Friday, 31 December 2010

104. New Year's Eve aka St Sylvestre

31st December 2010. Phew..! We've been taking a break from the pleasures of the Christmas table since our visitors left on Tuesday. A whole slew of rich vittles have flowed under the bridge since I was last here in Blogistan but now we're closing the lock gates for a few days (after tonight!).

Last Monday we took our visitors to San Sebastian - they'd not been there before and they were both impressed by its style and the splendour of its baroque architecture. The weather was also favourable - think it was around 14-15°C and sunny.
After taking in a few of the grand boulevards and a stroll along the sea front of La Concha we went to the old part of town to - no prizes for guessing - Aralar (our fave!) for a few pintxos and a humungous sangria.

We were in St Jean de Luz a couple of days ago and the temperature was an almost sultry 21°C! We sat outside and enjoyed a drink in the sunshine.

Yesterday we had a phone call from Madame D from our old gite in Villefranque where we stayed for 5 months in 2007/8 when we first arrived.. She's kindly invited us for lunch this Sunday. Who says the Basques keep to themselves..?

Now all that remains is the question of finding a suitable New Year's resolution.. hmm.

1st January 2011. Happy New Year to all.. If you find yourself sitting in front of your computer today feeling just a tad jaded.. then here's something to take your mind off it for a few minutes. Often copied, never equalled - it's that memorable car chase from "Bullitt", featuring the late Steve McQueen. And if you tell me the downhill sequences don't have you hanging on to your desktop - I'm sorry, I simply won't believe you! Enjoy! (but don't blame me if you spill your Horlicks!) Edited to add: I've just read that Peter Yates has died..
Question du Jour: how many times does that green VW Beetle get overtaken..?

Django Reinhardt demonstrates his complete mastery of the Manouche guitar here aided by Stephane Grapelli on the violin:
The streets of Bayonne were almost entirely devoid of cars and passersby this New Year's morning when I wandered into the unusually quiet centre to find a baker who was open for business. All the usual suspects were closed so I started looking for someone, anyone, carrying a baguette. Among those like me in search of a baguette were a handful of hollow-eyed, rubber-legged revellers searching for that last elusive drink for lurching off home to bed. Spotting an old gentleman with a Basque beret with a baguette emerging from a side street, I found the only baker in town that was open.

There was a long queue - an uneasy mix of early birds and party animals - that stretched outside the shop and straggled across the pavement to the river's edge. Events took a comical turn for the worse when 2 young lads - who were almost "completely relaxed" - decided to provide an impromptu cabaret by joining the queue not at the end but at some point near the front. This provoked a masterclass in righteous indignation from various quarters and it wasn't long before voices were raised and fingers were being wagged. They were all still arguing as I picked up my bread and headed off for home. Happy New Year!

One of the shops we visit over the border in Spain has started stocking the Balvenie "Doublewood" 12 year old. What can I say except I'm tempted..! If you appreciate single malt whiskies but haven't tried this one I'd say it's never too late. To me it's right up there with the very best.
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Here's an enigmatic clip that's capable of many interpretations.. what would yours be?
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5th January 2011. Very sad news about Gerry Rafferty this morning. His timeless 1978 hit "Baker Street" encapsulated his experience of life in London - with that unforgettable soaring sax from Raphael Ravenscroft running through it... RIP Gerry.
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6th January 2011. Back out on the river in a coxless quad sculler this evening - there was a warm southerly wind blowing down the river and a glorious sunset. Had to remind ourselves that today was 6th January! Did 10km before dusk. (Running total = 343km) 

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