Showing posts with label pyrenees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pyrenees. Show all posts

Saturday, June 2, 2012

French-Spanish summit. The Basque Mountain. More Food.

Up with the eagles on the Basque Mountain
More pics here

La Rhune is regarded as the Basque Mountain. The 903 metre peak is the last of high Pyrenees on the west and is easy to reach as it is served by a long standing cogwheel railway that takes you right to the summit that is shared by France and Spain and complete with shops and restaurants.
We headed for it today and were surprised to find the substantial car park full of cars and buses. No luck either in the overflow. But we spotted a second overflow and drove back to that. By then though, our 11.30 train, the last of the morning, was full. Luckily, they had added another and soon we were on our way.

Within minutes, we are rising up and the views of the surrounding land are opening up. On the slopes, semi-wild ponies known as Pittocks graze and up above eagles soar. It takes about 35 minutes to reach the top. There is a 360 degree view of the coast from San Sebastian to Biarritz and the mountains. We had clear views of Hendaye and St Jean du Lutz. And, of course, there are magnificent views across the Pyrenees and into Spain.

Phew. It was hot up there, possibly in the low 30s. After a quick view from the top, we went into a restaurant and enjoyed a terrific mixed salad and a smashing Spanish Omelette plus two glasses of wines for a total of 1.8 euro each. Not bad.
Refreshed, we went for a bit of a walk on one of many paths by the summit and got even better views of the mountain range, of the ponies and the eagles. There was a bit of a log-jam after the lunch break and instead of departing at 2.30 we had to wait until 3.05. Then back to the apartment and a dip in the pool.


Couldn’t quite get away from La Rhune even at dinner time as it overlooked La Cabane du Pecheur on the bay. The view also included a few biggish planes coming and going on a water bounded airport that serves Hondarribia and San Sebastian.
The restaurant was excellent, terrific food and friendly service. The seven euro starter was Moules Mariniere (7.00), top quality mussels, much better than the previous effort at Santa Maria, top quality and the classic sauce left nothing to be desired. 
And neither did the wine, Andere D’Ansa, a blend of Gros Manseng (mostly) and Petit Manseng from the local Irouleguy vineyards.
My mains was line caught hake with asparagus from the Landes and a cream of petit pois (18.00). Loved it: hake was perfect, the thick asparagus was to die for (best I’ve ever eaten) and the pea cream delicious.
CL picked the sorbet (5.50) for her dessert – it had been a long hot day! Three balls of sorbet – raspberry, lemon and peach – and crumbed biscuits went down a treat. I was also very happy with mine: Coffee Gourmand (4.80) which included an espresso, a mini (generous) Gateau Basque (Cherry, rather than custard) and a macaron. Good end to another good day in Hendaye.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Swine and Wine

Vineyards near Irouleguy

aroma test; puff and sniff

May 31, Thursday
More pics from this trip here

Wine and Swine

The dullest of mornings was followed by the brightest of days, another enjoyable one in the Basque Country. Took advantage of the dull hours to call to the tourist office on the beach and gather up a few informative leaflets and local maps. Something I advise people to do on their very first day in a new place! Don’t follow my own advice, do I?

After an early lunch, we headed off to the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Cave Co-operative of the Irouleguy wine region. The girls there had a little English and with our little French we hit it off, particularly after a few tastings, and soon had a six pack of the local offerings, most of the reds made from a large proportion (usually 50% or more) of the tannat grape.

By the way, in the evening, we tasted the local Txakoli wine and thoroughly enjoyed this bubbly and very dry drink and could see how it would go well on a tapas night out.

After stocking up in St Etienne de Baigorry, we decided to head further up, to the premises of Pierre Oteiza in Les Aldudes, a free range farmer of the black pigs of the Basque country and a man who has done much to rebuild the population of this once endangered breed.

Here, after a walk around an area where the sows and their litters were sheltering from the sun (what a change from the morning), and after a few tasting in the shop, we bought some black pudding and also a saucisson, with a chorizo type flavour, and ended our visit by sipping a local craft brew in the outdoor seated area.

Then we headed for home. Susie, our Sat-Nav lady, had a surprise for us. One minute we were driving the local roads beyond Sare heading for Hendaye, and then all of a sudden we were on the back roads of Navarre in Spain crawling along beyond a snail like French driver and, even more suddenly, found ourselves flying at over 100k on a Spanish motorway with Francia a few kilometres ahead.

Got it together as countries changed again, without any hint of a border, and then straight ahead was Hendaye. Let us hope Ireland voted yes - couldn’t go back to the old ways, border guards and currency changes and all that.

After an apartment dinner that included olives, Jambon and saucisson, strawberries, two local cheeses and a cake with cherries, we headed up to the beach area for a couple of beers at Serge Blanco’s la Pinto. Lovely place but they didn't seem to have anything other than Heineken so maybe we’ll have to find somewhere else to have a beer and watch Euro 12!