Monday, 31 August 2009

sunny weekend in St Jean de Luz

As predicted the weather in St Jean de Luz has been wonderful this weekend. After a day on the beach, on Saturday evening we headed across the border to San Sebastian for tapas/pinxtos and a couple of glasses of sangria. The Spanish town is dangerously close and offers dangerously good nightlife!

Sunday was a more mellow day. Again the day was spent on the beach. By mid afternoon the beach, though busy, was nowhere like it has been. Many people were sunbathing with their luggage, catching a few last rays of sunshine before driving or taking the train home. The schools start back this week.

The last 'toro de fuego' of the season took place last night (accompanied by a very good band). We sat in the place enjoying a couple of glasses of calvados and watching the mayhem unfold. Although this marks the end of the official season, it is also the beginning of everybody's favourite month. All year our friends have been telling us how much they love September: sunny weather sans tourists!

Basque of the day:- beginning :: hasiera

Friday, 28 August 2009

Scottish weather in St Jean de Luz

As I walked through St Jean de Luz this morning the butcher stopped to greet me. He noted how happy I must be with the Scottish weather that was upon us. Indeed, following a rainy night a thick haar has come in bringing with it one of those days where it doesn't seem to be raining but you are soaked through.

There were still a few souls in the sea this morning, several joggers, shoppers, amblers and even a snail sitting on a bench having a rest from the stressful pace of life in St Jean de Luz. With the wet the temperature has come back down. This weekend promises to be excellent.

Basque of the day:- wet :: heze

Thursday, 27 August 2009

the skies break over St Jean de Luz

The temperature continued to rise in St Jean de Luz today. At the moment (9pm) it has edged over 30C.

Looking up to the mountains, during the past half hour thick black clouds have started to wrap themselves around their peaks and swarm down their sides. I can usually see a couple of mountains across the border in Spain but heading up the valley is what looks like an exceedingly heavy rainstorm.

Fingers crossed for some thunder and lightning, and fingers crossed tomorrow will be a little fresher (humidity levels today were around 85%).

Basque of the day:- weather :: eguraldi

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

beach time in St Jean de Luz

Another hot day in St Jean de Luz. There was little else to be done other than stretch out and relax on the beach. It may have been busy but it is a fabulous way to spend the day. Surprisingly tiring too! So long as you are in situ by eleven you can guarantee a good spot.

The beach in St Jean de Luz has four excellent children's centres where parents can deposit their kids for anything from 30 minutes to a full day. The centres have a variety of beach based playthings, from trampolines and swings to climbing nets and flying-fox slides. It makes you wish you were ten again.

Basque of the day:- beach :: hondartza

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

the secrets of St Jean de Luz

Tonight a friend and I went to a history lecture in St Jean de Luz. It was in French but I think I caught most of it. The talk was about a variety of secrets that were designed into the architecture of the church.

Crafty were those C14th architects and seemingly very eager to push their own take on religion. Statues of saints that have been taken for granted for centuries are apparently not who they purport to be, and is the figure in the stained glass window really the Enfanta?

Basque of the day:- mystery :: misterio

Monday, 24 August 2009

shifting down a gear in St Jean de Luz

There was a further change of pace in St Jean de Luz today. This morning the last of my summer guests departed. Every day for the last three months I have had visitors. It is lovely to entertain and I am incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful friends and family, but it is equally delightful now that they have all gone! There is a mounting buzz amongst the locals that the season is drawing to a close. By all accounts this summer has been far busier than normal which is great news for the town.Similarly to the St Jean de Luz festival that takes place before the season starts, there are a couple of festivals taking place to mark the end of the season too. These promise to be well-attended events where the local Basques can let their hair down after working hard over the summer months. The social scene here is very different in the summer months. Many of the friends I spend time with throughout the year are unavailable or simply too tired so I am looking forward to catching up with everyone again soon.

Basque of the day:- local :: tokiko

Sunday, 23 August 2009

lazing on a Sunday afternoon

The end of the St Jean de Luz 'season' is around the corner. Over the weekend the volume of tourists and second-home-residents has been falling steadily. However, the vibrancy that has filled St Jean de Luz throughout the summer remains.
This morning a Spanish brass band woke me as they marched down the street. Tonight as I get ready to go to bed a Basque open-air dinner is offering up a variety of songs and beyond that the toro del fuego is in full flow in Place Louis XIV.
By next weekend St Jean de Luz will be back to its normal self.

