Monday, 3 August 2020

282. It's scientifically proven that ...

 ... people who have more birthdays live longer.

31st August. I'm looking for some help - most UK online radio news stations make me want to put my foot through the radio - generally within the first minute of switching it on. For years, BBC Radio 4 was the benchmark but for a good few years it's been populated by 'personalities' - and it appears that we have to know their names. Does anyone 'out there' know of any online news stations other than BBC R4, TalkRADIO, Times Radio or LBC that offer intelligent news reporting but minus the blah..? If so, please let me know via the contact facility in the left hand column. Thanks in advance!

Here are a couple of old-style BBC station announcements that will take some of you back in time: here and here - before we had 'at the top of the hour'.. and self-absorbed promos like this.

The last two months - ie, the summer season - have flown by.. There appeared to be far more tourists than usual here - I heard that Biarritz received 20% more tourists than in previous years. For me though, September - the best month - is to come.    

23rd August. I spotted an extremely rare car this morning en route to the beach - it was a Citroën Traction Avant Cabriolet in pale blue in exceptional condition.

20th August. Before we leave Gautier Capuçon to fade away in our wake, here he is up in the Swiss Alps with Le Cygne (The Swan) by Camille Saint-Saëns:
18th August. We went out this morning with the dog to walk around the Lac de Saint Pée sur Nivelle - an artificial lake with plenty of activities for the young - and the not-so-young.

After a really pleasant walk we ended up in need of a cold drink - so stopping off at "Bizi" restaurant (overlooking the lake) seemed a good idea. One thing predictably led to another and we found ourselves ordering two Caesar salads for lunch. They were delicious but, as they say here, incredibly copieuse (ie, generous servings). For those who prefer a picnic, the lakeside was well-supplied with tables in twos and threes.

17th August. We were out yesterday celebrating a major milestone birthday for Madame - and so we went to (another!) one of our favourite places - the Hotel Arraya at Sare - for lunch. Given that many French people appear to have taken their holidays in France this year - plus the fact it was over a Bank holiday (August 15th) weekend - the roads were understandably dense with traffic.

All the tables outside the hotel were occupied - but fortunately we'd reserved a table in their oh-so-traditional Basque dining room - leaving those diners outside to compete with the rumble of passing Harleys (ridden by aging boomers! <= interesting read).
The hotel also has a small giftshop featuring, among other things, distinctive hand-made leather goods from Laffargue, the long-established shop at Saint-Jean-de-Luz that's Numero Uno with Madame. Browsing the wines on display in the giftshop, I spotted a bottle of Irouléguy from Domaine Mourguy (right - mentioned a couple of posts ago). I'll open it when the weather cools down a little.

To say we were impressed by the Arraya would be an understatement - they have raised the bar by several notches. Given the surroundings, the views, the effervescent staff, the originality and quality of the cooking - Arraya has now whizzed straight to the top of our short list of favoured establishments in the local area. Congratulations to Jean-Baptiste Fagoaga and his friendly staff - and thank you for a superb lunch.

10th August. The police here have arrested a young man (16 years old) in connection with the forest fires at Pignada on 30th July. My question to you all is this: what do we do with him? I believe he was in care, and had been in a foster home and had demonstrated pyromania tendencies before - so it seems that he's a disturbed young man. More here.

9th August. Last night we went to an open air concert given by cellist Gautier Capuçon and Jérôme Ducros (piano) in the grounds of the Château de Baroja (right), Anglet. Five hundred free tickets were made available by Anglet Town Hall and so, with parking spaces at a premium, we decided to arrive early! Just as well - we managed to find two centre seats in the second row. What a night.. The concert started in daylight and as dusk fell, the soft lights of château were switched on and it became a magical and highly memorable experience. Several times I found my hair standing on end (and it's nice to still be able to say that at my advanced age! 😏).

Capuçon's instrument is a Matteo Goffriller cello (left) - made in 1701 - which he has on loan. It had a resonance and a sonority that was clear from the start - especially in the lower register of the strings. Astonishing to think that this instrument is still capable of performing at the highest level 320 years after it was constructed. Or is it similar to the ship of Theseus perhaps?

I remember once seeing a programme about a luthier (a violin maker) - and how he selected the wood for his violins. He would tap the pieces of wood he was interested in and usually the sounds they gave off were dull clunks (technical term!). However, if the wood rang like a bell, that was the piece what he was looking for.. (more on this here)

This is a performance he gave from his home during the lock-down.

Gautier was also one of the judges on France 2's programme "Prodigies of the Year" - and here he is with Maxime, a young cellist:
Here's Maxime with John Williams theme from "Schindler's List..

And here are some photos of the concert - I must say that the staging of the concert was superb - it was filmed and projected in real time on to a large screen. (click to enlarge the images)
Château de Baroja
Gautier Capuçon
Gautier Capuçon and Jérôme Ducros
Photos: Ville d'Anglet - K.Pierret-Delage.

