Tuesday, 18 January 2011

108. Espadrilles

18th January 2011. At the end of yesterday afternoon, it was still bright and sunny so we went down to the beach at Anglet. Walking from the car park we could hear the sound of a heavier than usual surf breaking on the shore. Mountainous waves from somewhere out in the Atlantic were rearing up to crash into the breakwater with a massive whumph that could be felt through the feet.. The sea was dazzlingly white with foam and there was a crispness in the air that tasted clean and salty.
The late afternoon sun slanted through the golden haze that hung over the beach.. Spent waves - so high and threatening a hundred yards away - faded away to nothing on the sloping beach. The dog yelped with pleasure as he chased himself in lazy circles in the sand. Happy days!

If you're visiting the Pays Basque for the first time, it won't be too long before you notice that rope-soled shoes - espadrilles - are extremely popular. Classic summer wear down here, they are available in styles to suit all tastes, and they are very practical, fairly cheap, comfortable, lightweight, easy to pack and easily dried if they get wet.

Old-time smugglers reportedly preferred them (for their silent qualities) as they crossed the Pyrénées and certainly Florentino Goicoechea, the legendary Basque guide for the WWII Comet Line, (mentioned elsewhere here) used to make sure that all his escapees wore them.

They can be bought online in every style, colour and price imaginable from a number of suppliers: here here here here & here (in Mauléon), here (St Jean de Luz), here (Bayonne) and here (64120 Beyrie sur Joyeuse) and many other outlets.   

Lomo is another speciality of the Pays Basque and is served widely.. I believe it was originally a Spanish dish but it's been well and truly adopted on this side of the border. Lomo is pork fillet that's been rolled in <George Clooney voice> what else! - powdered piment d'Espelette - then sliced thinly before being either fried in a pan, or preferably cooked on a plancha, with what looks like red peppers here:
I came across this video the other day - it reminds me of the 5 months we spent in the gîte when I only had the one book to read. Fortunately, it was Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa", which I read 2-3 times while there. The quality of the writing would be a remarkable achievement for anyone whose mother tongue was English - that the author was Danish makes it all the more impressive. As a description of a land and its peoples it has few equals. Highly recommended if you haven't read it.

The one thing that spoils the dreamlike flying sequence is when Streep's character asks, "When did you learn to fly?" to which Redford responds, "Yesterday."..!

The scale of this part of Africa is something that appeals to me - the vast plains stretching into the immeasurable distance with the distant blue of the Ngong hills in the background. One day perhaps.

Postscript to my visit to the dentist the other day: we talked about San Sebastian and he said he thought it was the most beautiful city in the world. I'd not thought of that before but it's certainly right up there. I asked myself - which city/town is more beautiful..? Paris has to come into it somewhere. Where else? Don't be shy.. use the comment facility at the foot of this post. I'd be interested to hear other points of view. Here's a reminder - sit back and enjoy this swooping helicopter ride over the city - it starts at 1:19..

Meanwhile, à propos of nothing, I read today that Starbucks in the US is launching its new 31oz serving size for coffee and iced tea.. to be known as the Trenta.. That's just shy of a litre..! And where the Trenta goes, surely a Quaranta can't be far behind! A bargain bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a gorilla-sized portion of fries and a Trenta. What more do you want? Apart from a Hershey bar.. (and an oxygen tent!)

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