saw dated back to the 17th century) at the focus of the surrounding green hills and mountains that were dotted with white farmhouses. Resting in peace here takes on a whole new meaning. The sky was a burning blue and the dog found a welcome drink from the churchyard tap. The tables and chairs of a small restaurant beckoned and after looking at the simple menu we decided to have lunch there in the remaining shade.

 
Our restaurant was under the trees just visible to the left of the church.
This is the Pont Noblia, the 14th century stone bridge over the Nive.
We could see many interesting looking paths on the surrounding hills and I think it won't be long before we return to explore some more.

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