Sunday, 8 April 2012

181. April showers in the Pays Basque

6th April 2012. Forecast for the morning is for rain, but as they often get it wrong for this corner of Aquitaine, I'll take a peek out of the windows in the morning to see if rowing is on the cards. As it's the first Saturday of the month, it's also the day for an apéro..

Haven't played any Chet Baker in a while so - to put that right - here he is with Almost blue:
And another - Around Midnight - the classic late night jazz track that Thelonious Monk made all his own - but played here by Chet:
7th April 2012. A good row this morning - had an outing in a mixed VIII and we did 14km.. Stayed on a bit longer afterwards as it was that time of the month (1st Saturday) for an attitude adjuster! Still haven't got used to drinking whisky at midday though.. Had a quick word with Perle Bouge who was there having a vigorous work-out on a rowing machine. She said she'll be going to the Olympics in July. In case you haven't read previous posts about her, she was involved in a road accident I believe when she was 19 and is now confined to a wheelchair. Despite that, she took up rowing a couple of years ago and won a Silver medal at the recent World Championships  in New Zealand. She has a fierce determination to succeed and I hope her efforts will be rewarded this summer.

I know I included this track by Amy Winehouse fairly recently but I make no apologies for putting it in again. She had one of the best female jazz/blues voices of my memory. Such a tragedy that her personal life spiralled out of control the way it did.

Jardin Public, Biarritz (in 2006)
10th April 2012. Situated opposite the magnificent old station (now the theatre) in Biarritz, the Jardin Public used to be a haven of 'coolth' and shade even on the hottest of wind-free summer days when the heat can sometimes wrap the Côte Basque in a clammy embrace like a warm damp blanket. The square was a leafy green enclave shaded by some mightily tall old trees and it was the perfect place to pause on a bench after lunch in the tranquil shade offered by the canopy high above. The dog enjoyed the respite from the hot pavements too and it wouldn't take him long before he'd be 'paws-up' on the grass having a snooze. There were some ancient cedars that spread their limbs out high and wide and others (chestnuts perhaps?) that I couldn't name to save my life. Here it is (left) as it was in 2006.

Unfortunately, a great storm screamed in out of the Bay of Biscay in January 2009 and it devastated the coast from the Pays Basque up as far as Bordeaux - flattening 60% of the endless pine forests of Les Landes. It wreaked havoc with these majestic old trees in the Jardin Public as can be seen here:

Here's a tree going down in that great storm.. 
Now, the Jardin Public has totally lost its former oasis-like quality, as the removal of the trees has exposed it completely to the relentless heat of the sun. While it's no longer possible to sit there in summer and unwind in the shade, it remains a favourite place at other times of the year. If we could afford a house (haha!) or, more realistically, an apartment in the centre of Biarritz, something around here would figure high on our wish list. 
12th April 2012. It's been a while since I've featured a Basque choir and one of the very best is Gogotik.. Here they are with some wonderful images of the Pays Basque:
This particular one by Gogotik sends a shiver through me:
I've been meaning to mention the Musée Basque (English site here) in Bayonne for some time.. It is a remarkable collection - I believe the largest collection of Basque artefacts anywhere - and no visit to Bayonne should overlook it. It starts off with simple displays of the pastoral life of the Basques and as you penetrate through to the upper floors the scope gradually widens until the full glories of the museum's contents are revealed. (By the way, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month).

I've previously mentioned here the emblematic painter Spanish Basque Ramiro Arrue who captured the stylised essence of Basqueness in his work to such an extent that his vision of the Pays Basque is still shared by many and it endures here to this day. Here's a two-part video about him:    

This next clip features some of the distinctive headstones that may be found in the cemeteries here. They're not sad places, lying forgotten under a few dripping yew trees with weeds rampant - they're kept spotless (like the rest of the Pays Basque) and provide another insight into Basque culture.   


Lesley said...

Re the shade. It's a wise shop management that creates shade in their car park. Our new supermarche has rows of parking with like bike shed covering. Mind you, it's going to be good for the sun - now it keeps some of the rain off.

Pipérade said...

It's strange how the removal of the trees totally changed the Jardin Public. Have to find somewhere else now! We haven't seen any shaded car parks yet.. good idea for summer though.