Basque-ing in the Sun…..

I haven’t written much in a while, mainly because Bobby and I took several weeks off from traveling so that I could go back to language training and he could start on the daunting process of sifting through books for his PhD.  However, when we got a great offer for a week on the French coast (in the Basque region), we could not pass it up.  The Basque region spans the French-Spanish border on the Atlantic coast.  We visited San Sebastian (in Spain) last month, so we stuck to the French side of the border this trip.  We met up for a week of fun and relaxation with other Olmsted Scholars from the area (Tim Gallagher and his wife Meaghan and son Tim from Paris, Paul Rogers from Lyon, and Brian Hensarling and his wife Jen from Brussels).  After a very short 14 hour drive from Firenze (yes, we are crazy sometimes), we reached the beautiful coast. The Gallaghers found a wonderful home to rent in Biarritz for the week, so we used this as our base camp.  It was a week full of surfing, sun-bathing, eating, cooking, beach-side runs, and great conversation.  Turns out, Bobby and I aren’t really surfers (we left that to the other Olmsted professionals), so we decided to take a few side trips in France as well.  We figured that if we drove all the way to the Basque region, we might as well enjoy it and it’s neighboring city of Bordeaux (more on that in the next post). Biarritz is a city largely based on tourism for its 3 beaches (two large and one small) and surfing competitions.  Every year, surfers from all around Europe come to enjoy the waves and take in some sun.  The city is also known for its Rugby team (Biarritz Olympique), which has won several French championships.

Surfers facing the waves

View of Biarritz right down the street from our rental house

Pathways along Biarritz beach

The small beach we hung out on most of the time

The view from the beach

Beautiful Biarritz water

Small private harbor and Russian Orthodox Church

Biarritz’s lighthouse

One of bridges linking the mainland and small island outcroppings

Most of our beach days were spent reading, playing in the sand, and some bocce ball.

Brian teaching the locals the basics of bocce ball

The grown-up game

Little Tim braved the cold Biarritz water

…and found some time for sandcastles

The girls (and Brian!) took a day for a Basque cooking class a small town neighboring Biarritz.  We joined two other English-speaking tourists, one from San Diego and the other from Ireland.

Our cooking class

We were shown how to make 3 dishes – an appetizer, main, and dessert.  The starter was a seared sardine with curry and pepper, homemade sun-dried tomatoes, and homemade crisps.  It was finished with a little pesto and cherry tomatoes.

The produce before

Marinated sardines

Meaghan and her partner searing the sardines

The finished sardines

Homemade sun-dried tomatoes

The finished appetizer

The main course was seared tuna on top of a confit of vegetables – peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of the finished product!

The Basque confit of veggies

Seared tuna

Finished tuna

For dessert, we made a berry parfait with a wine reduction.  It was finished with homemade French madeleines.

The dessert

Of course, at the end, we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Our whole group (Meaghan on the left, Me, Jen, and Brian on the right)

We really enjoyed seeing the French coast, but more importantly, getting to know some other Olmsted scholars.  I think it is one of the best parts of this journey – meeting families from other military branches and comparing notes on the ups (lots) and downs (few) of overseas living and travel.  We really appreciate the friendships we make along the way.