Thursday, 1 June 2017

243. Perfect morning in Saint-Jean-de-Luz

30th June. It's a showery 17° this morning - and the garden looks all the better for it. After the scorching heat here in mid-June, I was half expecting to come back home to a frazzled, fried, charbroiled back garden.. but all remained green where it should be.

Tomorrow will see the first wave of summer tourists arriving here.. and the season proper will run from then for the two peak months of July and August. September is the best month here in the Pays Basque - tourists with families will have returned home leaving only the "silver" tourists. The weather stabilises with temperatures averaging out at 25° and the sea is as warm as it will ever get. The season continues at a slightly lower ebb until the end of October when it is effectively over.    

29th June. Each year there's a Celtic festival at Lorient that attracts thousands of people from Europe's western fringes. On the face of it it seems like nothing more than a harmless bit of folklore and a desire for expressing regional identity in an increasingly homogenous Europe, but I remain to be convinced that all the music, the dancing and the costumes is legitimately rooted in Celtic cultural history. I hope I don't come across as an old curmudgeon, but to me, a non-Celt (or, more accurately, a part-Celt), it appears to be an uneasy mixture of dancing waiters with wrap-around "shades",  and hairy old Jocks - all sprinkled with a touch of Disney with an eye to the tourist. See what you think:
I think my old dog would have been hiding under the stairs with his paws over his ears!

28th June. We heard today that the temperatures peaked at 40° here while we were away. This explains the burnt grass verges as we came south.

Who said: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."? Answer at the foot of this post.

27th June. On 20th June, we escaped the unusually oppressive heat of the Pays Basque and drove north to Brittany for a planned break, first over-nighting at Pluherlin, a couple of kms from quaint Rochefort-en-terre (below - voted France's favourite village in 2016) before stopping at Cap-Coz, just a stone's throw to the south of Fouesnant (itself just to the south and east of Quimper).

Unfortunately, the heat followed us up north because the temperature at Pluherlin was around 35°.. and there was no air conditioning in the otherwise delightful hotel. (how spoilt we've become!). After a sticky and restless night, we set off for Cap-Coz. Once there, the lower humidity was a refreshing and very welcome change after the oven-like temperatures we'd had in the south west. Our hotel was situated almost at the water's edge and our room looked south over the calm blue waters of the bay. The same family had owned the hotel since 1919 and we were very well looked after indeed by the friendly and charming staff. The chef (the owner's brother) was a real artist in the kitchen and every meal we had there was a delight.

We visited Bénodet (right - a yachting centre par excellence) where this Breton gaff rigged cutter came lickety-split into the channel, heeling over through a crowd of boats - a fine sight; a flying visit to the ancient walled port of Concarneau; explored Quiberon (below); Pont-Aven (a must-see for those who like Paul Gauguin's work); Loctudy and the austere grey granite village of Locronan. From there, we followed the coast as it swung around to the north west and we stopped at Telgruc-sur-Mer with its inspirational views of the bay of Douarnenez and deserted white sandy beaches before continuing to Morgat (whose beach was voted a surprising 14th in the world by Guardian readers). An "antiques" market was in progress where we snapped up a couple of reasonably priced old wine glasses that had caught our eye - I always think wine tastes better from an old glass (just as tea tastes better from a china cup, rather than a mug). Then there was Quimper.. a lively bustling Breton town with, I was pleased to note, several quirky individual shops. Long may people fight against the increasing blight of the sameness of our towns.

Here's a video that shows what Quimper is all about:

This (below) is a shot of the beach at Cap-Coz. I would say that (if you have any choice in the matter) you should try and visit the region in June.

We were away while the 1st Test Match between NZ All Blacks and the B&I Lions was played on 24th June. I dare say that readers in New Zealand and fans of All Black rugby worldwide will have been pleased at the outcome of the match. I had hoped that the Lions could have pulled off an unlikely win in the AB's back yard but it wasn't to be. Unfortunately, those responsible for selecting the Lions squad have to ensure that the home nations are all represented. This policy is responsible for the inherent fault line that has historically run through the majority of Lions squads as a result. I think until the best player for a given position is selected, regardless of which home nation he comes from, we'll continue to be beaten. There are players out there who shouldn't be there and there are players at home who should be there. This is an additional constraint for the Lions. The other is that they have so little time together as a squad prior to playing the best of the southern hemisphere. It can be done - and it has been done before - but it's a massive challenge in today's game.      

