Wednesday, 2 September 2009

12. Heavy date!

In mid-October we went to Biarritz for another lunch at Bar Jean, the place by the market in Biarritz we like very much, but when we got there, it was closed. Think it only opens between Thursday and Sunday now. So, we found another promising looking place ("Le Bistrot des Halles") also very close to the market that we’d been to once before and we dived in there as it was raining quite heavily. Luckily, it was still only just past twelve and we had our pick of where to sit but within minutes, the place filled up. There was a table of raucous "Angliche" women who were clearly on a mission to drain at least one European red wine lake.. and, judging by the noise, I reckon they were going to finish in the medals!

Here's the Buena Vista Social Club singing "Chan chan":

While the £8.50 fixed price menu of 3 courses was astonishingly good value (confit of duck) we decided to go 'off piste' and try the à la carte.. Madame had a collation of seafood to start with – mussels, thinly sliced raw fish, squid and some shellfish while I had a terrine of foie gras with some crusty country bread. This was just about the best I’ve ever had.. absolutely superb. Then for her main course Madame had monkfish with squid cooked in squid ink – she was given a huge piece of fish - while I had a similarly generous thick slice of tuna..

A revelation occurred one early morning as I was taking the dog out for his constitutional. I was just pushing up the steep lane when I had one of those epiphany moments (they don't happen often!). I suddenly realised that I was no longer answerable to anyone – I didn’t have to worry about finishing a report on time within the costs set by the customer, or worrying where the next piece of work was going to come from.. and that, after a lifetime of sometimes crippling mortgage payments, we were now mortgage-free. It was quite a moment.. I said to myself out loud, “I’m free, I've made it, I've retired..”

A fragment of a visit to St Jean de Luz in mid-October - wandering down through the town which looked beautiful in the strong sunlight – people sitting outside in cafes and no endless throngs of people on the pavements as there are in July & August. And not a cloud in the sky. After looking at the shops, we found our way to the front and we walked along there for a while before we stopped to have a coffee. There were people on the beach and even a few people swimming.. We sat back in our seats and felt the warmth of the sun beating down.. I think St Jean is really the place where we’d like to end up. It’s compact, level and there are all the shops you’d need plus the beach is just yards away. So after dinner, you could put a jacket on and go for a stroll along the front and watch the sun go down. We might look for a small flat there one day.. Think St Jean is the most expensive place of all though down here – but as always, there’s a reason. There's everything you need within a small radius there.
St Jean de Luz
We had one slightly surreal occurrence when we came home to the gîte one day - Madame D was outside her back door – in a touching tableau (!) – holding an entire dead chicken (complete with head, neck, legs, wings) by the feet over a portable gas ring burning off all the remains of feathers.. The chicken’s head was sitting in the flames while she had a conversation with us.. It seemed slightly shocking to me at first but then I realised that this is the unvarnished reality of country living. Just up the lane on the farm there’s a dung heap – and I haven’t seen one of those for a long time - that her chickens are always picking around. The cock is always standing on top of it. It must’ve been one of these that got the chop..!

Think this calls for a vat of wine..

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