lundi 14 juin 2010

Away from the city

Much as I love Paris, sometimes you just need to escape a little. We did just that when we decided to head towards Southwest France, a region we’ve so far had little chance to visit.

The part of France we headed for is that corner that slopes down from the Western Pyrenees into the blue shores of the Bay of Biscay. We are literally thisclose to the Spanish border. And while geographically speaking we haven’t left French soil, we are now in Euskal Herria or Basque Country and it would be a grave mistake to forget this fact. The origin of the Basque people remain shrouded in mystery but they have inhabited this corner of the world for at least 3000 years now. They are fiercely proud of their history and have managed to preserve their own language and many of their customs and traditions. For a fascinating read on the Basques, there is none better than Mark Kurlansky’s The Basque History of the World.

We couldn’t have picked a better base to explore the area than St. Jean Luz, a pretty seaside town. And while we were warned to expect highly fickle weather, we were fortunate enough to enjoy fantastic weather. The changeable nature of the weather has created an incredibly lush countryside. It is verdant and beautifully wild in the way that Provence and the Cote d'Azur isn't.

San Jean Luz has managed to preserve its air of Basque authenticity; an atmosphere helped no doubt by the number of typical white washed and red /blue shuttered houses in town. The bustling main street is filled with shops and restaurants but there are narrow streets that wind and branch off that are nice to explore. A delicious discovery we made was the wonderful Basque cake that we bought from the Paries Boulangerie. You can choose between cream filled or confiture and they are yummy! It was disastrous when one of the evenings we were there, we failed to secure our Basque cake!

Despite it being a bit early in the season for bathing, the gorgeous weather encouraged lots of folks to hang out at the beach. A number of brave ones dared the water, and I’m told that after the initial shock, it was quite pleasant. For myself, I was content to laze and take pictures. Not a bad way to spend your afternoon!

I couldn't help but take tons of pictures especially when the sight is as pretty as these colorful boats lining the harbor..

These typical Basque houses surround the town's main square..
The plain facade of the St. Jean Baptiste church gives no hint of the lavish interiors, all decked out in gold and wonderful carvings. It's only fitting since it is here that Louis XIV married the Infanta Maria-Theresa..
We discovered a wonderful little restaurant called Piper Beltz where you can dine al fresco
And this giant sculpture of an espadrille (another Basque invention, it appears) can be found outside the store called Bayone, one of the original makers of the shoe...

1 commentaire:

dasola a dit…

Bonjour, St Jean de Luz est une petite ville basque que j'aime beaucoup et puis c'est là que j'ai appris à nager, en 1971, j'avais 9 ans. Bonne journée.