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the 1st Test yet - but here it is for those of you who wish to see it.

19th June. With all the heat we've been enjoying recently, I just realised that I've completely forgotten to keep you posted with the key matches from the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand. They had an uneven start to the tour, due I think partly to the compressed fixture list, coupled with the fact that for some reason known only to Warren Gatland, the touring party arrived in NZ only 3 days before the first match. Here's last Saturday's match played against the Maori All Blacks..

Next weekend sees the 1st Test against the full All Black side.. 

It's now up around 37° in the late afternoon. Might have to take my duffle coat off!

I went for a speed walk along the boardwalk at Anglet this morning. At my max taxying speed, I can get to the far end in just under half an hour, followed by a quick turn around and then back again. There were waves of heat rising up from the path.. and when I finally arrived back at the car, it indicated 34½°. I was steaming when I arrived back at the house. If you click on the photo (right) you should be able to see the start point near the top and the turn around point by all the restaurants below. (look for the yellow X)

The season has definitely started.. car with foreign plates and camper vans are trundling around in ever-increasing numbers. The season proper starts in less than a couple of weeks and that means waving goodbye to a parking space in Biarritz.  

This picture made me smile!
Keep calm and mow the lawn!
15th June. In the interests of balance, here are a couple of images of Bayonne to even things up a little. The river in the foreground is the Nive, (with the much-lamented rowing club at bottom left) before it joins forces with the mighty Adour in the background on its way to the Bay of Biscay. (worth clicking on this one)

This one is taken from the Citadel, overlooking the town and the Pyrenees:
9th June. Here is the view of the Grande Plage at Biarritz as seen from the lighthouse. We always take our visitors here for what is arguably the best view in town:

4th June. France 2 put on a programme the other night about young musical prodigies called "Prodiges" and, in my view, Marin, a young (12) clarinettist, stole the show:
These two precocious youngsters ran Marin very close for my top spot.. very easy to warm to these two!
More of these richly talented young prodigies here.

1st June. We went off early this morning to buy some lawn edging (ooh, the excitement of it!) from a garden centre outside Bayonne the size of Rutland - and after that it seemed like a good idea to zip down to Saint-Jean-de-Luz to enjoy the 1st of June. Madame needed to stock up with some flimsy accoutrements and we also needed to check the menus on a couple of our favourite restaurants as we have a marital milestone approaching. Here's a listing of all the restaurants in and around Saint-Jean-de-Luz. I wouldn't pay too much attention to the comments - I think some of them might be malicious. 

Once again, we pinched ourselves as we walked along the sea front - perfect weather and Saint Jean looked at its best. We'd wanted to have lunch at the Buvette de la Halle but they don't open properly until 14th June so we ended up having lunch at Le Fandango, in rue de la République.. grilled sardines and a green salad for Madame and a salad with roquefort, chorizo, croutons etc for me plus a glass each of a homemade sangria.. What was the damage I hear you ask? 33€ including coffee. My only comment would be that calling itself a bar brasserie is - in the words of the much-missed Alan Clark - being economical with the actualité.    

Answer: Sir Winston Churchill.


Margaret Smith, Springwood NSW Australia said...

And reading of Rutland and garden centres reminded me that last September we visited Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Rutland. 38 or so individual gardens which were quite lovely then but would be spectacular in Spring.

Pipérade said...

Welcome to you Margaret - and thanks for your comment.
We lived near Rutland once upon a time and there are some beautiful villages there. Wish we'd explored more.
You're now my N° 2 reader in Australia!

bacpoole said...

Hello Margaret , Piperade is far too modest. I know for sure that he has two loyal readers in this household so that would make you reader number three from Oz. Amyway, the blog is a great window into life in the Pays Basque....Susan,Sunshine Coast .

Pipérade said...

Another surge in readership! I'll believe it when we're into double figures. Seriously, I'm glad that the three of you enjoy reading about this undeniably beautiful part of the world. We saw it with fresh eyes yesterday evening on our return from a trip to Brittany.
Meanwhile, there are now only days to go before the frantic start of the holiday season. 'Frantic' is a relative term though compared to the hordes who descend on the Côte d'Azur each summer. I once read that 95% of the visitors to the Pays Basque stay on the coastal hotspots, rarely venturing inland. Fortunately, even at the height of the summer season here, the inland lanes that wind up and around the Pyrenees remain largely empty of traffic and are a pleasure to explore.