with love from…St. Jean de Luz

As I was packing up to finally head south from Paris, my great aunt asked where exactly I planned to go. I wasn’t exactly sure, but I mentioned a few places, including St. Jean de Luz (I didn’t share that I was only going there because I’d found some old postcards of its beaches – she already thinks I’m kooky enough). Saint Jean de Luz? Uuuh-la-laah, it’s nice there, she purred. Oh, really?

She left the room and returned with another big photo album (where does she keep these things???).

She explained that her dad, who was an architect, liked to take the family down to St. Jean de Luz during the summers so that he could draw and paint his favorite scenes from the town and surrounding countryside.

I told her I would make sure to try to find all the same locations and take lots of photos so that we could compare the photos with the paintings and see how things had changed since the 1940s (so fun!).  She looked at me like that all seemed like a lot of work. But she said I should run along and visit there anyhow, and that it would be nice.

A few weeks later, after hanging with I. in Agen for a few days, I caught another covoiturage (amazing, this car sharing thing!) to Biarritz, where I met up with I.’s sweet cousin and his darling wife (darling is not a word I toss around lightly, but goodness, they were both just as darling as could be):

I’d picked up a little collection of vintage Biarritz souvenir photo cards in Locronon and I’d planned to carry them around town on a then/now photo hunt. But I.’s cousins had unexpectedly prepared a lunch of tomato salad and fried sardines, and well, good food and nice-ness always become the priority.

I took a few photos of the waterfront as they walked me to the bus stop and the place seemed as flashy as I’d imagined that “Biarritz!” (in sparkly gold letters!) might be. But I didn’t regret slacking on the exploration this time around – their little apartment and my plate of fried sardines were probably the best things I could’ve found in Biarritz anyway.

So then – onward to Saint Jean de Luz, a town built around a sheltered bay on the Basque Coast, just a few kilometers from the border with Spain. Mainly a fishing port (with a history of pirating by Basque “corsairs” to make it seem interesting), the town council decided to build some thermal bath houses in the 1850s to attract tourists. If you build it… And they came. Nowadays it’s still packed in the summertime and its calm waves, quaint village streets, and beautiful landscape are especially loved by retirees. And, well, me:

But I’m only temporarily retired, and with my backpacker budget I sure as hell couldn’t afford to spend the night there. I stayed with a couchsurfing host in Guéthary, a few kilometers north. One evening we walked along the rocky coast of the village, enjoying the afternoon light that the region is (I’ve heard) famous for and trying to not trip on the slanted, jagged rocks and crash into the tide pools. Despite my clumsiness, it was all very beautiful and quiet and timeless. I liked the layered colors of the pools of water we were stepping over and peering into: brown above the water, then copper, gold, and peach, below the surface, and then pale aqua and finally teal in the deepest pools. I didn’t bring my camera, so since I didn’t have a photo to remind me of it, I made a bracelet:

I finished the bracelet while traveling in Morocco and it was expertly modeled by Britt in the never-to-be-discovered industrial-chic location of: a rooftop on the edge of Berrechid.

The bracelet was later purchased by a very nice guy as a present for a very nice girl. But if you like it, there are other bracelets in a similar style in my etsy store – more coming in December 2014 :)

More greetings from long ago and far away HERE.


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