Wednesday, May 24, 2017

French Basque Country

To round out our tour of the Basque Country, we popped over to Biarritz/Bayonne to have a quick look.

Biarritz was a fishing village until Napoleon's empress Eugenie turned it into a resort for royalties, which lasted less than 100 years: wars, change of social order, different whims....Today Biarritz seems in the ascendant again. We arrived in town on a balmy afternoon. The beaches were full of people, particularly surfers. It turned out that Biarritz was where surfing was originally introduced to Europe when The Sun Also Rises (1957) was being filmed on location. My airbnb landlord is a surfer; should have guessed....

The next day, we went inland to the ancient city of Bayonne, which seemed to be the antithesis of Biarritz. The city center is obviously much older, medieval, but not in very good repair. In more recent years, Bayonne had been a center for weapons manufacturing; there originated the word bayonet. It is all too easy to appreciate the difficulties in maintaining manufacturing jobs in this global economy.... In this tale of two cities, one feels acutely how fortunes change.

One more point to note: while the French Basques are not supposed to be the rabid separatists the Spanish Basque are, every official sign is in both French and Basque.

From San Sebastian, we rode the train to Irun, Spain; then switched to a bus to cross into France where the only formalities these days is a toll. ;-)
Biarritz, France

Our tiny apartment in Biarritz was just a few minutes walk from this beach which always had a throng of surfers.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz has a old Art Deco casino. Check out the big poster (left) for the upcoming World Surfing Games to be held here.
Biarritz, France

The très cool casino is on the beach.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Sunset the first day.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Surfer Vans right; beach left.
Biarritz, France

The public transport is easy and often so we bought two 24-hour bus passes and rode bus #8 over to Bayonne, arriving near the train station.
Bayonne, France

Bayonne is on the Adour and Nive rivers.
Bayonne, France

Bayonne, France

And the buildings have lots of wooden shutters.
Bayonne, France

The Art Deco Post Office.
Bayonne, France

Bayonne, France

More beach and sunset pics from Biarritz. FYI: there is more than one beach.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

I rest.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

How about all those surfers?
Biarritz, France

Hard cider with dinner on the apartment terrace.
Biarritz, France

Sunset.
Biarritz, France

Surf School.
Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France
















Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Figuring out San Sebastian

San Sebastian first got on my radar from my Spanish lessons. I have got the feeling that its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. It took me a while to work out the reason why.

We happened to be in town over a weekend. Friday night it rained around sunset. Saturday evening everyone was out in the streets. Many of the bars in the old town were standing room only in the street. The clients were not all young people. Many were mature adults. We are used to such "scenes."

Several places we noticed "Tourist go home" graffiti were left undisturbed, but the tourist office was particularly friendly and competent, except their internet was down due to the ongoing ransomware attack, which had not affected our travels otherwise.

Eventually, we concluded that San Sebastian is popular because it has everything, though it does not necessarily excel at any one thing.

* beach, different bays for surfing and family fun.
* historic center: this, many beach towns lack. Most beach towns used to be villages.
* lively restaurant/bar scene (all of Spain seem to be good at).
* location, as in proximity to France: Spain is cheaper than France and the French like good values.
* not to mention running, standup paddleboarding, open water swimming, sculling, and walking.
* regional public transportation

Walking to our hotel from the train station. Checkout SL and her backpack.
San Sebastian, Spain

Around the Old Town. The Ale-Hop cow (right).
San Sebastian, Spain

Private Men's Club.
San Sebastian, Spain

Plaza and Bull Ring.
San Sebastian, Spain

View towards the Cathedral.
San Sebastian, Spain

Friday night sunset rainout.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

Our one full day we rode the Metro train to San Pedro and walked back to San Sebastian on The Camino along the Bay of Biscay.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Pedro, Spain

Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

Many surfers in the water at Gros Beach.
Walking from San Pedro to San Sebastian, Spain

And walkers on the promenade.
San Sebastian, Spain

View from one of several monumental bridges that cross the Rio Urumea.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian always feels lively.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

Sunset pics.
Sunset - San Sebastian, Spain

Sunset - San Sebastian, Spain

Sunset - San Sebastian, Spain

Sunset - San Sebastian, Spain

Sunset - San Sebastian, Spain

Evening in city center.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

Before taking the train to Biarritz, we have a morning stroll on the promenade; and there's a 10K run in progress.

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

While walking we see open water swimmers and standup paddleboarders.
San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain