Friday, 30 January 2009

Flamenco encore

I will not repeat my annoyance with yesterday's strike action or my bewilderment that this futile plague appears to have caught on in northern England and Scotland. Does no-one remember the last time Europe became embroiled in nationalist protectionism?

Today being Friday means Fabienne time and our Flamenco class. I am highly confident that I am by far the best male dancer in the class and that I can kick up my heels better than any of the other men there, largely because I am the only chap in the class. Other more misogynistically oriented men may mock my dancing exploits but I care not and am more than comfortable spending ninety minutes a week in exclusively female company. When will men realise that the way to get on with women is to try and understand them a little.

We moved on to the second sevillane 'La Seduccion' having been told we are masters of the first, 'El Encuentro'. Each chapter is a melee of bourrees, sevillanes, tapers and coups telling the story of a couple meeting, seducing, falling out then reconcilling. Very passionate, mean and moody stuff it makes for a fascinating insight into Basque culture. The sun is shining once again, it reached 19C this afternoon, so everyone has rushed back outdoors for coffee and promenades are twice as leisurely.

Basque of the day:- knowledge :: ezagutza

Thursday, 29 January 2009

cause and effect

Mon Dieu! Even the air of St Jean de Luz smelled of militancy today. A day of strike action that had begun with a sombre midnight public announcement crawled cancer-like across the country. All day major cities policed crowds of angry protestors stamping up and down their pavements flag waving and ranting as Black Thursday (jeudi noir) took hold.

As a neutral outsider I have a number of questions:

1. the world has been aware that we are in economic crisis for some time, how does strike action help?
2. the world has known that French finances and economic strength have been in crisis for years, how does strike action help?
3. any logical being appreciates that during a depression salaries and job security cannot be falsely safeguarded just to make people feel better, how does strike action help?
4. Sarkozy is the first French premier to appreciate the modern economic world and is trying to correct the ship before it runs aground, how does strike action help?

Answers gratefully received. Newspapers state that almost 70% of the population supports strike action, I am yet to meet one in favour so presume they are the same 70% that allegedly want for Scottish independence.

Basque of the day:- bizarre :: bitxi

the iron is not hot

Amidst the worst economic downturn in over 60 years many avenues of French life are going on strike tomorrow. They are striking against Sarkozy's handling of the economic crisis and freezing of pay increases. I am trying to understand how bringing the economy to a complete halt for the day will assist.

Both public and private sector are in on the strike, including, hospitals, schools, administrators/ public sector, banks, car-workers (who clearly are having a robust business environment), law courts, airports and even the theatre are walking out in protest. It is widely believed that unless drastic action is taken to cut expenditure in the public sector the purse from which it fattens itself will bankrupt the country.

Black Thursday (jeudi noir) as it has been dubbed will enjoy strike action and marches throughout the country. The locals I have spoken to are dumbfounded. They have little sympathy with the striking forces who they say should grow up. "This is the tenth strike in the last year, do these people not want to work? Do they not understand what is going on in the world?" said one lady. There are fears that given the perceived irrationality of national mobilisation businesses will move operations to other less militant countries.

Le Figaro ran a story stating that the body responsible for publishing enemployment figures will not publish the monthly report planned for release tomorrow. This is in protest at the loss of a few jobs as part of a cost cutting measure brought on by le crise. I secretly hope that the men digging up the road outside take a well earned rest tomorrow too. They only have a two-hour lunch break, aside from mandatory bi-hourly coffee/cigarette breaks, so have more cause for complaint than most.

Basque of the day:- immature :: heldugabe

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

hands on approach

Can you believe it is nearly the end of January already?? The weather certainly hasn't figured this out yet. When we moved here Maria promised me lots of sunshine and happiness, so far stacks of joy but little of the other. I have been promised by our friends here that the weather is being freakish and the St Jean de Luz sunshine will follow shortly. In the meantime another day largely indoors. (Pic courtesy of my learned American/ English/ Palestinian/ Macedonian friend)

I did pop out this evening for a rather nice new experience. Having carried myself too long without medical attention (see previous) I have been searching for a cure to backache, dicky tummy, sore toe etc. for some time. Pascale put me in touch with a friend of hers who offers Amatsu therapy. Open minded I headed along Rue Gambetta to visit Caroline. Lying fully clothed on her table I waited in vulnerable anticipation. It didn't feel like she applied that much pressure but by gum she knew where to apply it! It is like a cross between reflexology and sitting beneath an avalanche of particularly heavy rocks that are being accelerated by gale force winds. One feels a slight tickle and then the body convulses in writhing agony. As we all know pain is good for you so I eagerly await next week's installment.

