Tuesday, 2 March 2010

a wild weekend in St Jean de Luz

Sometimes it takes until Tuesday to recover from a weekend in St Jean de Luz. Fabienne was stricter than ever bossing our flamenco class on Friday afternoon. We struggled to get our pasadas, zapateados and vuelta izquierdas in order but she was unrelenting. Saturday night was presenting the biggest soiree of the season so far and our teacher was adamant we would do well.

Once I had recovered suitably a friend joined me for dinner (and wine) to watch France play Wales at rugby. Afterwards we joined friends in several bars around town to discuss France's resounding victory and celebrate until the first signs of daylight started to appear. So much for the alleged Basque lack of hospitality; I was readily accepted by the gang and met far more people than names I can remember, let alone prounouce - Basque names can be...interesting.

Most of Saturday was wasted but I roused myself as evening approached and readied myself for the main event. I was acting taxi for the evening which was most welcomed given the previous night. I picked up my partner for the evening before meeting the rest of our group. Driving in convoy towards the Spanish border the storm that has marred the past few days began to raise its head. An enormous fire on La Rhune burned uncontrollably being driven widely by the wild winds. We arrived in Fuenterrabia and headed for the party.

A huge hall presented itself and soon there were some 400 ready revellers; 300 of whom were elegantly attired ladies. Following a hearty dinner of local fares the music struck up. I am always a little nervous at the start of these events and tend to watch from the sidelines to begin with; in part to remind myself of the moves, in part in hope that there is someone who is worse at dancing than me! My rest didn't last long. With only half of the men dancing the ratio of 6:1 meant that my dance-card was preoccupied for some six hours non-stop. The hard practice Fabienne had put us through paid off and we all astonished ourselves. I used to think I was fit but I was in urgent need of fresh air to cool down between every second dance; it is unrelenting and exhausting (I lost four pounds).

[Click here for video]

The colours and movement were mesmerising; the sounds and smiles elating; the laughter and sense of belonging overwhelming. It is a real privilege to be an outsider allowed to enjoy and partake in something that is so different. At 0300 we were still going strong. During one of my cool-down breaks outside I noticed a thermometer, it read 28C reminding me that we were in the eye of a sizeable storm. I had danced more than I believed possible and exhaustedly corralled my passengers. I really wanted to be home before the storm proper arrived. As it happened I slept through it all and only really woke up sometime Monday morning with a broad smile across my face and a not inconsiderable thirst.

Basque of the day:- I belong here :: hemen bertakoa naiz

(FX, thanks for photos!!)