Monday, 20 July 2009

accepted in St Jean de Luz

This weekend in St Jean de Luz reminded me exactly why it is that I live in the Basque country. It wasn't the glorious weather that made it so, nor the long mornings spent on the beach, nor the idle hours chattering in cafes with new friends. It wasn't the continuous stream of ever varying music or pleasant views, both mountainous and feminine. As usual it came down to a new experience.

On Saturday I was invited to join a group of Pascale's friends at the Fête des Canards in nearby Urrugne. Cunningly a sardine festival is also held that night in central St Jean de Luz, this diverts the tourists and enables the Urrugne event to be almost exclusively local Basque, with the exception of a random Scotsman. Arriving early I walked up the hill into town. All roads had been closed as twenty or so long trestle tables (each sitting thirty) were laid out in the place and adjacent streets. As I had seen the previous week at the tuna event each table was linked to an association. I had been forewarned that we would be with the sports association thereby guaranteeing excess alcohol.

Having your own friends is one thing but to be wholly embraced by a new set of friends is quite a heart-warming experience (thank you Pascale). To a person the gathering made delightful company. Settling to dinner (after a few warm up aperitifs) my French was truly tested to the full. Dinner consisted of pâté, 'sein de canard en sauce à poivre avec du riz et la saucisse' and the obligatory gateau Basque and brebis cheese to follow. Washed down by several bottles of rosé (I had unwittingly been seated near the drinkers), the music started and we were all in gear to dance. In between dancing and singing an endless flow of coffee and paxtaran fueled us beyond midnight.

It was the first time I had truly felt welcomed and not seen as a tourist. Though still a stranger, I am happy with this status, it is what I am. I knew and recognised a good deal of the other revellers, and they are beginning to recognise and accept me. My French was far from perfect but during the course of the evening I was able to discuss the psychology of the female mind with a group of ladies. I put this down to drink rather than any special ability as I have never been able to discuss this subject intelligibly in English.

Basque of the day:- acceptance :: onespen