Basque of the day: - pain :: min (though I feel this should really read max)

Monday, 26 January 2009

disco mountain

The remnants of the storm persist, or if you believe the news, hurricane. The Pyrenees are providing us with a fantastic light show this evening as the storm strobes across the mountains. Echoing Enid Blyton there are also lashings and lashings of white stuff, though this time it's hailstones and not cream. We have remained firmly rooted indoors most of the day (save a quick sortie into Spain for some supplies).

Basque of the day:- thunder :: trumoi

Sunday, 25 January 2009

bang the drum

The fete in our pretty neighbouring town of Ciboure (see black pudding entry), culminated today with a tamborrada by Marinelak. Local drummers march through the streets singing and playing loudly. They passed by the beautiful church of Saint Vincent which was built in 1555 and is unique in the Pays Basque for its octoganal bell tower. Having completed their march at the Fronton Municipal, a local folk group, Gaiteros, took over, handing out basque song sheets to the local crowds who joined in with gusto, despite the drizzling rain.

Shortly after, we noticed tantalising smells coming from nearby and realised that the traditional food to celebrate fetes, Bixintxo, was about to be served. Long trestle tables were laid out complete with local wine. A Basque male choir was ready to accompany the lunch and a four course meal of soup, black pudding and vegetables, cheeses and gateau des rois was about to be served. Excellent!

Basque of the day:- drum :: danbor

Saturday, 24 January 2009

stormy stormy night

Sometimes fishwives tell the truth. The storm hit around 0400 and is still howling in anger. Several properties have had their rooves ripped off. Windows gape imploded and tiles crazy-pave the esplanade. The sea is bereft, struggling with some eternal inner conflict. Hey ho, haggis tomorrow. We were due to go skiing today but had to make do with oysters, champagne and wave-dodging.
video


Friday, 23 January 2009

beware the tides that march

After our Flamenco class today two lasses informed me that there was a storm coming. I dismissed this as a fishwives tale but they insisted we be careful. We confirmed their warning online and now eagerly anticipate 140 km/h winds overnight. Glenn and I hit the market and he made me enjoy my first oyster, truly slipperily delicious. He provided an analogy for their taste but my grandmother reads this blog. We bought some kippers for a late lunch and headed home. I had never tasted kippers before either. The sales are getting sillier so we spent much of the afternoon enjoying hard bargaining.

In advance of the storm we enjoyed the balmly lull while walking the promenade before dinner at Pil-Pil Enea. It was the first time we had visited the restaurant since our arrival though have fond romantic memories from previous trips to St Jean de Luz. Between the four of us we enjoyed further fishiness and fabulous Madiran. We battoned down the shutters before completing a day of cliches and headed to bed. No sign of the slightest flutter of wind though the shipping forecast talks of storm forces in Biscay heading south.

Basque of the day:- fish :: arrain

teenage kicks

Having Glenn and Elizabeth on board we were insured of two things: stimulatingly challenging intellectual conversation and general silliness. After a lengthy Basque lunch that involved too much red wine we walked out to the fort at Socoa. The protective digue runs some 200 metres across the face of the bay and bears the brunt of the Atlantic's onslaught on St Jean de Luz. It also offers a great place to play dare against the massive waves as they crash over the walls.
video
Invigorated by our walk we purchased the necessary beverages en route home and enjoyed a plentiful supper of crevettes, cheese, champagne, Patxaran and Izarra. The drinks flowed uneasily easily and before we knew it we were on the beach at midnight chasing waves. This we partook in for some time before we became a) soaked and b) in need of more beverage. Stopping at Le Suisse we each imbided a large Armagnac with Calvados chaser. We met some interesting people in the bar, chances are we won't recognise them again but we ensured we were the last to leave. Sometimes it is good to remember that amidst all this global angst we are all still young really and shouldn't take life too seriously.

Basque of the day:- drunk :: mozkortu

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

a mixed bag

Imagine waking up this morning and thinking, weird dream, then realising that against all historical odds you are in fact president of the US. I think I'd want pancakes for breakfast.

