Tuesday, 15 March 2016

229. Up in the clouds

28th March. I came across this image (as you do) by happenstance.. I like to think of it as natural justice in action..

"Right, gentlemen, which one of you was clapping?"
I have little sympathy (as in absolutely zero) with anyone finding themselves in this position!

This afternoon we went to Salies-de-Béarn to see Art en Vrac - an art exhibition that was taking place in many different locations across the village.

Before talking about the art, it should be said that the village is undeniably picturesque and well worth a visit.. Totally different style of building compared to what we see in the Pays Basque.

To me, there was one stand-out artist -  NabARus (it's how she spells her name) - whose work was not only head and shoulders above any other work we saw today but also above anything we've seen for a very long time. The range of her work reflected an original eye, an astonishingly creative mind and a command of colour and technique. More here and here.

This (below) was a large portrait that caught my eye.. I found myself returning to it again and again.. Reduced to this size, it loses much impact but full size is a different story.

This is a painting I would have liked to own.

27th March. Europe's gypsies have an annual pilgrimage (in May) to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue in southern France to pay homage to their Saint - the Black Sara.. This video features that great gypsy guitarist (and violinist) Dorado Schmitt as he and his friends provide the musical accompaniment (I think I've posted this here before - but I make no apologies for doing so again). It's in 3 parts - the opening part where they play in a small chapel, then the outdoor ceremony - and then the jam session round the table after a good lunch!

Here's Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbán with their interpretation of an old 60s hit:
This was Easter morning at the beach at Anglet.. By the way, these aren't Antony Gormley figures made of cast iron on the beach - they're the real thing!

26th March. I believe "Across the Street and into the Grill" won 1st prize in a competition to write the best Hemingway parody. See what you think..! Some more: "Big Too-Hardened Liver".. "Across the suburbs and into the express lane"..

20th March. When I see these images of the old tramway that ran the 6 km from Bayonne to Biarritz via Anglet, it's hard to imagine that these structures actually existed. There are very few traces of them left today.
Here's a video about Biarritz I've been meaning to put here for a while..
16th March. This is a report, featuring the Pays Basque, taken from a series called "100 Must See Places" on France 5 - it starts at 1:13.

15th March. I spent Sunday with a mixed group of walkers from both sides of the frontier in the Baztan valley* retracing a route used by evading Allied airmen during WWII as they made their way across the Pyrenees into Francoist Spain for onward passage to Gibraltar and then England. 
* we were fortunate to have Georgina Howard with us. In addition to running walking holidays in the area, she's a polyglot - speaking English, French, Spanish and Basque!  
Several of the Spanish walkers had family ties with the Comet Line's wartime guides and it was clear that there was much common ground between us. Basque speakers from both parties were soon swapping notes. 

I've walked other routes like this several times before but this was one of the hardest I've experienced. It wasn't helped by the rain-soaked ground that caught some of us out (not me) with slips into water-filled boggy areas - I needed a soggy foot like the proverbial hole in the head. 

We dropped our cars at Amaiur-Maya then took 2 minibuses to the vicinity of the former safe house at Jauriko borda from where we'd start the walk proper. Jauriko borda was a 'safe' farm that lay just inside Spain and it had been used many times by airmen. They'd rest up here after their gruelling night hike that had threaded them through the numerous border patrols, guided by mountain guides in the service of the Comet Line. 

After an hour or two, we came upon a clear area on a hilltop to find a Spanish 4x4 there with a small team preparing an alfresco Spanish-style breakfast for us.. spicy sausages, ham and fresh bread, with cider and/or red wine! (breaking the habits of a lifetime, I stuck to water) This was followed by brioche and coffee.. This surprise meal really hit the spot and gave us the time to talk more with our Spanish Basque hosts.    

Refreshed and replete, we set off again and, for some of us (viz your correspondent), the pain kicked in.. However, loins were girded, teeth were gritted and aches and pains ignored as we traversed some of the most stunning scenery in this part of the world. Wild cattle and horses were in evidence and mountain oak clung on to the hills as we climbed higher and higher until we reached the snow line. Soon it was time to descend again which unfortunately turned out to be just as painful as climbing.. 

This farm Kanttoreneko Borda, that now appears derelict, was used as a 'safe' hiding place in Spain by Comet: 
Finally, after 13km, we arrived back at Amaiur-Maya, the picture postcard Basque village where we'd left our cars 6 hours previously. After changing our mud-splattered walking shoes, we entered a restored mill where the promise of a cold beer awaited us. We were served thin corn flour pancakes filled with cheese and bacon.. and, later, others with dark chocolate.
The whole was a totally beguiling experience and I'll be returning there with Madame before too long.  

I managed to catch the second half of the Scotland - France 6 Nations rugby (well done Scotland!) and then after a bowl of soup, I hit the hay at 8pm.. Instant oblivion.. zzzzz-zzz-zzz-zzzzzzz


Anonymous said...

Wonderful country used to full effect by the Comet Line and now as a great day out for the fit. Well done for the attempt and those meals sound just spot on for the situation. Lesley

Pipérade said...

The Baztan valley is a special place.. and completely unspoiled. I'd recommend the village of Amaiur as a starting point.
As for being a great day out for the fit, I'm not sure how much longer I can claim membership of that club!☺ I must be honest - Sunday was a hard day and it was about my limit. Mind you, it was my first time up in the hills since last September.. and I wasn't the only one who found it tough.