Wednesday, 30 June 2010

67. Anniversaries

29th June 2010. I think someone was trying to tell us something..! Today we planned to have lunch out to celebrate a major marital milestone.. This clip is more or less how we met!
We thought we'd try our favourite - Bar Jean in Biarritz (mentioned before here) - as the seafood there is always good - and fresh - and there's always a vibrant atmosphere..
However, when we arrived outside, despite 1st July being only days away (start of French holiday season) it was unaccountably closed.
Plan B clicked instantly into action.. This entailed a quick trip down to St Jean de Luz to the open air cafe that operates adjacent to the covered market there - but only when the market has finished for the morning. Again, seafood as fresh as can be - never had a bad meal there and it's great for people watching. Horrors! At 12.55 the market was still in full swing and no sign of his tables and chairs being set out..

No worries - Plan C was launched. This was to try Chez Pantxua in Socoa - just the other side of the bay.. the seafood is the best in the region (IMHO) and there is a fine selection of Basque art (inc. work by the noted Ramiro Arrue) on the walls inside:
Ten minutes later we were staring disbelievingly at the row of restaurants at Socoa - one of which was closed. No prizes for guessing which! 

We looked at all the menus from its neighbouring restaurants before finally settling on one establishment. (no names!). We were shown to a table outside in the welcome shade and there were 2 menus on the table. Within a few minutes we'd decided what we wanted - Madame's selection was gambas followed by lotte (monkfish) while I chose the salade Landaise and the paella - and then we waited and waited for someone to come and take our order. Finally, a waitress turned up. Oh, it turned out that the lotte was off - no more left - so Madame asked for the sole. Also off! So she chose the fish soup. We sat and waited again. And waited some more. The waitress didn't return to ask if we'd like an apero - which we did - nor did she return to put some water or bread on the table. Everything was telling me that we should just get up and leave.. I don't make a habit of this - in fact, I don't think we've ever done it but this time I was getting more and more agitated.. Finally we managed to catch the eye of another waitress to ask for a wine list.. and to order some aperos while we were at it - a kir for Madame and a pastis for me. Ten minutes later, she returned with 2 kirs. Ye godfathers..

When the food arrived, it went from bad to worse.. my salade Landaise was awash in almost neat olive oil; Madame's gambas floated in an oily sauce that BP would have been proud of; her fish soup was watery and my paella was sponsored by BP as well.. Without boring you with all the details, suffice to say that, for the rest of the day, we both felt rotten. What was that about the best laid plans of mice and men..? This was the first time - in 3 years of living in France and in 20 years of visiting the region - that we've had this kind of experience. All we can think is that perhaps the restaurant in question had recruited unsuitable staff for the season.

Here's a short clip that starts in St Jean de Luz before settling on Ciboure and Socoa across the bay.. and, as a bonus, it's accompanied by the haunting voices of a Basque choir.. (eat your hearts out, Men of Harlech!)
30th June 2010. While Madame was in town, I decided (perhaps not 100% true!) that the windows needed cleaning; the stairs, the living room and the dining room carpets needed vacuuming; the front path needed sweeping and the dining table needed waxing (I threw the last one in as a freebie).. I worked myself into a lather in the morning heat accompanied by this playing in the background: 
 
More music for a summer's day:
1st July 2010. Up early this morning - swimming things on - and down to the beach at Anglet before the sun climbed up too high. We stayed there for 1½hrs and very pleasant it was too. I'd recently started re-reading Peter Mayle's "Hotel Pastis" again, his amusing and enjoyable tale about an adman opening a hotel in the Luberon, and I finished it there on the beach this morning. In re-reading the book, I was reminded of the sheer awfulness of the BBC TV series "A Year in Provence" with the late John Thaw in the lead role. I watched about 5 minutes of it once when it was first transmitted in 1993 before switching it off. I can only imagine how Peter Mayle must have cringed and squirmed with embarrassment when presented with such a steaming and odiferous adaptation of his work. This was banal television at its most banal. And while never a fan of John Thaw, his selection for the Peter Mayle role was a piece of mis-casting on a truly epic scale. The series is available on YouTube.. I tried watching it again just now and it's still every bit as turgid as I remembered. It has every cliché in the book.. The first scene in France is accompanied by... guess? An accordion playing in the background and cicadas..? Well done! How the humour and sureness of touch of this genuinely funny and enjoyable book was transformed by the dead hand of the BBC into this 33 carat dross remains one of life's little mysteries. Watch it and weep.. (I couldn't watch any more and stopped it at around 6:40..)
    
A mega-yacht belonging to one of the world's mega rich was moored at the bottom of the road this morning. It's the very distinctive-looking "Skat" - it comes with its own colour co-ordinated helicopter (natch!) - and it belongs to an extremely wealthy former Microsoft software engineer (is there any other kind?). All that money from ones and noughts - I guess the tricky bit is putting them in the right order..! 
This was a few evenings ago down on the beach at Anglet looking west:
And finally, Wendy Carlos performing Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G-Major (I-Allegro) on a Moog synthesiser.. (pity this is ingrained into everyone's memory as the old "Antiques Roadshow" intro..) I prefer the electronic version:
Here's the same piece played on conventional instruments:
So - which one does it for you?

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