I’ve come back from the Basque country, and I’ve never eaten so much in my life. It was like I was gorging down my sin and washing it away with wine. Good food was anywhere I looked at, the sun tagged along with me and there’re so much to see or to do. My five senses worked hard during the trip and prevented me from thinking – what a bliss.
Bayonne is somehow under the radar for tourists, the town was almost deserted during my time there. Not that I complain: I could visit whatever I like without reservation. The streets felt intimate, the bus driver knew nearly everybody. A stroll along the Nive river offers scenic views, including colorful houses along the bank, elegant bridges, and big fishes under water that ordinary eyes can see! I should have brought my fishing gear.
The main reason I chose Bayonne is for its Atelier du chocolat and the Bayonne ham tour. Bayonne was where chocolate first came to France in XV – the Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition stocked a trunk of chocolate in their suitcases and off to the Hexagon – or so I’m told. In the Atelier, I could see the old cacao machine from 1900, watch they make ganaches and rochers in the back kitchen, then taste different pralines as much as I like, all for just 6 euros.
Molding some chocolate form:
At the end of the visit, children under 12 yo could paint a white chocolate fish and bring it with them. I’m certainly not 12, but I asked them to allow me to do it, as I wanted to paint a gift for a friend. They said ok. It turned out that my painting was the worst among all the children there – I tried to scam too many colors onto a tiny fish. Oh well. Talking about greediness. Now that fish is not suitable to offer to my friend anymore.
Young chefs being excited in front of their fishes:
There was only one lady taking care of the shop, but she was very helpful (she said yes when I asked to do the fish…) and there was no pressure to buy at all. I still bought a full bag, my favorite is the chocolate with piment espelette – a very aromatic basque chili pepper.
I stayed at Ibis budget hotel, in an industrial zone – the mistake of booking at last minute. The only way to go anywhere from the hotel is to take a bus, or to cross the highway, at your own risk. I did the latter. The Atelier du chocolat is in front of my hotel, across the highway, and Google map told me I had to walk 1.5 km by a safer road. No way I listen to it. I went to the atelier early in the morning, when there was no car on the highway. But then, when I came back, it was packed of vehicles whistling by, and I had to wait 15 mins before I could cross it. I set a bad example, I know; really hope teenagers don’t read this thread of mine.
Guests at the hotel could eat in its restaurant Courtepaille with discount, 10 euros for a full diner of fresh food, such a deal. I didn’t expect that quality in a chain restaurant.
(You could order beefsteak and fresher meats, I just didn’t)
The hotel may not be at the best location, but somehow I like the feeling of waking up in the morning next to a highway. The speed, the movements, the frantic in order, the promise of unknowing voyages and the straightness of ongoing energy, they filled me up.
(To be continued)