Basking in Basque: Part 1 - Pays Basque (France)

It was about that time again, time for a real vacation.  Forget the jam packed few days of discovering something tacked onto a work trip.  I needed a real break.  The beauty of Europe is there are so many destinations close to home.  And I wanted something simple.  I wanted to take the train and see the countryside.  I didn’t want a city packed with sights.  I wanted the seaside, sunshine (it was a long winter), a slow pace and time to catch my breath and decompress from the hustle and bustle of city life.

So I decided to head southwest, to see a part of France I'd never seen before, Basque Country. Why?  I can't really explain it.  It was something about the way people talk about this unique piece of Europe that sparked my curiosity to discover it.  The coast is peppered with beaches and walking trails, people enjoying sand and surf.  The interior is filled with beautiful little villages.  The language (Euskara in the Basque language) is neither French, nor Spanish as one would expect.  It's thought to be the last remaining language of what existed before the European languages we know today.  And I love a good linguistic mystery.  :)

My outfit for 3 days
I was greeted with rain and the following three days provided varying degrees of bad weather - from wind to rain clouds to torrential downpour.  Unfortunately, the weather thwarted my grand plans of jetting about the area to Biarritz, Bayonne and buying my own pepper in Espelette, trying to follow in the footsteps of Aran, the lady who writes Cannelle et Vanille.  (Yes, I know her pictures are better than mine.  But she had sun!  And a lot of talent, but I'll pretend it was all because of the sun.)

So Saint Jean de Luz stayed my French Basque home and instead of worrying about seeing the surroundings, I stayed put.  I meandered around this fishing village and explored every little corner, every little food shop and I think I tried every Basque pastry that exists.  I shopped of course, what else is a girl supposed to do on a rainy day?! Among my favorite buys are a pair of handmade espadrille shoes, which are local to the region and a Basque linen table runner.  Basque linen has a unique seven striped pattern that used to be blue and red but now has been commercialized and made into all kinds of pretty colors, like this one, which now adorns my little table.


I started to notice all of the little things that make me love being far from the city.  People move slower, including me.  I take time to savor things - tastes, sights, smells - because I have nowhere to be.  I notice little moments of human interaction like neighboring shopkeepers talking to each other from across cobblestone streets.  I sit myself down to eat lunch at a local restaurant, taking a spot at a picnic-like table covered with a red and white checkered tablecloth.  Though alone, the family that runs it make me feel like one of the group. 

Even without sun, I made the best of it and here are some of my favorite scenes and eats.


Saint Jean de Luz


St Jean de Luz is a pittoresque little fishing village who's claim to fame was its hosting of the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria-Teresa the Infanta of Spain in 1660.




The day the sun came out and I did a run (ok, run/walk) to the nearby fishing villages.




Confections at Maison Adam where I tried Basque macaron.  I loved this lively painting - I started at it for a good five minutes, until it got awkward.




Outside of the store...I love the wall of peppers.



The market, where I bought myself a little picnic of fresh bread, artichoke dip, sheep's milk cheese, ham, cherries...yum.



More food, including the best strawberries of my life.  They had so much flavor - like little jewels of sweetness (poetic, isn't it?)  The cookies are called "Les Mouchous", which means "kiss" in Basque.  They are a softer, chewier version of the macaron. 


   



Pepper plants in the rain.



The little town courtyard and flower stand outside of my hotel.

Comments

  1. I know I've said this before but you are an inspiration to travel lovers. I love the pepper pics...and I laughed at you staring at that painting until it got awkward.

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    Replies
    1. You are too sweet. :) Glad you are enjoying it and next time, come with me!

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  2. "People moved slower" - the source of my desire to live there :). waiting for part 2...

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