French Windows Part Deux
In some other life I must have been a Peeping Tom. I seem to have a fascination with windows lately, for the peek they offer into the life of a town and a culture. Rest assured that I never get close enough to see actual lives being lived, which has the advantage of allowing me to let my imagination out for a little exercise, not to mention keeping me out of jail.
These windows are in the lovely and tiny town of Saint Etienne de Baigorry, where we ate the best Gateau Basque of our entire trip to the Pays Basque. It’s a cake that can range from the prosaic and leaden to the ethereal, and the one we had here was right at the top end of the scale. Reportedly made by an elderly lady who has supplied cakes to the likes of Alain Ducasse, it sported a delicate flaky pastry and a not-too-sweet, not-too-almondy, just-creamy-enough cream center.
This isn’t the exact cake in question, but it gives you the general idea. It’s the cake you’d be likely to find sitting on any Basque kitchen table if you got close enough to press your nose to the window pane.
Have you ever wanted to be a pilgrim, or at least to dress like one? This shop in Saint Jean Pied de Port is where you want to go to get yourself off on the right path. We bought beautiful pottery in this town, and Basque music, and camera batteries, but not a bite to eat. What were we thinking?
A brief drive into Spain showed us that the Basque country knows no borders.
Except for the occasional fancy iron work, like that on this house in Erratzu, the countryside and the architecture are startlingly alike on both sides of the border. We would have liked to eat something in Spain, or even to buy something to bring home, just to remember that we’d been there. But Spain was apparently all closed up as tight as this house, and we scarcely saw a person in a couple of hours of driving. It was a Monday. Does Spain close on Mondays?
Now here’s a place I really wanted to go into. Doesn’t this Carcassonne café look inviting? But sadly we were a little hurried, and it wasn’t really time for even a bite or a drink, although we could have made the effort if we’d been more dedicated to the cause. Instead we took the time to use the self-washing public toilets, where the door locks with a clang as you enter, a clean and still dripping wet metal toilet seat folds down automatically, and the whole room locks and explodes with water jets the moment you step outside. You know you’re getting jaded when you can pass up a French café in favor of a windowless public toilet.