Monday, 23 May 2011

145. Saint Pée and Hondarribia

21st May 2011. Had an outing this morning in an VIII - usually we take an VIII sculler out (with 2 sculls each), however this time we had an VIII set up for rowing.. ie, with one long oar each. Rowing, as opposed to sculling, is more technical and demands more in the way of precision from everyone if the boat is to be well balanced and pleasant to row in.. We had our moments! 14km today (Running total 700km).

Another difference between rowing in France and rowing in the UK - and I've been meaning to mention it for months - is that here in France the seats in an VIII are numbered from bow to stern from 8 to 1. In the UK (can't speak for the rest of the world) it's the other way around - thus, from bow to stern it runs from 1 to 8 - except that 1 & 8 are known as "Bow" and "Stroke" respectively. The habits of a lifetime die hard in the heat of the moment.. that's all I'm saying!

And - for any oarsmen reading this - here, they start from backstops which generally means the balance of the boat is compromised right from the start. It's much more difficult to balance a boat that's static when people start moving around. When I learnt to row we always started from frontstops.. Non-rowers here might think - what's all the fuss about?

According to this guide to rowing from Trinity College, Cambridge, octuples (an VIII sculler) and coxed quads are used only by children!

Sitting out on the terrace this evening with a pastis, there was the distant sound of the natives getting restless; yes, you've guessed it - the drums were back.. That haunting, hollow, slow rattle of drums which can set the hair on the back of your neck on end. A local band must be practising in advance of the Fêtes de Bayonne (there's an HD web cam running already). I was taking no chances though so I slipped silently off to the rifle rack - and took out my Westley Richards double-barreled .577-calibre Nitro Express elephant rifle and slid a few of the long brass cartridges into my shirt pocket before tiptoeing back to the terrace. I gently eased a cartridge into both breeches before closing the gun with a well-oiled click. My thumb rested on the safety catch and I slowed my breathing down as I waited in the shadows. After a few minutes there was a tell-tale crack of a twig.. and then.. I woke up! (Phew, that pastis must have been strong!)

23rd May 2011. Back home after a great day out yesterday with Y (our metronomic oarswoman!)(that's a compliment by the way!) and her friend M (un vrai Basque) at his house on the lake at Saint Pée.
They'd invited us over for a barbeque lunch (I'd forgotten to take the camera.) They had 2 huge côtes de boeuf (ribs of beef) waiting to go on the barbeque. 
No nook, cranny or crevice was left unstuffed as a continuous production line of food appeared briefly in front of us before it all vanished! We were supplied with enough vittles to suggest we were anticipating a long sea voyage in an open boat! A platter of Spanish jamon cut paper-thin with scoops of cantaloup melon, roast veggies, the côtes de boeuf, Basque cheese, a cherry clafouti and a coffee.. If you're not sure how to make a clafouti, it's all here:

All this accompanied by a very nice Bourgueil.. If you're going to drink red at lunchtime, there's none better. The more powerful reds of the South West would have your head nodding by 3pm..! A most memorable and delicious Sunday lunch..
Later in the afternoon, we drove down to Hendaye and took the little navette (ferry boat) across to Hondarribia in Spain. Y & M had wanted to show us the Parador (which dates from AD 980 - yes, 980 anno domini!) at Hondarribia but unfortunately there was a no dogs sign.. a great pity.. so we sat in the square (left) and had a drink. All in all, it was a lovely day out in good company. Needless to say, neither of us were hungry in the evening!

I've mentioned before here that one day I'd like to sit down to a meal composed entirely of different French cheeses - starting with mild ones before progressing through to the varieties that the smell of which are capable of stunning a medium-sized wart hog at 10 paces (such as a Livarot or a Munster) or that cheesy weapon of mass destruction - an Époisses de Bourgogne* - all served with wines to match. Well, I understand a similar experience is now possible.. at this place in Paris. Apparently there used to be a cheese restaurant called Androuët but I believe it's now closed. However, the name continues with the establishment of a number of cheese shops in the Paris region.

* Allegedly a cheese so smelly it is banned from being taken on public transport in France.

24th May 2011. Watched Something's Gotta Give last night - Jack Nicolson on top form!

25th May 2011. Heard this on the radio yesterday.. it's a piece my father could play beautifully:
Spent the afternoon cutting down 4 trees at the bottom of the garden that had grown wild and were crowding out the others.. then sawing up the branches before taking it all to the déchetterie (the tip). Hot work..

It's now 30° (86°F) on our west-facing terrace at 6.30pm.. and the dog is spread-eagled on the tiles in the house keeping cool. I'm thinking about joining him..! 

No comments: