I am thankful a late morning has been planned for the group, for my previous night’s debauchery is not condoning an early wake up call. I eat a light breakfast of orange juice and yogurt and force myself on a morning stroll to the local indoor market. It is so refreshing to be around a culture who appreciates artisanal, seasonal, and natural products; I never tire visiting these shops.
At noon we are off for a leisurely adventure in St. Jean de Luz. South of Biarritz, it is a coastal city with gorgeous beaches, boat harbors, and an old water fortress marking the entryway for ships. It is Sunday and while most of the main stores are closed (the French take a proper work-life balance seriously), the streets are filled with families shopping and enjoying the warm weather. We stop at some benches beneath shady trees and eat a lunch consisting of tuna paninis, quiche, flatbread, eclairs, and gateau basque. Artists have set up stalls along the waterway and I take my time walking around admiring the paintings and looking at souvenirs.
We bound for a boat ride along the coast and are amazed at the gray stone cliffs holding back the green grass and white houses from falling in the sea. The cloudless sky ensures we can see the mountains in the background and the wind makes the perfect conditions for those sailing around us. Beach dwellers glisten in the sun and I am envious of their ability to cool off in the salty water below. For awhile, there is nothing but foliage then all of a sudden, on a turn, there is a château high above a rocky ledge, view unobstructed, encircled by grass, with cypress trees protecting it from the sun. Breathtaking. The rocking of the vessel acts like a cradle and most of us doze off on the return leg to the harbor. Although my neck hurts from it bobbing back and forth with the waves, my body feels better from the rest.
Dinner is at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel. There is one, long table jutting out onto the open patio and bottles of rosé and Chardonnay await distribution on each end. Cold plates of cured ham, marinated artichokes and peppers stuffed with cheese, sun dried tomatoes, grilled eggplant and zucchini, and sardine pâté and toast are brought out along with bread and butter. With it being such a hot day, we welcome the light starters. Main course is a seafood stew, similar to bouillabaisse, with sea snails, mussels, razor clams, fish, crawfish, shrimp, and langoustine. The tomato based broth is well seasoned but I get a crunch of sand and am put off. Downfall of eating things that crawl on the ground, I guess. The jolly host brings the ceramic bowl around the table multiple times, ladling out more until all of us have had our fill. He scoffs at the men who can only eat two instead of three servings, encouraging the females to take more even when we don’t want any. I am polite and submit to another.
There is a selection of desserts including chocolate cake, ice cream and apricot soup, berry crumble, baba au rum, and espresso gourmande. I like the sound of espresso and am happy with my choice when I see the plate has a small selection of lime sorbet, almond tuile, whipped cream, pistache macoroon, and sponge cake; apropos for someone who can’t make up their mind, always wanting a little bit of everything. We get up to leave and are stopped by the host and chef with a bottle of peche and framboise liqueur. They pour the think, aromatic alcohol into shot glasses and each and every person in the party indulges since it is the last night we will all be together. A ‘Bon Voyage’ if you will.
The streets are quiet and nothing like the night before. The group leaves for Spain tomorrow while myself and a couple others depart back to Paris or home. It is a bittersweet goodbye since I am not ready to end my cultural journey, but I miss home and am ready to hug my loved ones again. As I walk across the bridge, I notice the night has turned chilly with gusts of wind to match. I hope my last day in Paris will not be a stormy one!