Thursday, September 15, 2011
Friday, Day Four
Friday, September 9th
This morning we walked a few hundred meters to Carrefour, a very large shopping center, where we found a nice patisserie. We each ordered cafe au lait, and small baguette with butter and jam. A perfect light breakfast for a couple of Euros.
This morning we loaded two cars full of people for the day's adventure to Biarritz on the west coast of France near the Spanish border. It's a 116 km trip, and during most of the hour and a half it took we could see the impressively jagged peaks of the Pyrenees off in the distance to our left.
We followed instructions to the main train station and waited a short while to be joined by Helen, a young woman from Richmond, Virginia who came to Biarritz for World Vision to start an outreach program for young people. She has been here for some time, and plans to stay, since she met and married Phillipe, a French civil engineer.
We followed her pumpkin-orange little Renault through the winding streets and around many traffic circles, descending eventually past large elegant homes to a narrow road that skirts the ocean along the bottom of a steep cliff. There is a sea wall along the waterfront here, reinforced with a wide rip-rap of large black boulders. Just beyond the rocks that protect the shoreline there is a sandy bottom that probably forms a narrow beach when the tide is low.
Large, long swells, perhaps three meters from trough to crest came rolling in from the Bay of Biscay, which is merely a slight curve to the western coast of France, really just the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of surfers could be seen sitting on their boards, floating up and over each passing swell, waiting for the perfect wave. When it was perceived that an approaching wave had just the right slope and height, surfers would swing around, belly-flop on their boards, paddling as fast as they could with their hands. Those who had timed it just right would be propelled forward down the slope of the wave, and with a quick grab and lurch would leap to their feet, suddenly transformed into darting, swooping dancers on the curling waves.
Appropriately, the place where Helen took us for lunch was "Les Surfers". We all sat at one long table facing the water. The wall closest to the seawall was open to the breezes so we could see the surfers, the waves, and the ocean beyond as we ate lunch.
Jane and I shared Merlu, a plate for two. The English name for this fish is hake. It was both ugly and delicious, the body split into two attached gently broiled fillets drenched in garlic butter and judiciously sprinkled with herbs just behind the dark head with its gray eyes and gaping sharp-toothed mouth.
After lunch Helen and Philippe led the four-car caravan on a wandering tour of Biarritz, past the casinos and cliff-top mansions, along steep curving cobblestone streets lined with shops offering overpriced elegant goods for wealthy customers, down along the waterfront with small beaches nestled in rocky coves, and up again through more modest neighborhoods. We stopped for a short visit at their new church, a small rented space in a building shared with a surfers' hostel.
An almost-full moon rose above the low hills in front of us as we headed back toward our hotel after a long day. Tomorrow is a travel day from Lescar east to Beynac in the valley of the Dordogne.