Our friends Glenn and Elizabeth arrive from Canterbury today. They are both professors and frustratingly intelligent which means I will really have to try and up my conversation for the duration of their stay. Maria is already there or there abouts.

We had a dozen type of weather today: rain, wind, snow, sleet, hail, sun, fog, drizzle, gales, thunder, lightening and blustery. More interestingly Belharra is beginning to get angrier. A local surfer told me that it is at its biggest around March and at the moment it's only 25 metres. I shrugged my shoulders and grunted in a suitably French manner agreeing that this was only a small wave and not impressive in the slightest.

Basque of the day:- weather :: eguraldi

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Spanish groceries

We have friends arriving tomorrow so in a bid to be organised set out to buy ingredients for the various dinners planned. My wife being who she is thought that rather than a quick trip around town we should head to Spain. Something about Rioja and tortilla swayed me to her train of thought.

Venturing south to a border town called Irun we spent a fabulous few hours perusing the butchers and vegetable shops of the Spanish Basque country. Though efficient Irun lacks the architectural charm of St Jean de Luz and while Spanish Basques are considerably more severe than their French brethren they do provide fantastic quality and value. We were fully stocked with a one third saving which appealed greatly to my Scottish sensibilities. Moreover and most importantly the Spanish love their whisky so I augmented Maria's argument for shopping in Spain by acquiring a year's supply of the amber nectar. We were home in time to watch President Obama's inauguration, I believe we were amongst the very few locals doing so.

Basque of the day:- whisky :: whisky

Monday, 19 January 2009

huge surf at Belharra

The weather changed again overnight. Winds howled in from the Atlantic and the sound of crashing waves filled our dreams. Running along the coast this morning the waves weren't simply smashing into the beach defences (digues) they were cantering straight over the top of them, meaning a 30 foot break. I also caught my first glimpse of the legendary Belharra.

Belharra is a reef some 2 kilometres offshore slightly south of St Jean de Luz. Amidst the ocean in the middle distance enormous white mountains erupted from their trans conintental slumber. It is a favoured site amongst the more hardy and hardcore surf community particularly in Spring when the waves are at their most aggressive. Days on end can be spent in the 'greenroom', which I believe means cradled in the barrel of a large wave. The waves can reach upwards of 60 feet. This clip shows some of the locals facing up to the beast of Belharra. I'd love to see this natural spectacular but will seek a safer means than a surfboard to do so.

Basque of the day:- mad :: zoro

Sunday, 18 January 2009

the curse of Patxaran

Pascale and Bruno's soiree hier soir cemented our view that moving to St Jean de Luz has been our best decision to date. Guests were asked to bring a dish from their region/ family (we took roast beef and devils on horseback). There were 20 guests resulting in a flow of food that seemed to last for hours but in reality lasted a lot longer! From chorizo bread to roasted champignons, cassoulet to chocolate macarons all gushed with intensity and deliciousness. Bruno ensured that we remained wholly hydrated via intravenous champagne and vin rouge. By midnight we were truly fed and more than sensibly hydrated, then the real fun began...

The music subtely changed to tunes not found on my iPod, a joyous melee of accordian, fiddle and drums creating a ceilidh sound with latin temperament. The dancers began, stepping solemnly at first but more quickly and with increasing vigour as the tempo heightened. Following the feast I watched in wonder as they turned and twisted in unison - Maria braved a couple of dances with considerable success. Better was to follow. I may have dreamt it but I believe we partook in a rowdy Basque karaoke broken only by the sporadic interjection of Scottish song - I had worn my kilt after all. As I rounded off Mingulay Boat Song I recall the Patxaran being brought forth, the rest of the party is a bit of a blur but I woke up ten hours later and 20 miles west - slightly worrying when that happens...!

Waking this morning we were both in dire need of a fry-up. As luck would have it the neighbouring town of Ciboure was holding its annual festival complete with world boudin noir competition (it's a kind of black pudding). After cheering on the frenetic cooks the crowd watched in silence as several very serious looking judges sampled the fare checking everything from consistency and smell to weight and taste. In the background a local Basque folk group offered uplifting harmonies to help alleviate our hangovers. The chefs proudly offered their wares to the onlookers and after we had satisfied our cravings we headed home to spend the remains of the day watching movies.

