Thursday, 27 November 2008

seal clubs and globetrotting

A stunningly crisp and even day. Looking across to the mountains from the headland it was clear that the snow had been busy at work overnight. However, today the winds ceased and the sun was exceedingly generous. Whilst out walking along the coastal path (it runs some 30km from Spain up to Biarritz) I noticed that there were lots of fishing boats out. Reflecting the traditional Basque colours, the boats are either deep red or dark green, and set against the contrasting blues of ocean and sky it made a beautiful scene.
Fishing and sailing have long been part of Basque heritage. As early as the C16th there is record of Basque crews sealing and whaling in the North Sea and even Newfoundland where hangers-on can still be found. The rudder seems to have been invented in the Basque region too, certainly the European version, as there are frescoes and seals dating back to the C12th that depict three masted ships. It is also said that the early terminology referred to steering by rudder as “a la Bayonnaise”. When the Portuguese explorer Magellan set off to explore the world in the early C15th his crew was Basque. Given that the crew returned his vessel to the Basque country after the captain died in the Philippines it can be said that the Basque people were the first to circumnavigate the earth.
These days St Jean de Luz is still a very active fishing port focused on crevettes, anchovies, sardines and tuna. All caught and sold daily in the market, and all delicious!