29th March 2011. We drove down to St Jean de Luz this afternoon for a quick chat with our new account manager at the bank. After running through all the details of our account we then talked about the cost of living down here. One of the major problems here for young people is that there's a mismatch between the salaries they earn and the ever-increasing cost of property. And renting is an expensive proposition here too. If that southern extension (from Tours to the Spanish border) of the special TGV track is finished as planned by 2020, it will open up the Pays Basque to a whole new group of people who could live here and commute daily to Bordeaux and beyond. And just as the locals have scraped together enough for a house, the prices will take another hike up and away from them. It's a hard world. Young Basques are forced to look further and further inland as the price of property on the coast soars out of reach. From a brief look at a few estate agents today, I would say that houses on the coast below 600,000€ are still few and far between. You can find them for less but, as always, there's a reason.
31st March 2011. Looked at the £/€ exchange rate lately? Ouch! The pound is lurking down at around 1.13€ this morning - but remember, this is the inter-bank rate - I'll be lucky to exchange at 1.11€. Not to worry though - as soon as I'm up, I'll be moving amongst you all jangling the loose change in my pocket, with an impoverished yet curiously expectant look on my face. Don't feel embarrassed - just give generously! Sounds like we're going to be back on the gruel diet!