Basque of the day:- excellent :: bikain

Saturday, 17 January 2009

rising sun

I was fortunate enough to be walking along the cliff-top coastal path this morning as the sun raised itself from its mountain slumber. Within minutes of appearing you could almost here it telling itself over porridge: "look, I know it's January but I miss the summer". From that moment the clouds bowed beyond the horizon out of respect and a full on mid-winter summer's day began. The surfers and boogie-boarders were in situ by 0900.

Taking full advantage of this welcome respite (this time last week we still had a snowman on the patio) we have spent the day lounging on the terraces and catching up on reading, fabulous. Our sole efforts have been directed at preparing for the party this evening. To recap, Pascale has requested that all guests bring a pinxtos style dish of their region (or country in our case). After much deliberation we have opted for 'devils on horseback' and 'mini yorkshires stuffed with rare roast beef and horseradish'. I will be wearing my kilt for the first time in the Basque country and am uncertain whether to remain true or protect myself in shorts...

Basque of the day:- naked :: biluzi

Friday, 16 January 2009

olé!

Our Flamenco class resumed today. Far from having forgotten the moves we learned pre-Christmas I like to think that I cut a rather dapper dash in the dancehall this afternoon. I fear that the ladies may have thought otherwise. Fabienne, our teacher and all-round Flamenco professional, was kind enough to start half an hour earlier for those of us who wanted a little extra practice before the more accomplished dancers arrived. Again I was the only chap present so had the pick of partners (Maria refuses to dance with me!). After our 30 minute warm-up we were ready for the main event.

The small dark hall is mirrored on one side and lit by visible rays of sunshine that flood through the semi-glazed windows. Once the guitars start up the scene is set. Two rows of eight dancers stand facing one another, chins and hands held high, clapping quickly in time with the music. At the cry of Fabienne we set forth on our moves, a succession of stamping, intricate stepping and turning. The more confident amongst us weave our arms and wrists as we pass one another, the rest of us hold our hands on our hips as we move in unity (or something that passes as unity).

After an hour (on top of the initial practice) we retire to a local cafe to enjoy refreshment and idle banter. It really is a fantastic way to work off the excesses of the week and to experience another more traditional aspect of Basque life. I am still not comfortable enough to post photos of myself yet, perhaps in time and with more practice...

Basque of the day:- music :: musika

Thursday, 15 January 2009

promenading

At 1600 each sunny winter's day St Jean de Luz transforms from a beautiful and perfectly tranquil Basque outpost into a vibrant highway of sashaying socialites. The esplanade and high street are crammed with deliberately slow paced people promenading in the afternoon air and looking fabulous. Outside of their immediate circle of gossip everything passes unnoticed.

I asked Maria why it took her almost an hour to prepare for this daily ritual, she replied: "one never know's who one'll meet". Sure enough by the time I had counted fifty paces we had shaken hands with several friendly locals.

We set forth to the shore to watch the sun setting across the Atlantic. Strewn across the beach and littering the sea were hundreds of basking sea-gulls all of them ready to claim any unwitting fish as 'mine'. As we walked home we appreciated how much warmer it is becoming. We also wondered whether any of our fellow pedestrians had noticed the sun falling behind the horizon so intent had they all appeared on the outward perfection of promenading.

Basque of the day:- beauty :: edertasun

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

a game for men

There is a pelota club near here. It is a large warehouse-like building from the outside, a dank musty den of cultural physicality within. I love it. The pelota court takes up most of the buliding. Running some 50 metres in length it is roughly 6 times the size of a squash court with two twenty metre walls running parallel to the rooftop windows that provide illumination. At one end is a plain high wall marking the court parameters, to the rear is the dark bar.

Each day men gather, drink coffee, watch the play and sit in silence. Each day players practice the sport exhausting one another with constant barrages of sweating muscular volleys as the leather ball is hammered the length of the hall. It is a game exclusively for men.

Pelota is played throughout the Basque world: France, Spain, Argentina, America, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Perú and Uruguay. There is a world cup and stars of the game are held in high regard due to the element of danger and level of skill required to partake. The fastest recorded volley was 302km/h. To date I am amongst those who enjoy their coffee in silence but secretly crave to brave it onto the court soon.

Basque of the day:- danger :: arrisku

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

cooking conundrum

We have been invited to a party this coming weekend. Pascale, the delightful hostess, has requested that each of the nine couples invited prepare and bring a course from their home region in pinxtos style, the Basque equivalent of tapas. Knowing how expert all meals we have eaten in these parts have been, the gauntlet has truly been lain.

