Not every day is a holiday

I’ve begun settling into a routine. Today, as usual, I schlepped Ellie down 3 flights to do her business. Taking advantage, I had a cafe and visited the marchė directly below us, where I bought a courgette farcie (zucchini stuffed with meat and peppers) and a chicken dish for today’s meals. Brought Ellie back up, did the laundry, then down again (sans Ellie) to the little superette around the corner for necessities. Back up. I wonder if all this stair climbing is going to counteract the calories I’ve been ingesting.

After lunch, a little siesta, then schlepped Ellie downstairs again. The sun has been in and out all day but I chanced heading to the main shopping street where I bought a pair of espadrilles (basque specialties) and a bathrobe. Note to Abby — for far less than I would have paid in Soho.

Now back up having my apero and hoping I don’t have to take Ellie out again. But I’m afraid I must. When nature calls…

Pintxos

Today was a holiday in France (Ascension?) so I went to Spain. Hooked up with an American guide (Keith) who is married to a basque and runs pintxos tours. What a feast. Pintxos are the basque version of tapas, and each bar has its specialties. We went to 5 and of course had a glass of something with each.

First up, foie gras with dried apples and croquetas (ham in a bechamel sauce inside a fried dough.) Accompanied by a sparkling wine called txakoli. Then a ham and cheese sandwich with walnuts and balsamic vinegar with a white wine from Navarre. Next up, a bread with ham, blue cheese and canned anchovy with a basque cider (7% alcohol). The next one was supposed to be fresh anchovies but when I objected Keith sent me to another place for lobster with rose water. Superb. Finally, mushrooms cooked with garlic, parsley and olive oil, with a Rioja. Keith ordered a weird drink I also had to try. Red wine and Coke! It was actually delicious.

This was my first time in Spain and no one spoke a word of English or French but I managed. Took the local train from Hendaye in France. Now going back, somewhat the worse for wear. And I am invited to dinner tonight at Sabine and Xavier’s house.

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Biarritz

Mostly pix today. This morning Xavier drove me to the garagiste to get a new tire. What fun it is traveling. This evening I am meeting a group of French English speakers in Biarritz. It is a beautiful Belle Époque town that became a resort around empress Eugenie. Below are photos.

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Sunny skies in St. Jean de Luz

I am sitting on my balcony drinking a not bad local white (2 euros) with a local pâté basque that smells like cat food but is quite delicious.

The apartment is located just above the market where I bought beautiful fraises de bois, goat yogurt and the pâté this morning (photo)

My hostess, Sabine, came by to show me the town. It had been raining for weeks, but the weather turned beautiful today. We walked along the beachfront promenade, (photo) then stopped for lunch. Sabine had grilled calamari and a local fish. I had jambon iberico and grilled shrimp (Ellie loved the heads). When I asked the server if they were local, he said they came from Argentina! We shared a demi of Bordeaux and a delicious local goat cheese with cherry preserves from Itxassou.

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The kindness of strangers

Day 1 on my return to France is following established patterns. Great luck with my homes. Bad car karma.

The flight was not bad after 7 or 8 glasses of wine in the airport and a St. Veran on the plane. Traveling business class has 2 great benefits: the bed and the booze. The two combined gave me about 5 hours, which is actually great on a 7 hour flight.

Stopover in Paris uneventful, except that once again Air France gave me a hard time about Ellie even though I had cleared her before I left. One ticket agent even insisted on weighing her (hey, a girl’s got secrets). In the end, it worked out but Ellie and I were both exhausted when we finally arrived in Biarritz about 24 hours after we left our apartment in New York.

And that’s where we picked up the car. Cute little Renault but it came with no gas! I knew this in advance and the lady at Renault told me where to find the nearest gas station. Unfortunately, it was a self-serve station and wouldn’t accept my credit card. (When in hell are American banks going to adapt a chip and PIN system?) As I was trying to figure out what to do next, the lady from Renault drove up. Apparently, I had forgotten my US passport. Very kind. But she had driven off without her wallet so couldn’t help with the gas problem. So I asked her to approach some random guy buying gas to see if he would let us use his card and pay him the cash. And he very nicely agreed. I think I may have invited him to stay in New York indefinitely as thanks, but what the hell…

So finally on my way to St. Jean de Luz, I blow a tire! My fault–I got too close to a barrier. The car limped to the apartment where I dumped it. My hosts were waiting and Xavier told me he would take care of it. I thought he meant he would put it in the garage, because I wanted no more to do with it today. But he actually changed the tire and offered to take the busted one to his garage. How nice is that.

The apartment is lovely and in a superb location. More on that later. It is 1 am (french time) and I really need to sleep.