A side note for the Atelier du chocolat: if you want to see they work the chocolate, come in the morning.
Day 2 & 3: churches and ham
Bayonne cathedral is an impressive gothic building made from two different types of stone, built over a long period with changing architectures, representing two power sides, so it’s kinda funny to look at. The exterior is like it was wiped half-way by a giant sponge. The interior is decorated with nice stained glass, some England keystones and some French ones (for the ruling at the moment of construction). Not that it matters, because usual church-goers couldn’t possibly see those high-up stones very well.
Up close from wikipedia:
(Credit to Ddalbiez)
The gargoyles and the large cloister, dates back to 1240:
(back to my photos)
It is part of the French pilgrim routes Camino de Santiago so there were lots of Camino passports inside the cathedral. That interested me as I’d been in Santiago de Compostela this summer, and intend to walk that route when I become older.
With its critical location (intersection of two rivers Nive and Adour, near the ocean), Bayonne has plenty of fortresses and ramparts, many of which are still occupied by the military nowadays, for example the Old Castle near the cathedral:
After that, I went to Pierre Ibaialde for a ham tour. They held a guided visit at 11h30, 14h15, 16h15 (depends on date, so check it on their website); only in French but I think you can understand it yourself when you see the salting room or drying room (with beautiful blue fungus all over the ham! surely a nasty sight, but it will result in a yummy taste). Amazing to see how such huge pork legs reduced after the processing, no wonder the ham is expensive.
(I forgot my camera and had to go with my ancient cellphone)
There were only 2 old women and me in the tour. We had to climb up some stairs, the staff joked to the old ladies “Sorry we could not let you use the elevator, it’s only for the pigs”.
At the end of the tour, each visitor was invited to a small portion tasting of pork ham, duck saucisson, and pork saucisson with piment espelette. They were all so tasty! I ended up buying the ham, the saucisson and the pure purée of piment as its gentle fragrance caught me.
The other women didn’t buy anything and left -the tour and the tasting was free. I find that Pierre was quite generous.
On that same street, always near the Nive river bank and in city center, there’s a local restaurant named Auberge Du Petit Bayonne, which I didn’t read anything beforehand, but I was glad I picked it. Good food, cozy room, enthusiastic waiters, Menu of the Day 12.5 euros for starters, main dish of local meat, apple tart AND a free drink (wine or Basque cider) all included. Couldn’t get better than that.
(the French fries was freshly made and not of McDonald frozen type)
Next day, it was Auberge du Cheval Blanc, a very old and endearing restaurant of the town. The chef is Ambassador of Bayonne Ham (I love how they take their ham serious!) so the ham starter was a 10/10. The house’s exterior is typical of the old quarter.
Menu of the Day (Menu du marché): 25 euros, with starter, main dish and Basque cake, all with Michelin quality. Both the food and the room are pretty.
When I finished lunch, the sun shone so brightly on the church nearby (St-André church?), so I had to pay it a visit. It’s not as grandiose as the cathedral, but the sunlight going through the stain glass created such beautiful figures on the opposite wall.
The two main museums of Bayonne were closed during the time I was there. I heard they were quite good (Basque Museum and Bonnat-Helleu museum). So I just took a stroll along the river (Nive, not Adour), and I fell upon Loreztia. Now I’d read about it and I was so pleased to see it on the way. They are bee-keepers who sells their honey and homemade jam of all kinds. Seems like I can’t escape the grip of the gourmet god. They put samples on a table and I can taste as many flavors as I want – all samples were so dang good. I wandered in the shop for 1h, having a difficult time of deciding what NOT to buy. I left it with 7 jars of different jams.
Time’s up, I then went to Hendaye and took a small tram there to San Sebastian.