First thoughts ran to haggis. After realising that it is a beast that I am unable to shoot let alone buy in these parts I set out to make my own. After a day or so of consideration, including a meaty discussion with the local butcher, I have ruled out haggis. Too messy and too risky. Second thought, mini Yorkshire puddings stuffed with roast beef and horseradish. This felt particularly apt given that the English (Maria not me!) are referred to as 'les rosbifs' in the same way and for the same reason that the French are called 'frogs'. Thwarted again, this time through lack of horseradish. I am eagerly looking for thoughts and suggestions and help from any quarter would be most appreciated!?!

The only other prerequisite demanded by our hostess is that I wear my kilt... hmmm, those who have seen me dressed thus may disagree...

Basque of the day:- cooking :: sukaldaritza

le lion, la sorcière et la garde-robe

Bored with my birthday grumping Maria sought to cure my blues. We ventured deep into the Pyrenees to a wee place called La Pierre St Martin. Keen to try something new we opted to go snow shoe trekking and adorned comically large flat clawed feet accordingly. Planning our route we set out on a short eight kilometre walk not knowing what to expect. We quickly got the hang of how to walk in 'raquettes' and both gained confidence that even walking up the most icy of slopes we were slip-and-slide-proof!

We trekked onwards into a wonderous snow clad forest half hidden from the wind beneath high cliff tops. Here and there were different sets of footprints and we imagined what animals could have caused them, both mildly cognicent that in these parts bears dwell (though we convinced ourselves that they would most certainly be mid-hibernation at this time!). We walked alone through the ancient forest, up and down hidden hills, past frozen streams and mighty icicle formations. The sound of silence stifled all thoughts of the outside world and for a few hours we we were both walking in Narnia.

For anyone who has toyed with the idea of snow trekking I cannot express how lovely an experience it is, guaranteed to buoy your mood and evaporate your blues.

Basque of the day:- imagination :: iruditze

Monday, 12 January 2009

anniversaire

The sun shone brightly today trying valiantly to help me forget the march of time! My wife knows me best and determined we spend the day out walking. I won't dwell. Other events on this date included:

- start of the Anglo-Zulu war (1879)
- East Pakistan renamed Bangladesh (1972)
- first medical report into the dangers of smoking published (1964)
- Theodora crowned Empress of the Byzantine Empire (1055)
- Vladislav II becomes King of Bohemia (1158)
- Mount Etna destroys parts of Siciliy and Malta (1693)
- Auntie Isla born (????)

Friends assure me that birthdays get easier the older and wiser one becomes, however I think I will always be grumpy on this particular day...

Basque of the day:- ancient :: antzinakoak

Saturday, 10 January 2009

last supper

I hate birthdays, tomorrow is mine. On one hand it is lovely to celebrate being brought into this wonderful world, on the other it is an annual reminder that you are getting nearer to the check-out and are running out of time to achieve all the things you want to.

Given that today was Maria's first back in the Basque country for a while we spent it doing things we enjoy: a walk along the coast, visit to the market, lunch at our favourite bistro, select good movies to watch, make dinner (tonight was roasted stuffed peppers). Very lazy, but sometimes rest is required.

Basque of the day:- lazy :: alfer

slush puppy

The weather warmed a little today (sunny 4C) quickly changing the wintery wonderland into a slushy melting pot. I briefly ventured out to the market to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables but quickly scurried back indoors. The streets were aptly quiet as other Luzien's also sought shelter from the depressing melt.

My wife returned from her voyages this evening, unfortunately too late to see the snow but with perfect timing to save me from going ferral. It's always good to have her home.

Basque of the day:- return :: itzultze

Thursday, 8 January 2009

let it snow...

Stacks of the white stuff fell on St Jean de Luz today, a relatively rare occurence given its coastal proximity. After making a wee snowman on the patio I headed to the beach - a bizarre experience. The sand was completely covered in snow which turned from white to beige as the waves crawled up the sand. It reminded me of a gigantic etch-a-sketch.

The local school children were in raptures and enjoyed a mega snowball fight up and down the normally quietly chic Rue Gambetta. After today's fall the slopes are going to be amazing this weekend!!

Basque of the day:- snow :: elur (how wonderful a word is that for snow!)

back to normal

The holiday season has officially ended. The Parisians have headed home, the schools are back and the Christmas lights are turning off one by one. Sad in one way to see the back of another festive period but also pleasing that St Jean de Luz will return to normal.

