Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kombi Watch

There's lots of VWs here! Given that Europe is all joined together, it's quite easy for them to get here from almost anywhere else. We've seen number plates from Brittain, Luxenmburg, Switzerland, Estonia, Netherlands... all down here for the Summer holidays.

Incidentally, this guy gets the parking award.
This may or may not be a VW... But we should just do this next time we go down south.

Le surf

Le surf has been petite. Petite petite. But that is what we're here for so I was out there again on Thursday. It was cold, gloomy and onshore. It even rained at one point. Slightly less crowded and there were a few waist high waves when the tide came rushing in and the people went rushing out. James wisely decided to stay dry and, armed with the camera, recorded some of the other things going on on this French Beach...
Lots of sandcastles
This one even has a Granny-flat

There is some terrific beach fashion to be spotted.

Lots of beach tennis, volleyball and skimboarding.
There are always lifeguards on patrol. When the tide comes in they tip their lookout tower over and carry it up the stairs to the road.
They have flags for everything here. Periodically they make PA announcements about something important. Occasionally they bother to do it in English but most of the time I can't tell whether they are saying "Swimmers between the blue flags only" or "Everyone out! There is a shark eating a whale."
There was even some surfing!! Actually, this is Biarritz, there were about 300 people surfing!
Some impressive tandem work!
The 8' South Point I rented.
Still busy even though the surface quality isn't great. That's Spain in the background!
Iconic View - clouds looming

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bon Marché

Whilst a thriving tourism and holiday destination, Biarritz maintains a village feel, especially in places like the markets. We found a nice little market a short walk from our hotel, which presumably operates in much the same way as it has for many generations.

Old men arrive early to purchase their daily baguette, stopping to drink vino at 9am. Brash women haggle over the price of a bushel of leeks, never really agreeing to the price.

The market thrives, packed with shoppers from open to close. There's every conceivable fruit, vegetable and animal produce available, and at such reasonable prices.
Just how much does a bushel of leeks cost, anyway?

Such sweet treats! Berries of the boldest blues and bright reds... cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries... they're all here, by the bucket.
Berry good! Berry delicious!!
Tomatoes the size of my head are heaped in mounds, alongside fresh mushrooms, local radishes and haricot vert.
La grande tomate
I wouldn't want to eat EVERYTHING in here... It would take some courage to order a bag of this hearty offering.
J'adore?? Look up coeurs.
Stinky cheeses line the shelves, wafting their own particular brand of awesome over the crowd. A good way to clear a crowd, these bad boys are potent. They've really tended to their moulds in here.
Phwoar, who cut their cheese?
Less exciting than their Dutch equivalent, these fungi fill baskets aplenty. I can only assume it's some kind of mushroom, but I actually haven't ever seen anything quite like it. Mum will know.
Not hungry? A bouquet of fresh cut flowers is yours for the taking. The picture doesn't do justice to the sheer brilliance of colour on display.
Pretty colours.
Fruits de la mer! Poisson et le krabbe, all caught only hours before being displayed in the seafood markets.
Turbot, anyone?
Shrimp butt.
Check out this sucker. The thing was about a metre long, and looked bloody frightening.
It makes me want to make better use of our own markets, back home. It was a nice little taste of Fremantle, in a way. I guess wherever we are on the Earth, we all need to eat, and land and sea provide.
Fishy num num?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Afternoon Delights

The food is so good here that it is deserving of a dedicated post, or three. We have been making the most of every meal and like hobits, have been ensuring we have elevensies and afternoon tea as the mood strikes. The newest thing we tried was Gateau Basque - a local (basque) cake made with almond meal. It's really nice and comes in cerise - with a red fruit jam in the middle - or blanc with apple in it.
Europeans appear to love nutella. You can get it on just about anything. James is finishing (read: dribbling on the footpath) a crepe with chocolate, peach and almonds while I shamelessly devour a fresh waffle smeared with nutella.
The p'tite creperie where we have enjoyed savoury and sweet crepes as well as the best omeletes we've ever had. Along with passble coffee - which is good for here.

So much eye & mouth candy!!
More macarons - flavours include standard; coffee, choc, vanilla, but also lavender/apricot and so on. More investigation is needed.
Waiting nicely in the chocolatier
Balle de Golf anyone??
James has just forgotten how to say his order in French...

Today we went to a 'Salon de The' for goodies and expensive cups of tea. We have been craving tea - it was god awful in Greece with UHT milk and here they don't really drink it. We paid 5euros each for a pot of tea for two. But we had delectable treats to enjoy with it. I had a raspberry and chocolate tart complete with a miniature, pink macaron on the top! James had the richest chocolate, mousse brownie ever concocted. Here is a small sample of the other sugary treasures they had on offer...

Torte with alpine strawberries, red currents, blackberries...
Every one is a work of art
Mixed berries, peach slices and pistachios.
Worth every euro.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surfing la Cote de Basque!

Ok, so this is my surfing blast. Hopefully of some interest to those of you that surf, and probably of no interest at all to those of you who don't. Sorry :/

We found somewhere to hire boards off the main drag, so its about half the price. We got almost brand new MSP mals, a 9'2 and an 8'6 to cater to the fatty waves.
We carried them, one person on the noses, one on the tails the 2km from the shop to the beach. Unnnggg. :] Unfortunately the tourists here aren't that keen to get out of the way and a 9' long, 2 person board train is not particularly manuevreable. Made for a slightly frustrating journey.

