Joel and I love France. We would travel there at any time. This time, it was Joel’s mother’s birthday.
We began our trip by rendezvousing in London (which we’ve all heard enough about already), then flying over to a new French territory for us – Lautrec. We were fortunate enough to be guests of the impressive chef and actor, Robin Ellis and his lovely wife, Meredith. It was lovely staying with them in their home which is actually an old church rectory (called Saint Martin!). They made us feel right at home in their beautiful building – cozy, full of stone and cats; just what you want in a French country home. We enjoyed countless beautiful meals, loads of delicious local wine, a wood burning fireplace (!) and lots of love from their many sweet cats.
After several outings, a local ceramics show – which we scored some much admired tiny cups at – and lots of conversation, Joel and I along with his parents hit the road to Basque country! After four hours of driving and two countries later, we arrived in San Sebastian, Spain.
San Sebastian is beautiful! The buildings look Parisian, they have tapas bars!, the language is neither French nor Spanish, there is an incredible beach, the ocean, ahhhh… Although it was a bit chilly when we went, I can imagine in the summer the beach to be chock full and the crystal clear water to be warm and refreshing.
While lovely in itself, the great thing about San Sebastian is it’s proximity to France (yay!) and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Both of which we took full advantage. Basque Country France is an enigma – it looks like Spain and the food has a Spanish tapas flair yet they speak French and make espadrilles. Nonetheless, we enjoyed more walks along the ocean coast, purchased several pairs of espadrilles and ate (never enough) moules frites.
Our day trip to Bilbao was really to see the Guggenheim, designed by Frank Gehry. The building is as impressive as you would imagine – gleaming in the sun, it looks like liquid. The actual museum though was a bit underwhelming. Out of the 3 floors, one of them was fully closed. I had actually read that the museum is known for closing off much of its permanent collection. Luckily, there was one room dedicated to the large works of Richard Serra, of whom I am a great fan. The museum also housed (both inside and out) several Jeff Koons sculptures which Joel and his mother really enjoyed. After the museum, we wandered through the town of Bilbao which was a bit empty due to the May holiday in Europe, yet still very interesting and historic.
Basque country was amazing and I would go back in a heartbeat. It combines my two favorite cultures – French and Spanish – into one individual culture. And the food is some of my favorite yet!