Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pays Basque - France Profonde

I woke up a bit under the weather today--probably too much sun and wind yesterday contrasting with cold, damp wetness from the days before. Either way, it was back to grey, misty, overcast weather so we drove up and into the Basque countryside, getting a glimpse into what is sometimes famously referred to as "France Profonde."

Driving through a number of small towns, many of which were not even on our "Map of France," I was able to see for myself a significant aspect of life in this part of France. The Frontons. Each little town featured it's own main hotel, of which one side was a fronton. "Fronton" was usually part of the name.

My favorite town was Esplette, which was mostly closed because it was a Saturday at lunchtime in January, but charmed me nonetheless. Little towns in the mountainsides are my favorites, I've decided. Sure I love being by the seaside and all the saltiness that goes with that, but give me fresh mountain air anytime! Here is another charming report on Esplette by a new New York-Parisian friend Dorie Greenspan.

Walking through town I purchased two pimento sauces (one spicy and one sweet), sampled some delicious chocolate with peppers and purchased some pretty pottery.

A couple stopped us on the street (there was no one else there) and asked what we were doing there and where we were from. He explained that the road was destroyed by the hurricane and the woman said, "it's nice weather, isn't it?" Well, it's nice weather if your from Esplette, perhaps. At least it wasn't raining, which is what prompted her remark.

Since they looked close by, I wanted to check out the "grottos." Forty-five minutes later through windy roads, mountain passes and long stretches of countryside we turned off to the Grotto parking, only to see the sign, "Closed till March 15." Well, I got lots of pictures along the way!

After a quick lunch back at home, we headed into Biarritz to check out the Mediatheque. It's immense and a modern multiplex -- incredible right in the center of town. Heading further into the town, closer to the beaches, we did a little shopping and then enjoyed a delicious chocolate at the famous Dodin*, watching thunderous waves crashing into the beach over stormy skies. choco

* I could not find any decent links to Dodin so I am going to post my comments on the existing sites so there is at least SOME info!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bidart - Day Four (into Spain)

The sun peeked out this morning and graced us with her sunny, warm presence all day.

After another relaxing morning, I made a delicious lunch of Salmon and Salad with some soy sauce concoction I created. E had "yellow food:" chicken with cheddar and a sweet potato.

In the late afternoon we drove for an half-hour to San Sebastian, Spain. We wandered around the "plages" (beaches) and the old town before heading back via an alternate route.

-= View the Sites of San Sebastian =-

I was ready for some more yummy seafood and we went to the popular Tantina de la Playa, which, although dark outside, still had spectacular ocean-side viewing.

And here are some photos of my melt-in-your-mouth sole, polished off by the famous Basque cake of Bidart!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bidart - Third Night

For dinner this night we headed into St. Jean de Luz for dinner at Emmanuel's friends apartment. Over some roasted chicken and potatoes we watched an episode of "Section de Recherches" on TF1, which both Emmanuel and his friend, the actor Jean-Pascal Lascoste work on.

Bidart Day Three: Sun and Surf

Whoo! The sun was out this morning, and, after being covered by the clouds and rain till about noon, came out increasingly for a long afternoon of blue skies and (fluffier) clouds.

This morning we had a nice breakfast by the double-doors to enjoy the view of the little houses dotting the hills and far-off mountains. All the houses (and commercial buildings) are painted one of four colors. They are all about the same range of white or cream for the base and the shutters and trim are either maroon, brown, forest green or a marine blue (with some variations). It can alternate between charming and annoying.

There are also lots of large courts for a sport called pelota and cesta, which I had mistaken for racquetball the first night. (I know, I know, the provincialism is astounding...) More info on Buber and on Wiki.

More photos from the day...

We mobilized with the pup to one of the beaches where Teddy ran and ran and ran and we walked around, finding a large stream that runs from the town into the ocean. Neat! Then we drove to Guerthary and I snacked on a pasteurized Goat's milk cheese, a baguette and an apple for a picnic as we watched a handful of surfers wait for a good wave. Yum! Then we walked down to another beach where the rocks were amazing and we saw more surfers.

Tonight we're having dinner over at our friend's house in St. Jean de Luz.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bidart: Day Two: Lounging and groceries

Today was a lazy day. We woke up around 9am and after walking down to the little fake Casino (grocery chain), we came back home and I cooked up a big breakfast of eggs and toast with orange juice. It was a "fake" Casino because the store was called Casino, everything inside was a Casino brand but they wouldn't let us use our Casino fidelity card. "We're not associated with them." Huh.

After breakfast Emmanuel played around with Wii fitness and I worked online. Around 4pm we got into the car and headed to St. Jean de Luz. We drove around the town a bit and on our way back stopped at Casa and Carrfour for household items and groceries. Carrfour is like a Kmart with groceries.

When we came home I cooked a dinner of lamb steaks, rice and peas, and, after a little bath went to sleep by 11.

Super exciting, non?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bidart - First Night

Our trip to Bidart started off in the typical French way. Because of Hurricanes the week before, roads and rails were closed. That was a week ago and there's been time to clear the way (see below). Our train to Bidart was confirmed on the web the night before and this morning. However, when we showed up at the train station, trains to Bidart were only going to Bordeaux, about 2 hours away. All the rental cars at the Bordeaux train station were already reserved. Our train was direct so we couldn't get out one stop before Bordeaux to get a car there. We canceled our train tickets and rented a car from Paris and drove 8.5 hours to get here.

The house we're staying in felt a little creepy--the door was blown open and a light was on. But fortunately no one had entered since our friends (who are renting it) left it a week ago.

