9th May 2011. As I walked into town early yesterday morning to the bakers I noticed activity around the huge War Memorial that's set into one of the old ramparts that encircle Bayonne.
There was someone setting up loudspeakers and microphones - I asked him what was happening and he reminded me that it was 8th May - ".. la fin de la guerre." - I'm ashamed to say I'd forgotten. Waiting in the shade across the road, there were a few old soldiers in their kepis and berets in their be-medalled blazers proudly holding their old standards. Those old links and bonds with the tragic history of Europe are still evident - 66 years on.
Long time (or long suffering) readers of this blog may recall I once wrote a post about the sound of the cimbalom.. Well, it started off as a post about the cimbalom but it ended up as a homage to Le Grand Mayeur, a fabled and unique institution in Brussels that's sadly now closed (more details at the above link). I was browsing on YouTube earlier and I came across this great interpretation of Vivaldi´s Concerto in C for cimbalom, 1st movement - I hadn't realised up until now that anyone had tried to play the cimbalom with more traditional instruments. I think it shows that the cimbalom can stand comparison with classical instruments as it's accompanied here by a harpsichord, double bass, cello and violins (all being played pizzicato):
Here's the 2nd movement - apparently, this concerto was originally written for mandolin, strings & continuo. I've read the link for continuo ( a new word to me) and I'm none the wiser..! The absence of a non-musical education shines through yet again!
10th May 2011. Just back from letting the dog take me for a walk around town. Looks as though the summer season has started. There was a group of Spanish pensioners receiving a guided tour of the old ramparts; couples with street maps, back packs and cameras; obvious tourists wandering slowly looking all around them and, of course, the street people. There was one this morning who caught my eye - she was standing on a street corner in the centre twirling a long scarf as if she was trying to shake a knot out of it. Then I saw the bowl on the ground with a few coins in. A bit of a minimalist act I thought..
The walk took us through the well-maintained gardens that have been laid out in the spaces between the ramparts.
Here's a view of Grande Bayonne that shows how compressed all the building in the old town centre had to be due to the surrounding ramparts. The confluence of the Adour and the Nive can be seen at the top:
Much remains of the old fortifications - here's one of the entrances into the town, still in daily use:
Bayonne is justifiably proud of its "green" credentials and the town operates a free transport system known as the Navette (shuttle) - these electrically-powered buses circulate continuously at frequent intervals in and around town and are a great boon to elderly shoppers.
Another free mode of transport provided by the town are these bikes - known as Velibs (the French love abbreviating words!) and this comes from Velo Libre (free bike):
There are a great many cycle lanes around town and it's possible to ride along the banks of the Adour and the Nive - which is something we like to do.
Another lovely warm sunny evening out on the river tonight. Had an outing in a beautiful Swiss-built coxed quad sculler and the slanting sunshine made the most of its honey-coloured varnished wood. I derive more pleasure of rowing in a boat like this compared to a carbon fibre boat - OK, a carbon boat is lighter, stiffer etc etc but next to a fine shell four like the one we were in tonight, a carbon boat looks like something for holidaymakers.. Did 11km (Running total: 662km).
11th May 2011. Most mornings when I walk into town I pass the same café that has a few tables on the pavement. More often than not, there are 3 well-upholstered gents of retirement age sitting outside wearing leather jackets covered in badges, each with a small cup of coffee (in the French style - small, strong and guaranteed to inhibit the blinking reflex for up to 3 days).