Basque of the day:- end :: buru

Saturday, 22 August 2009

forray into Spain

Leaving the lovely beach of St Jean de Luz behind we headed south across the border to enjoy a lovely day (and evening) in St Sebastian - or Donostia as it is known in Basque.

It is one of the most wonderfiul places to simply wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The city is very much a new town until you break its shell and enter the wild yolk of its old town, complete with a dazzling array of religious venues and eateries.

After several hours on the beach we decided to prowl the old town and found a most excellent bar to take tapas: beef, pork, gambas, chipirons, poulet. All washed down with several glasses of sangria. A wonderful sortie.

Basque of the day:- escape :: ihes

Friday, 21 August 2009

sporting exploits in St Jean de Luz

During the summer in St Jean de Luz there is a good deal of sport on offer. Twice a week the 'jai alai' hosts major cesta punta matches that are part of the season long league. The game is traditionally Basque, involves two teams of two men with long baskets (xisteras) attached to their arm. The court is roughly 3x the size of a squash court with 3 walls (front, side, back). Each team must throw the ball (pelota) against the front wall. The other team has one bounce before it has to do likewise. If the ball bounces twice or falls outside set lines the point is lost.

St Jean de Luz also offers two more traditional pelota matches each week. These are held at the 'fronton municipal' (council run pelota stadium). Rugby is also rife throughout town, and the entire Basque region. St Jean de Luz has a good team though the stronger local teams in Biarritz and Bayonne steal most of the attention. Fitter people surf along the coast, the Atlantic presents some excellent waves. A huge volume of people go running or walking daily. Basically, the Basques seem to embrace and partake in a lot of sport. Given the number of parties held this is very necessary to look after the figure.Basque of the day:- sport :: kirol

Thursday, 20 August 2009

the sounds of St Jean de Luz

St Jean de Luz is at it's peak this week. It is coming towards the end of the school holidays and every bed in the Basque country is filled with happy families holidaying in the eternal sun. Having been initially shocked by the tidal wave of 'etrangers' I have learned to embrace the feeling and go with the flow. The speed of change has been dramatic. Even as recently as the start of August it was easy to find a seat at the cafe or restaurant of your choice. At the moment I am booking a day in advance and only frequenting bars where I know the staff so that they look after me (a huge perk). The only drawback is the beach. Unless you are in place before lunchtime it is almost impossible to find a space for your towel.

It is an important time for the town. The majority of revenue is generated during this month. The shopkeepers are displaying their finest wares. Today, to increase the shopping frenzy there has been a 'braderie' (sale). Tables are laid out along the streets and vendors pedal their wares accordingly. Amongst the happy holidaymakers groups of musicians set up camp and delight their ever flowing audiences with a wide range of styles.

St Jean de Luz is alive with noise twenty four hours a day. The last of the late night revellers can be heard staggering home as the bakeries start-up their ovens at six. Local businesses carry out their trades during the morning. The afternoon and early evening is given to promenading. Late evening and early morning are the hours for the younger visitors as they drink, sing and fool around in the many bars and parks. There are also a myriad of splendid and often bizarre fetes that take place in the evenings. Once your ears (and sleep patterns) become accustomed it is delightful, no need to wear a watch, just listen to the sounds outside.

Basque of the day:- holiday :: oporraldi

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

a tough week in St Jean de Luz

My bad cousin has been in St Jean de Luz for a week. His arrival coincided with a marked increase in tourist volumes and, strangely, a marked downturn in my liver quality. It has been an exhausting week of parties. The Basque town is far noisier than I have known with music playing long into the small hours. Simple tasks like walking to the market take three times longer due to pedestrian volumes as a myriad of nationalities inter-mingle, ambling along the picturesque streets. For those holidaying here it creates a wonderful carnival atmosphere. For those of us living here it is all a little challenging.

Basque of the day:- liver :: gibel

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

en route to St Jean de Luz

I adore lovely chance encounters. On my way home to St Jean de Luz today I sat beside a delightful lady and her husband. They live some ten minutes from me down here. As we got talking we shared a far happier and more interesting flight than would normally be the case. We have determined to establish a creative workshop for writing/reading/artwork and welcome anyone interested to get in contact (N.B. it will be in English, at least to begin with!).

It is always lovely to come home. I did note however, that having just spent a little time in a major city that St Jean de Luz is up there with the most hectic of urban centres during the summer months. Fabulously envigorating. Tomorrow sees the arrival of my young cousin, he is a terrible influence and I fear for my liver.

Basque of the day:- alcohol :: alkohol