Well done to Jean-Michel Barate and his team from Anglet Town Hall - and many thanks - for the flawless organisation of the event.👍

8th August. I've posted this dazzling 15 minute aerial view of Paris by Yann Arthus-Bertrand before - and I make no apologies for posting it again. The viewpoint is ideal for enjoying the city's spectacular architectural riches - particularly the jewel that's the Place des Vosges (it comes up at 12:15). This is a film that can be watched time and time again - and, need I say it, it's best in full screen. 
7th August. Here's an aerial view of the Pignada forest that was destroyed in the recent fires. While eleven houses were damaged and five were destroyed, no-one was hurt. The burnt patch (left of centre) is exactly where I've been taking Nutty for walks - and there were many tall maritime pines there:

6th August. An evening walk along the beach at the Plage des Cavaliers is called for - we went last night at 9pm and it was very refreshing compared to here (just 10 mins away).

At 6.30pm, our garden thermometer was still showing 37°.. too hot for me.     

According to the evening news, it was 40°C in the shade at Biarritz today.

We made a lightning visit to Saint-Jean-de-Luz this morning for some urgent shopping. I don't think I've ever seen the town so crowded. It appears that many French are holidaying at home this year.

We had a visit from Eric (aka the Magic Carpenter) at 7.30 this morning.. The recent heat we've had here had caused some of our hefty wooden shutters to warp (they were designed to keep out the worst of the winter weather - not the sunshine!) to the point where it became impossible to close a few of them.

Our four-legged friend had me out of bed at 3.30am this morning for his usual nocturnal inspection of his territory - added to which we had the alarm set for 6.30am - I think Madame and I both had some sleep deficit to make good on this afternoon behind our newly adjusted shutters that can now be closed.

4th August. I forgot to mention that flat peaches are back in season again. We keep a dish of them in the fridge and they're ideal for breakfast!

We have a red maple down the garden and already it's started to shed its leaves.. I've also noticed conkers on the ground around the base of the numerous horse chestnut trees in the neighbourhood. This isn't usual on 4th August.. or is it? Is it due to lack of rainfall?

In the mid-1990s, I was fortunate to spend several years in Pordenone (Eng sub-titles available) in Friuli in north-east Italy. It was there that I discovered pappardelle all'uovo among other things.. This is ribbon pasta (about ¾ inch wide) made with eggs - and it was de-lic-ious!

I first came across it at the idyllic setting of the Ristorante Zaia, Polcenigo, where it was served with crab*. I spent more than a few enjoyable lunchtimes on this little terrace (left) over the cooling torrent of turquoise-blue water (from the nearby spring at Gorgazzo) while sitting in the shade of an overhead vine. Happy days..

Sadly, it appears that Zaia, as I knew it 25 years ago, is no longer in business. I see that the new owners have changed the name - along with the menu. A great shame - as its situation was perfect and the whole experience was always faultless. While I enjoyed the local Pinot Nero, it was also about the only ristorante I knew in that region that stocked French wine.

For my final visit there, I'd brought a large group with me and as we were leaving, Roberto (the maître d') - always impeccable in black tie - took my elbow and said, "Signore, next time you come with your wife, it's as my guest". Where else but Italy do you find a gesture like that?

* I'm trying to persuade Madame to make it like that one of these days.

Michelis Pappardelle all'uovo al bronzo (above right) is an Italian brand and this is what we had at lunchtime today - with garlicky mushrooms and chopped parsley. Highly recommended. (Question du Jour: Why al bronzo? Answer here

My other discovery in the Friuli region was Prosciutto di San Daniele. As much as I like Jambon de Bayonne (and I like it a lot), I must be honest and elevate the local San Danieli prosciutto (right) to the top rank. Before returning to the UK, I'd pay a call to a local independent grocer and ask him for 400gms of prosciutto sliced wafer thin.

A final call would be to Vigneti Pittaro - a local wine producer - to collect a case of their excellent Cabernet. This quote - attributed to Omar Khayyam - appears on their website:
"Since the moon and planets appeared in the sky, no one has ever seen anything sweeter than the purest wine. I am full of amazement for the wine sellers, that those who can never buy better than what is sold "
3rd August. As of this morning, the wearing of masks (or "face-coverings" in BBC-speak) is now obligatory in many cities and towns in France, including Biarritz and Bayonne (more here). Tourists would be well-advised to ensure that they come prepared.

Today's special offer! If you're confined, in 'lock down' or simply stuck at home - why not relax with a coffee and take an early morning (6am) train ride in the cab of a regional train (ie not a TGV) from Bayonne to Tarbes and enjoy the scenery (the Pyrenees are on the right). You'll see how the house styles evolve as the train passes from the Pays Basque and heads into the Béarn:

2nd AugustWe were tempted to go to Biarritz for a coffee at the Bleu Café this morning - but we finally thought better of it. With it being the first weekend in August, Biarritz would be crowded with people and parking spaces would be like hen's teeth - so instead, we drove to Lac Marion for a walk with the pooch. 


Anonymous said...

Flown by and this has been my only comment!

Pipérade said...

Yes, it's been a funny month.. it's whooshed by so quickly. I can't believe that the great mass of people have gone home already.. September to look forward to now.. & the pavements are already full of conkers.