Posted in Travel

Bayonne & San Sebastian: short trip for the five senses (part 1)




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)



My stock websites for photos:

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