Sunday, 4 September 2011

164. September in the Pays Basque

2nd September 2011. Four years ago to the day, we were unwinding in the gîte after the long trek down to the Pays Basque in our rented van. It felt strange to be actually realising our dream of moving here - something we'd long dreamed of doing. Can't believe it was four years ago.. the time has just gone like whooosh.. Can't believe it..

September is probably the best time of the year to visit this beautiful corner of France.. The main summer tourist invasion has come and gone and the storms of August are usually followed by a couple of months of settled weather - often in the mid 20s - which is just nigh on perfect weather for sightseeing.

I found this photo the other day of La Rhune in the mist. It's an image that captivated us from the very beginning.
Thought for the day: "If you see a French driver indicating, you're looking at someone who is wondering why his windscreen wipers aren't working.."

3rd September 2011. Four years ago today I was returning the rented van back to England. I remember leaving the gîte at 7am and setting off northwards and, after a long 1400km (870 miles) drive, I arrived back at our village to the west of Malvern at 11pm. To be honest, I wasn't tired - and being alone I could concentrate on the driving, stopping only when essential. Not something I want to make a habit of though.

14 km on a very wet morning down on the river - (Running total: 957km). It rained from start to finish but it was warm rain and it kept us cool.. (said he - desperately trying to think of the positives!) and I returned home at the end of it like a drowned rat.

4th September 2011. The sun has just risen above the buildings opposite and everything is bathed in a warm yellow light. It looks like we're all set for a good day. Our friends from Nantes arrived yesterday and this morning we'll take them to the Musée Basque here in Bayonne and then this afternoon we'll go for a bumble around Lac Mouriscot (left) at Biarritz. It always surprises me how few people we meet walking around the lake - even at the height of the season - but I'm not complaining.

There are some very desirable properties that front onto the lake here - tucked discreetly into the trees. 
Yesterday the boulevards around Bayonne echoed to the musical howl of multiple Ferraris as the local Ferrari owners club staged their annual open day at the Place de Basques. A small crowd was salivating over the display of around a dozen of Maranello's finest - all but one in the famous Ferrari blood red. Even stationary, they exuded speed, menace and yes, money.. lots of it. Here's a clip of a few Ferrari aficionados (and a couple of Lotuses) savouring the rasp of their engines on the winding hills of the Pays Basque (on the Spanish side I think):
5th September 2011. Here's an interesting and informative short film about the stone that Bayonne is built from. Keep an eye out at 03:05 for a glimpse of Cazenave - one of the great chocolatiers. Madame's current favourite is Pariès.. Pariès chocolates are to other chocolates as Ferraris are to all other cars.. (available online too)
6th September 2011. We went to Pasajes San Juan (map here) in Spain this morning.. It lies just to the east of San Sebastian and it has one of the best natural harbours I've seen. 
Pasajes San Juan
What was an old fishing village has been transformed into a modern port but the old village is still extremely quaint and charming. We found a fish restaurant (Casa Camara) which opened for lunch at the Spanish time of 1.30pm.. & people were still coming in for lunch at 3pm. Madame had merlu (hake) à la plancha and I had langostinos in garlic butter (gambas à l'ail) with a bottle of Portuguese Vinho Verde which was very refreshing. My langostinos were about the size of a baby's arm!
The dining room looked out on the narrow channel that led to the open sea.
Live lobster were kept in this cage which was raised up from the sea underneath the dining room so they were kept fresh.
Definitely somewhere to try again..

A number of small boats act as ferries between the two banks. Give your Spanish a work-out with this clip from Spanish TV - or just enjoy the pictures. The restaurant we tried is featured at 02:32..

Tight fit!
And to finish off with, here's a link to a handful of film clips that examine how they cook in the Basque region..


John said...

Hi Geoff

It was very good to meet you at the weekend.
The hike was good (the weather on Sunday was forgiving !) and the ceremonies were moving as always.

Just looking at your last entry, we actually walked into San Juan after the hike in 2009. It's a beautiful place.

If you took any footage of the singing in Astigarraga, it would be great to see it. You may be able to view my e-mail address - if not, I can send it to you.

Take care and best regards


Pipérade said...

Great to meet you too John.. You're ahead of me - I'm still sorting out all my pics, clips and notes and emails resulting from the weekend. I took 6 clips at the Cidrerie but they range from 250Mb to over 500Mb each - plus on most of them some eejit (me!) is droning away in the background. I've uploaded the only one that doesn't have me on it to YouTube and that's in the draft of the next blog post.
I'll try and get the first cut finished and out this evening.
Best wishes