Sunday, 16 May 2010

61. Tourist week

15th May 2010. This week, we had M here for a few days. She's an old friend of Madame's and our first visitor of the year. After the unexpected heat of April (up to 28), the clouds and rain returned and the temps dropped down to 10-12C.. Brrr! We thought M was going to be in for a rough time but the weather gods smiled on her as the skies cleared and on Monday last it was 24.. We gave her our patented lightning 2 day tour of the Pays Basque.. On Monday morning I showed her around the narrow winding streets of Bayonne while Madame was at her painting class. As M's yet another fully paid up member of the Chocaholique Club (show me a woman who isn't!) I thought I'd take her to the legendary établissement Cazenave under the arcades in the Rue Port Neuf for a hot chocolat à l'ancienne served in porcelain de Limoges. But, I'd forgotten it was Monday and, like quite a few other shops in town, it was closed. This is what she missed:

Cazenave make their own chocolate and it is really the Rolls Royce of chocolate.


We ended up having a cappucino here - sitting outside the Hotel de Ville in the sunshine.
Following this, we wandered through the quiet Monday morning streets of town, stopping only at the cathedral where we walked around its ancient honeyed stone cloisters before returning home for lunch.. In the afternoon we drove down to St Jean de Luz where someone had clearly just opened a fresh box of pensioners as the streets were full of strolling baby boomers.. We must have reduced the average age of people in town by 10 years.. (maybe!)
The clock was ticking and so we upped sticks and moved up the coast to Biarritz. Walking along the promenade the temperature must have been around 24 at least.. it felt like summer was with us again.

The next day we headed inland under grey skies (ouf!) to show M some of the delights of the Pays Basque such as St Etienne de Baigorry, St Jean Pied de Port and Ainhoa (one of the most beautiful villages in all of France). St Jean Pied de Port is on the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain. After walking through the timeless streets of St Jean Pied de Port, M was kind enough to treat us to lunch at the Hotel Ramuntcho. This is a classic French family-run restaurant and the reasonably priced lunch was delicious. After this we set off for the valley of Les Aldudes (which I've mentioned before). Unfortunately, it was still quite misty up there and the true splendour of the mountain scenery was largely hidden. Ainhoa was next and it's a village which, at the height of the season, is an absolute tourist honey-pot. It's almost a stone's throw from the Spanish border and it seems a long way from Calais! We found an old cafe that looked as if it hadn't been altered for 100 years and had a coffee and found space for a piece of Gateau Basque.
  
Here's a classic track from Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton. I don't think she got the recognition her voice deserved.. her voice is pitch perfect and has a clarity all of its own.  

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