We surfed 3 hours yesterday and today. Definitely thought there'd be more rippers here, but most people are nubs. About a dozen longboarders look pretty sweet.

There's about 8 zillion kids all learning at 20 gazillion eccoles de surf. So crowded, and that's at the less touristy beach. We were trying to be sneaky and sit in between the masses, but others cottoned on pretty quickly. Soon you'd be surrounded by people again. What's more, just like on the sidewalk, no one was that interested in getting out of your way! Ran over a kid today. Tried not to but, well, there's only so much you can do, really. There is no such thing as 'no drop ins'. I don't think anyone's even heard of the term. That's just how you surf.

The North end - gets some really nice rights (not in this photo)
Down the north side (near the chateau) the shape was marginally better, but there was usually 5 people on a wave! Plus a whole cast of people creating a human barricade between you and the beach. Let's just say that tourists in Biarritz in Summer appear slightly less ocean aware than your average Perthonite.

 So for the last hour I was surfing this afternoon, I found a nice little peak to myself. And it was rad! The swell picked up and I may have caught some whoppers that were a massive waist high. No more cutbacks simply to dodge, duck, dive and dodge the onrush of learners. Some nice shape and lots of opportunity to trim on the mal.
I even managed to pull off a proper Hang 5 today for the first time! Woo!
Jim, rad springsuit and 9'2! Heaps of beach @ low tide.
My dorky pose, 8'6 and photobomber :/

When my arms would paddle no more, I got out just as the tide was starting to come in. There is a huge variance in tide here, some 2.5-3m in a day. So things change fast and a lot. Our hotelier had suggested low tide to go surfing as it's 'better' then. So that's when we've been going out. When I got out, James had popped up on a rock on the retaining wall as the flat beach was now covered in a few inches of water. This happens pretty quickly. Even though it happens everyday, it still manages to surprise the sun-bakers who are awoken as the water rushes up and wets everything. They scream, leap up, then retire to the concrete steps and retaining wall for more sunbaking.

As this very diverting melodrama was happening, something else was happening. The waves were getting bigger!! No longer sloppy ankle/knee-dribblers; the tide was creating consistent waist+ waves!! *Epiphany here* All the surf schools went in and the few people out knew what they were doing and were getting some really fun rides. (I'm really glad we discovered this incoming tide thingo 4 days in and not the day before we left!)

Paradoxically, none of the board hire places want to rent you a board for high tide. Why? Because it's high tide. :l The rocks are underwater (albeit in a very predictable place) and you have to walk up partially submerged stairs! C'mon, that can't be anything compared to paddling over sharp coral and sea urchins before climbing up a cliff face, can it? Gnaraloo and Dad have prepared us well :)
Cafe overlooking le Cote de Basque

We have found somewhere to hire boards for the incoming tide and will probs check it out on Thursday! The dude in the shop said it is petit-petit at the moment, so I guess it can be bigger than this, but maybe not while we're here. It apparently holds up to head high, but that's it. Bigger waves are only really found up the coast at Hossegor or Mundaka in Spain.

Hope yoose are getting some swell in Perf.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

La France Différance

France is turning out to be everything promised, and more. It's beautiful here, so peaceful, yet so alive with joy and vibrance. We're happily ensonced in our chateau, overlooking a bustling main street.

The light is much milder here than in Greece; it's lovely to be awoken each morning to soft rays through our shutters, and the bustling noises of the waking village.

Biarritz has a great vibe. 1 part chic, fashion consciousness, 1 part shabby surfer dude with sand between the toes. Hannah's picked up some ideas for Jeeves our scooter back home...

Cote de Basque is resplendant in it's glory, a mountain reaching down towards the sea. You can see so far around the coast that Spain is visible in the distance.

A pity I couldn't capture the beauty in focus...
I love the weird blend of old and new in France. This giant house with spires and turrets overlooks modern brasseries and glaciers (ice cream dudes), yet manages to look as though it's exactly where it's meant to be. Just below the shot are a hundred people, sunbathing on a sheltered beach.
The sun sets so late here. Hannah got this shot at about 9:30/10:00pm. I kid you not, you can actually be out SURFING until gone 10 o'clock.

Mojitos and une limonade as the sun sets on this tapas bar at the end of our street, overlooking l'Atlantique. Everything tastes better in France.

Bon appetit! We rocked up the most amazing salad, with a whole wheel of baked camembert slapped on top. It tasted so good. We also got a tapas plate with a bunch of awesome tasting goodies, that did NOT last long, I can tell you. OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!!!

Aurevoir, to another beautiful day.
Enjoying some 10:30pm eau de eau.
Le Santa Maria came up with the goods. The food here is just SO good, we can't get enough. We'll be notching a few extra holes in the old belts, or just throwing them away. It's going to look like the Elvis years in my photos...
A couple of days in, and I feel I could stay forever. It's all well and good being on holiday, I guess, but it really is quite spectacular. I think Mum would really love it here. There's a great blend of culture and old world charm, a real life in the village, where craft and art are as welcome as Luis Vitton.