Returning from France is always a wrench for me. Trading in the slow pace of the south western French countryside for the hustle of airports then hassle of homecoming, washing, catch up and day to day normality makes me feel a little bereft.
As I do my chores I long for the sights and sounds, smells and tastes that have been part of my life for just a few short but all important days.
This time my visit with Ann and Martin included some fun trips to other areas and a taste of the diversity that is France.
From their beautiful horse farm in the secluded countryside of the Landes region noted for its flat terrain, extensive forests and vast fields of maize we ventured south to the coast and the excitement that is Biarritz. Busy beaches pulsating with heat, chatter, colour and fun basking in front of hotels and restaurants. Old world glamour mixed with modern convenience. High prices and big expectations.
We moved on to St Jean–de-Luz less commercial and full of character. An hour on the beach and swimming in the azure sea is enough before we head for the shade of the square with its traditional cafes and circle of artists hard at work producing portraits, landscapes and their own unique interpretation of life.
There is a breeze at the harbour and the air is filled with fresh scents and the clinking of metal as boats move gently in the water. It is calming after the heat of the beach, time to breathe deeply and look around and enjoy the moment.
Walking through the streets of this town is a foodie’s dream. So many shops full of edible delights. Handmade chocolate oozing calories and creativity. Cakes and pastries both regional and classic. Artistic window displays that take your breath and whet the appetite in a way unheard of in our own country. Such care in presentation deserves that the casual onlooker stop and stare, groan inwardly with greed and hopefully buy.
Our day is not just spent by the sea. We go further and climb high into the mountains leaving France somewhere amid the hair raising bends and enter Spain, another country high up above the commerciality and tourism of the beaches.
We picnic on the grass eating baguettes with ham and local cheese and quenching our thirst on nectarines so ripe the juice is almost wine-like and drips off your chin as you try to savour every single drop.
This is food perfection. Nothing pretentious, just real and oh so good.
This was a day of contrasts, of seeing different aspects of a wonderful country. A special day set amid a week of other good times.