Monday, January 16, 2012

France Day 7 of 18 - The Pyrenees

On our 7th day, we had a big drive a head of us.
Uncle Map likes beautiful landscapes and was determined to drive through the Pyrenees.
I think it took us about an hour and a half to dive "into" the Pyrenees after driving a while to get to them since you have to drive in and out and around the mountains. We passed cute little streams and some waterfalls as the greenery got thicker. I remembered it seeming so clean and not overgrown. We found a small parking lot where we were able to take a ski lift to a stopping point. At this level we walked around and took some fantastic pictures of the mountains around us and a waterfall. We then got brave and decided to take another ski lift and then hike a bit to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain peaks. I was not sure if I wanted to go, but then I saw not only a two year old go up, but then a full sized dog get up on the ski lift! Little did I know that a heard of cows had been through the same walking path to lake, so we had to be careful where we stepped! Some French teenagers got brave or dumb depending on how you look at it, and decided to jump into the lake that was well... freezing...we heard some of them yell.
We then decided to head back to the car, to make sure that we had enough daylight to get out of the mountains and to our next hotel. Pretty big day for some non-outdoorsy folk!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

France Day 6 of 18 - Biarritz and Bayonne

Biarritz sits on the west coast of France and the views are nothing short of majestic. Seafood is very popular, and we decided to have dinner close enough to shore to hear the massive tide bring in the strong waves. Afterwards, we drove around the rocky shoreline and just watched the lighthouse reveal the beautiful ocean as we listened to the waves.

Biarritz is a beach town where the prominent, well off French go to vacation. We looked around the massive and rich Hotel du Palais which use to be where Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach. The beach is littered with families and and people sun tanning, surfing, and having a good time. Beware... the water is still cold!
Biarritz's casino was well.. pretty much a let down after seeing Monte Carlo and Vegas. Granted we went in during the day, but it was very unimpressive. We were, however able to go get some southwest authentic French food that was quite delicious. We ate some type of chicken and fried cheese dish in a restaurant that seemed to be run out of a home which was extremely popular. We were almost completely depending on my French at this time since we were practically the only Americans in the area. At places like these, most people (waitresses excetra don't speak English, and English menus are very rare).

Next we were off to Bayonne which is know for their chocolate. Well, I consider myself a bit of a chocolate connoisseur, so we found the oldest chocolate shop and found a table. I decided to order a chocolate and cinnamon drink, and Uncle Map ordered the basic chocolate drink. A few minutes later, our drinks arrived, mine in a little espresso looking glass with a full glass of water that came with it. I was somewhat disappointed as Uncle Map's drink was a full cup. Then I sipped mine....good grief!!! this was the most intense chocolate experience I have ever had! One sip and then I had to gulp down some water. Whoa!I was determined to try to finish my little espresso cup, but after about an hour, I finally gave up. Yes, this was the only chocolate that beat Aunt Venture.

The we decided to check out Saint Jean de Luz. This quaint fishing village was where Louis XIV, (the sun king which was very important to France and which you will hear about later in my blog) was married to the young girl at the time Maria-Teresa, of Spain in 1660 which tried to unite the countries. We visited the church where they were married and saw the wall that was built up over the door they left out of so that on one else could leave through those doors again. Most notable about this town was the extraordinary macaroons that I could not get enough of!