My friends here say that from now till mid July is their favourite time here. The weather improves daily, the days get increasingly longer and other than Easter week there are no real inflows of tourists. Much as everyone welcomes the tourists and their important cashflow, life seems to be very different out of season and feels more social.

I saw our first snow flurry in town today. Quite suprised given the proximity of the sea, I must get some skiing arranged...

Basque of the day:- finish :: helmuga

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

twelfth night

Today is 'Three Kings Day' which is a big deal in Catholic circles. Being in the centre of a very large Catholic circle (i.e. on the border between France and Spain) I sought to uncover what takes place. It rather unsurprisingly involved eating and drinking, people in these parts seem to be expert in such past-times.

In France people eat a gâteau des Rois. A rather basic but delicious cake that contains a silver trinket. The person that is dealt the trinket is deemed king for the day and treated as such. In Spain El Día de los Reyes is more elaborate. Children polish their shoes and leave them on the doorstep for the Kings to leave presents in (much the same as our Christmas stockings). Wine and breads are also left for the Kings and their camels. Rather than the gâteau version, the Spanish eat Roscón, a bread filled with fruits and creams. Again there is a trinket, or Jesus doll, contained within that entitles the recipient to a day as a king. Both nations enjoy hearty celebratory meals with their families.

Being home alone this week I bought a gâteau des Rois for the cat and me to enjoy. She is now sitting on her favourite chair wearing crown and sceptre.

Basque of the day:- king :: errege

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Basque birthday

Today was Maria's birthday, an eternally youthful one as ever. We celebrated with a tour of the many playparks around St Jean de Luz (having Anna with us is a great excuse to lark about). We found four parks and two carousels, Anna was duly delighted!

The other advantage of having an energetic two year old in our midst was the justification of a mid afternoon nap. After a suitably Basque lunch of piperade, axoa (which is also an Indian dish) and gateau Basque washed down with plentiful supples of vin rouge we took advantage of this extra snooze time.

This evening we ventured out to allow the ladies to enjoy the start of the sales. Rue Gambetta was awash with locals and the remaining Parisian holidaymakers all sharing the common goal of finding a bargain. Clare picked up a fab Longchamp bag and haggled an amazing price, I guess being the leading legal light in Bruxelles she was always going to negotiate hard! Roger and I opted to settle into the more familiar territory of Bordeaux Superieur and fromage. A fine way to celebrate Maria's arrival on the planet.

Basque of the day:- birthday :: urtebetetze

Monday, 5 January 2009

Spanish caravan

A lovely sunny day so after our first visit of the year to the eglise St Jean de Baptiste (Basque is definitely my preferred language for singing) we headed across the border into Spain and onto Bilbao.

The Guggenheim Bilbao really is a special place. Aside from the wonderful art (there is a Cy Twombly exhibition at the moment) the building is majestic, well done Mr Gehry. It reminds me of a 21st century Barbican, most people hate it and bemoan the excessive uniformity but both are superb examples of architecture expressing the sentiment of the time as well as adopting innovative use of space. I love both buildings.

Visiting with two year old Anna enabled us to spend most of our time running around the mammoth 'Matter of Time' installation by Richard Serra. The disorientating effects of sight and sound as you explore the art are exceptional and I defy even the most ardent anti-modernist not to enjoy the experience.

Basque of the day:- artwork :: artegintza

Saturday, 3 January 2009

new beginnings

Arrived back in St Jean de Luz this afternoon after a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family, a large thank you to all. Returning here does feel like coming home which is a good sign. The cat hadn't died either which also made for a happier start to the year.

The sea was becalmed, the mountains nonchalent and the streets soulful as we enjoyed a stroll around town. We have friends staying with us for the first few days of the year which gives us an excuse to enjoy new eateries and visits. I am particularly happy because they bring with them their beautiful two year old so I finally have someone to build sand castles with! Alas, we arrived home too late to enjoy todays beach club rendezvous (see 20 Dec entry) and a rugby match in Bayonne, next time. This year I intend to try everything, at least once.

It promises to be an interesting year (very possibly the most important in our lives) as global economies, cultures and political structures continue to adjust to the ongoing turmoil. It's going to be some ride so hang on tight.

Basque of the day:- crisis :: krisialdi