We took a little drive around town, basically one big city block and had dinner at the only open restaurant--Elissaldia--a hotel in town that looks like it serves as the main gathering point for everyone. There is a large square in front and a large racquetball court in back. Men come in to play and then take a beer at the bar afterwards. I enjoyed a delicious Hake (merlu en francais) and salad. Emmanuel enjoyed fresh fois and duck. For dessert-- a traditional Basque cake and an apple tart.

After all that, I was in bed by 9:30 and ready for a long night's sleep.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Events ~ around Paris

Ex-pats, and citizens, around the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder to watch the historic day of Barack Obama's Presidential inauguration.

Events lived up to their promise to be the largest in history, with record numbers in Washington. More than 100 Democrats Abroad inaugural celebrations were planned worldwide, even in places as remote as Zambia. Large events and formal balls were held in cities from London to Hong Kong, from Berlin to Sydney and most celebrations featured live coverage of President Obama's Inaugural Address (or recorded versions replayed due to time differences).
International Chair, Democrats Abroad, Christine Schon Marques wrote in a DA email, "As an organization, we know that Democrats Abroad made significant differences in elections across the country. Our vote mattered and our efforts paid off. We plan to celebrate President Obama's inauguration in every corner of the world and join in renewing America's promise."

I was lucky enough to get a "golden" ticket to the Hotel de Ville in Paris and seep in history as history was being made.

Here are all the spectacular pictures!

And these were some of the other events that went on around town:
In Marseille
Cocktail party starts at 5:00 pm on La Boate 35 rue de la Paix, 13001 Marseille to watch the inauguration ceremony LIVE at 6:00 pm on a big screen. In association with Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires PACA and Media Euroméditerranéen des Diversités à Marseille.

In Toulouse
A special event being organized by the American Consulate in cooperation with the City of Toulouse and an NGO, le Conseil Representif des Associations Noires (CRAN). Speech by Dominique Nitoumbi, Président of CRAN Midi-Pyrénées and David Brown, U.S. Consul. The festivities will include live television coverage of the inauguration as well as a talk by Fulbright Distinguished Professor Lorenzo Morris of Howard University and the University of Paris. Salle municipale Osète: Immeuble Duranti 6, rue du Lt-Colonel Pelissier 31000 (Métro Capitole, parking St George).

In Strasbourg
Starting at 5pm at the Dubliners Pub, Rue du VIeux Marché aux Vinx. Live streaming on Big Screen TV CNN.

In Avignon
Starting at 5pm at the "Restaurant 75", 78 Rue Guillaume Puy. Large screen viewing of ceremonies, parade, etc, with Champagne. Followed by cocktail dinatoire and dancing with live music.

In Paris

The American Library
Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States soon. At the Library we'll be marking this historic moment with a special book display, a live broadcast of the inaugural address, and an evening discussion focused on the promise of change on the international stage.
17h30: Live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremonies and inaugural address.
19h30: Political analyst Thierry Leterre on ‘The 2008 election viewed from Europe: A world ballot?’ A Current Events Forum in cooperation with WICE.
Tel: 01 53 59 12 60
10, rue du Général Camou, 75007

The American Church in Paris
The American Church in Paris will have an Inauguration Prayer Service at 7:30 P.M. It will be a 30 minute service featuring a gospel choir, followed by the viewing of the speech. Afterwards they will have a reception with music, snacks and wine. All are welcome. This is a free event. 65 Quai D'orsay, 75007.

OBAMA DAY “Yes, We Can!!”
From 6pm to 2am, free entry
Rebroadcast of Inauguration on a big screen, Expo-Sale of Obama clothing (silkscreened by XULY BET) , Photo exhibition, and Concert of and soul music featuring several groups including Chicago musician Sean Haefeli.
OPUS 167 quai de Valmy 75010 Paris - M° Louis Blanc - Tel 01 40 34 70 00

The Highlander
“THE Scottish Pub in Paris”
Special American Inauguration 2009 Party, also sponsored by POLITICAL PUB, bar opens at 5:00pm
8 rue Nevers 75006, across from Pont Neuf.

The Moose (Canadian Bar)
They have 11 big screens and at least one will be showing the Inauguration! Tuesdays are Ladies’ Nights AND it will be Happy Hour until 8pm.
16, rue de Quatre Vents, 75006
Tel: 01 46 33 77 00

Breakfast in America
We will be tuning in live @ 4pm (16H00) Paris time to see who Obama's guests will be before he gives his big acceptance speech! So come and join us for this historic event!
17, rue des Ecoles
75005 Paris, France
Métro: Cardinal LeMoine or Jussieu
Tel: 01 43 54 50 28

Queenie and Queen
Get the party started at Le Queenie, starting at 8:00 pm. Then move on to Queen, opening its doors at 10:00 pm, with the Inauguration playing on the big screen and dancing until dawn. RSVP to so they know how many to expect. This is not a ticketed event, but Queen has a €15 cover charge after midnight. Visit their website for more info: Le Queenie, 5 rue des Berri, 75008 Paris and Queen, 102 Avenue Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris

Carr’s Irish Restaurant & Bar
will show the Inauguration on Tuesday next, 20th January.
Watch the swearing-in and acceptance speech on CNN on large screens,
with television coverage starting at 4.30pm.
Congratulations to Americans everywhere, and our very best wishes for 2009
Carr’s Irish Restaurant and Bar, 1 rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris

Joe Allen
will show the Inauguration on Tuesday next, 20th January.
Watch the swearing-in and acceptance speech on CNN on large screens,
with television coverage starting at 4.30pm.
Joe Allen, 30 Rue Pierre Lescot, Paris, 75001, 014236 7013