Wednesday, 13 July 2016

233. Where's the heat?

26th July. It's started - the first wave of those coming to Bayonne for the Fêtes de Bayonne (France's biggest festival) have arrived. Streets which are normally car-free have now sprouted cars parked with two wheels up on the pavement as the trickle of people heading here has turned into an unstoppable torrent. The police habitually turn a blind eye to all but the most flagrant abuses of parking laws. For 5 days, cars will be seen parked in the unlikeliest of places ("How did the driver get in there?") and tents will spring up on pavements and - well, everywhere. We're off!

25th July. I surprised myself by liking this song called "It's the last one who spoke in your house who is right" by Amina Annabi. It was France's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1991 when it finished 2nd to this instantly forgettable bit of Eurotosh (and I'm not just talking about the choreography!). Back in 1991 the ladies taking part were, for the most part, clean-shaven (unlike today!)  See what you think:

The Fêtes de Bayonne start on Wednesday - but the scale of mass public gatherings has been toned down this year due to the national state of emergency brought on by terrorist activity.

24th July. In Paris and just fancy strolling around and taking it easy in a fascinating quarter? This video should whet your appetite! We always find ourselves drawn to this part of Paris:
Looking at this video though, it must have been filmed on a Saturday afternoon.. I've never seen it so crowded.. I'm not really one for crowds.

22nd July. Listen to Charles Trénet's poem to the sea.. and follow through the words in French and English here.
The alarm bells are sounding for yet another one of life's pleasures according to a gloomy new analysis. The report's findings reveal that "alcohol causes seven forms of cancer, and people consuming even low to moderate amounts are at risk".   

21st July. If you're interested in getting the French perspective on current events - but your French language skills aren't quite good enough to follow news stories on French language news sites, then try this live feed from France 24 - it's a French news channel in English.. If you watch this first, then have a look at the news on TF1 or France2, you might find their output easier to follow.
19th July. I didn't forget Pamplona this year - but here's a gentle reminder of the fiesta as it was (before you-know-who discovered it!):

18th July. I spoke too soon asking "Where's the heat.."? Apart from a quick visit to the beach at Ilbarritz this morning, we've been skulking indoors with the shutters closed since then as this part of France has been sizzling under 38° temperatures. Time for something cold..
Plage d'Ilbarritz

16th July. This is the sound of the France that I love.. It's a forlorn hope that we've seen the last attack against innocents, those out for a carefree stroll on a summer's evening. It could have been any of us.

15th July. While people were dying in Nice, this was happening in Paris.

Shocking news overnight from Nice.. Appalling carnage on the Promenade des Anglais.. What a world.

Zoko Moko, 6 Rue Mazarin
12th July. We went to St-Jean-de-Luz this morning and stayed on to have lunch at Zoko Moko. This is a restaurant that we've been hearing good things about for a year or two and so today we finally decided to give it a whirl. It's a little off the beaten track - go to the Place Louis XIV (with the bandstand) and you'll find the restaurant at 6 rue Mazarin - between the harbour and the sea front (here). If you haven't booked (as we hadn't), I'd advise arriving early - there wasn't a table to be had later on. There are 2-3 fixed price menus plus à la carte. We had the menu du marché and it was e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t! Right up there with Chez Pantxua at Socoa.. so - praise indeed. Choice of only two starters, two main courses and two desserts (always a good sign!). The main course was filet de canette (duck breast) with braised peaches. This was the best duck breast we've ever had - tender, tasty, pink & juicy. I also spotted that Madiran Château Bouscassé (mentioned before here) featured on their wine list. We were once given a bottle of this as a substitution a few years ago and it really is something special. This is definitely a restaurant we'll return to. (Other top Basque restaurants here.)

The late Joe Dassin wrote some good songs before he died at the age of 42.. This is one of his best:

This is a strange summer. This morning at St-Jean-de-Luz it was around 18° and the beach was virtually deserted.  

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

232. Chibby

6th July. We lost our dear golden boy at 1am yesterday morning. I refer, of course, to Chibby, our golden English cocker spaniel. He would have been 15 years old next month. He'd somehow managed to acquire Gastric Dilation, a life-threatening condition that took him from us so brutally.. 

I know that all dog-owners should be prepared to outlive their pets - but making the transition from perfect happiness to total despair is not made any easier when the elapsed time from the first signs of "something's not quite right" to diagnosis and then heart failure can be measured in just a few short hours. He really was the light of our lives and we're totally devastated and heartbroken. 

He was a "special" boy and, like the Spitfire, he looked good from any angle. From first to last, we never tired of looking at him. He was a real character with so many endearing ways about him and he'll be greatly missed. He's left a huge hole in our lives.