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!