When talking geography, people say they’ve traveled to the four corners of the globe... which has always confused me because a globe has no corners. But then again, we’re talking geography here and not geometry. People also travel to the four corners of a country, except in France. France is L’Héxagone, which should require no translation. And as a hexagon, it has six corners.
I’m off to one of them, the very southwest corner, the Basque one that’s just pre-Spain.
I have big hopes for this trip after six weeks of crummy weather not worthy of the end of spring. Something about the words “June” and “heating” just aren’t meant to go together. And there are only so many days you can use your umbrella before thinking maybe you should ask Mother Nature for your money back. So my hopes of finally drying out and warming up are high.
Trains to Bordeaux and beyond to the Spanish border leave from the Gare Montparnasse, as do those to St. Malo (see On the Road: St. Malo on Brittany’s Côte d’Armor, June 29, 2013). Actually it services the entire west side of France. So it’s back across town on the métro and onto the TGV for a 5+ hour trip from the drizzle into the light (fingers crossed).
The train doesn’t stop until Bordeaux, after which it becomes a local for people - including many locals - traveling between Dax, Bayonne, Biarritz, St. Jean de Luz and finally Hendaye at the border. The car I’m in is sold out, with many seats occupied by a young Chinese contingent of both sexes who get off in Bordeaux. One, who is bilingual, appears to be the organizer for the others and I’m sorely tempted to ask him what their business is. Perhaps a tour of the wine châteaux for a wine tasting or to scope out the next area of investment for the Middle Kingdom?
After that, there’s just enough time to put away the book and gather up my “effects” before Biarritz.
And then there are the regular people, like my friend born and raised here until she moved to Paris for work, people who love the mild climate that makes living on one’s terrace such a pleasure pretty much year-round. Plus enough rainfall to turn the countryside green, unlike the Mediterranean coast.
After lunch we escape in time to miss the blaring loudspeakers just a stone’s throw down the docks. They accompany the final rehearsal for tonight’s amateur dance show. American rock music and tanned girls of varying ages do acrobatic routines, including a kick-boxing dance, as retired fishermen get off their bar stools to come stare and “rinse their eyes”, as the French say.
|Rocher du Basta|
It all reminds me of my very young summers in Island Heights and Seaside Heights. Especially the waves. This is the ocean I learned to swim in, and I’d like to bring my family here. I might even buy a dog.
P.S. On the train ride back up to Paris, I note that the three days without rain have allowed the Adour, the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers to settle back into their normal beds. The difference in the water level is noticeable. It’s a relief to the entire area, which was subjected to major flooding in May and June.
P.P.S. For those of you in and around New Orleans, the name Jean Lafitte may ring a bell. This famous pirate, the King of Baratiara, was originally from Biarritz.