Friday, 16 December 2011

172. St Jean de Luz out of season

16th December 2011. Yesterday Madame thought it would be a good idea if I took a break from my PC and so we drove down to St Jean de Luz in the afternoon. The car was registering a warm 17C (63F) and unlike in summer, parking at St J was a doddle. The Christmas tourists from Paris, Bordeaux or Toulouse have still to arrive so we had the town more or less to ourselves. We found the prime spot to leave the car on the sea front (normally unobtainium) and stepped up to the sea wall to look at the bay. What we saw stopped us dead in our tracks. Normalement, the bay is calmness itself and it's probably one of the safest places to bathe on the Côte Basque - but it was high tide and a raging surf was running right beneath us with rollers surging into the bay and breaking over the usually benign beaches.

Further north, there'd been a deep low pressure circulation out the Atlantic for some days and the onshore winds have been whipping up the Golfe de Gascogne (better known to us Anglos as the Bay of Biscay) with the result as described. Despite the fury of the sea, there were around 15 or so surfers out there braving the elements. Looking out beyond the breakwaters, towering grey rollers were rearing up high before breaking in a foamy turmoil - difficult to estimate how high they were but I would have said a minimum of 5 metres.. Quite a few other people were standing on the promenade - like us - transfixed by the spectacle. The normally flat horizon was jagged with these angry waves that were forming far out to sea. The breakwaters themselves were disappearing every few seconds in explosive welters of dazzling white foam. As we walked along the sea front I found myself stopping every few steps to have another look. The size and power of some of the waves out at sea beggared belief.. I'd like to have taken the car out on the Corniche (coast road) between St Jean de Luz and Hendaye to see if that celebrated wave at Belharra was running.  We took one last look before reluctantly stepping down a side street and heading down to the Place Louis XIV for a coffee. 
On days like this, St Jean de Luz was a real pleasure to be footloose & fancy free in.. There were only locals and the narrow streets were blessedly free of stop/start crowds. We selected a table at the Bar de la Marine which is, as the link says, ideally situated in the heart of the town centre for people watching. It's also right next to the inner harbour. Sitting there in the warm sunshine it was hard to believe that Christmas was only 10 days away and still not a bunga bunga party in my diary! (I jest of course!)    

While we're on the maritime theme, here's an old one from Christopher Cross: 
Haven't played Django for a while but this morning I caught this on TSF Jazz (have a listen here) - & thought you might like it. Here's the man with Hubert Rostaing on clarinet:

Right - back to work!

Later.. I've just been closing all our heavy wooden shutters at the rear of the house (that faces due west) as the forecast is for some strong winds during the night. At times like this I'm glad we had the place double-glazed. If we hadn't have had it done, it would have been one cold & draughty night here. As it is, by the time any stray gusts have found their way past the shutters (that are almost an inch thick), and past the double glazing, whatever force the wind had has been completely spent.

I don't usually comment on politics here but you would have had to have been living on another planet not to have heard about the latest spat between France and Britain.. Here's Matt's view of it all..!  

20th December 2011. If you know Bayonne, here's a short video of the town in 1900.. and it's completely recognisable from those far-off days. As you might expect, the pavement cafés spilling over into the road have gone but for the rest - well, see for yourself:
I spotted a Vacherin Mont d'Or lurking in the fridge yesterday.. ready for Christmas. Forget farmhouse cheddar, Stilton, American cheese or what have you - this is the king of cheeses. Made both in Switzerland and in France, there's everything you need to know about Vacherin (and many other cheeses) here. Here's a short video that shows how the Swiss do things:
I think I'm going to be pulling the plug here for a few days while we ingest an excessive amount of calories.. so to all of you out there in Blogistan, your correspondent wishes you a very Happy Christmas and good health in the New Year.. It's been an extremely busy few months for me with work and it looks as though the New Year will be more of the same. I'm enjoying it very much but when the warm weather returns I might be saying that through gritted teeth! So, away with you, go and wrap the dog or take your presents for a walk.. while I warm my feet by the fire we don't have.. 
Spare a thought for those who aren't as fortunate.. I'm looking for somewhere (like a childrens hospital or similar) in Bayonne to take a box of toys.. 
"Piperade Towers" is in fairly close proximity to the Law Courts in Bayonne and the road outside the house is heavily used for parking by members of the legal profession. We (the royal we) parked on the pavement outside our house a couple of months ago and picked up a 35€ parking ticket. Curiously, when the court is in session the pavements are full of Mercs, BMWs, Audis etc parked with two wheels up on the narrow pavement - the parking gods must be smiling on them as they never seem to attract the attention of the local police. Wonder if it's got anything to do with this sticker which they all display prominently on their windscreens? Surely not..! (Thinks: how can I print one off..?)

23rd December 2011. I heard a day or two ago that Cape Verde's finest export (perhaps its only one) - Cesario Evora - had died.. I featured one of her songs a year or two ago after we'd been given one of her CDs. 
This next one is probably her best known song:
Finally, let's end on a happy note:


POW16783 said...


Fantastic, wish I'd been there to see the sea. I love it when it's wild. Really don't have time to do a quick sea fix now before gay Paree. Will have to wait until Mar/Apr.

Piperade said...

That really was an unforgettable sight but it won't be the only time it happens this winter. It made us both thankful to have been on dry land!

Lesley said...

Don't want to p**s off the French too much or they might not sell us all the (nuclear) electricity that is required for cooking our goose.

Pipérade said...

Heh heh! Très drôle!☺

GFH said...

A belated Merry Christmas to you. I am finally catching up after what was the most wonderful 16 day vacation ever....seeing Bayonne and all the areas around it. I scavaged your blogs for tips and managed to get to many...the biggest problem was leaving to come home as I did not want to. I can readily understand why you like the area so much. Have a wonderful new year....looking to read more of your blogs. - GFH

Pipérade said...

I was wondering how you'd enjoyed the area.. I had a quick look at your daughter's blog the other day and she seems to be settling in well!
This area is very special to Madame and I and we're always content to return here if we've been away.
So pleased you had a good time - any plans for a return visit when it's warmer?
Best wishes to you and your family (inc. A!) for 2012.

Anonymous said...

Mis mejores deseos para 2012 y espero poder disfrutando de este magnífico blog.
Un saludo cordial. Ines

Pipérade said...

Mis mejores deseos para ti también un feliz y saludable 2012. Me alegro de que están disfrutando el blog ..