Friday, 3 January 2014

211. Looking forward to 2014

3rd January 2014. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I'd like to wish you health and happiness in 2014.

Here's something not to be tried after eating a Christmas pudding..! Yes, it's Course Landaise - an ancient form of bullfighting that doesn't involve any bloodshed (no bandilleros or swords). The president of the association I belong to is heavily involved in this sport and has threatened to take me along to one of his events this year. Apparently the dinners afterwards are something special..☺

Previously, we've seen a few Courses de Vachettes.. which is something of a misnomer as these cows bear zero resemblance to anything you might have seen on a farm, placidly chewing the cud..   
No, these "vachettes" come from the same stock as Spanish fighting bulls and are lightning quick on their feet and will charge anything at the drop of a hat. They weigh between 250-300kg (about half that of a fighting bull) and they don't produce milk. 

When all goes well:
And then there are days like this!

This is what I like to see..!☺
I think I've mentioned the pilgrimage walk to Santiago de Compostela here before but perhaps only in passing. The full story is here.
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

For anyone contemplating walking the "El Camino" to Santiago de Compostela, it strikes me that these lines from The Golden Journey To Samarkand are very appropriate:

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea..

A curious ritual takes places within the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela - the swinging of a large container - or Botafumeiro - of incense.. (go to 01:30 to see the start)   

From Wiki:
A dome above the crossing contains the pulley mechanism to swing the "Botafumeiro", which is a famous thurible found in this church. This thurible was created by the goldsmith José Losada in 1851. The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is the largest censer in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral, but during certain important religious high days it is attached to the pulley mechanism, filled with 40 kg of charcoal and incense. In the Jubilee Years, whenever St James's Day falls on a Sunday, the Botafumeiro is also attached in all the Pilgrims' Masses. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes and bring it into a swinging motion almost to the roof of the transept, reaching speeds of 80 km/h and dispensing thick clouds of incense. One explanation of this custom, which originated more than 700 years ago—although incense has been used in Catholic ritual from the earliest times—is that it assisted in masking the stench emanating from hundreds of unwashed pilgrims.

If you've been fortunate enough to have visited the Pays Basque (and if not - why not!), you will surely remember that tuna is a popular dish here. If you've ever wondered how they are caught, wonder no further!
This is fishing as you've never seen it before!

Sunday, 5th January. I came across these lines of W.H. Auden (from "Good-Bye to the Mezzogiorno") this morning..

Out of a gothic North, the pallid children of a potato, beer-or-whisky Guilt culture..

Think there's something in this.. certainly as far as the pleasures of the table are concerned.

Monday 6th January. Sometimes it appears that people can't be saved from themselves. This clip shows the mindlessness of a young man in the face of major waves on Saturday 4th..
This was the scene a day later after two people were swept away by an unusually large wave near the lighthouse at Biarritz. They'd disregarded barriers and warning notices and were watching the spectacular seascape from a closed off vantage point when a rogue wave came along.. I believe the man managed to escape after 20 minutes in the water but his female companion was not so lucky - her body was found a few days later.
I forgot to mention that I went down to the river on Saturday morning for the first outing of the New Year. We took an VIII out that was missing (for reasons unknown) stroke's riggers.. so we went out as a VII.. As the boat was rigged for sculling (ie, with 2 sculls each) it was no problem. However, once out on the water we faced the strongest current I can remember and a significant headwind. The upshot of all this was that we progressed upstream at little more than walking pace. Instead of the usual chatter in the boat (which was streng verboten when I was at school!) we all fell strangely silent as we bent to our task (made all the more difficult by the thousands of extra calories that had been freely ingested during the preceding 2 weeks!) What's that expression? No pain, no gain..? It was never truer than on this morning in early January.

Friday 10th January. The giant wave at Belharra has been active these last few days..

In the following clip, watch the sequence from 02:45...!

Slideshow here. One wave around midday had the power to break 6 (yes, six!) surfboards.. (Dirty Harry's famous quote springs to mind here: "You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?")
This link to an article in the Sud Ouest (local daily) also has a good video.

Aux 3 B
We went to Biarritz yesterday for a retail experience (please - not therapy, never!) and as lunchtime approached, I remembered a new bistrot I'd spotted the other day conveniently located in the Avenue de Verdun (2 mins from the Place Clémenceau in the centre of town). It's Aux 3 B (the former bistrot Ahizpak) and it's run by the genial Freddy Verdoux. It appears that it has only been open for a few days - these small places come and go - but we tried their 15€ lunchtime menu. A garlicky salade aux pleurotes with some parmesan shavings, then a faux filet and frites maison - this really hit the spot! - and then a crumble (v fashionable!).. As they say here - an excellent rapport qualité prix. Despite it only having been open for a few days, it was well patronised by locals and it filled up rapidly. A useful and friendly address to remember.    


Lesley said...

Thanks for your good wishes for the New Year.
I watched Mark's Trek (over my three days) and enjoyed it. On hols. last year we went to wet St Jean Pied de Port, but did not realize it was along a stretch of The Walk. We have one of what could be many parts going through our local town Ste Foy la Grande.
In the interest of honesty I have to admit, I did not watch the bulls being teased.

Pipérade said...

The "bulls" are actually cows - but they're not cows as we know them. These have a wild streak and they seem to enjoy chasing eejits around the ring - they certainly give as good as they get!
I'm an animal lover too and I can assure you that no blood is shed at all.. Each cow does only a few minutes in the ring before being changed for another one.