Bayonne

So, a couple of years ago, I needed to fly from Bristol to Bilbao and after looking at the different flights and schedules various companies offered, nothing proved convenient enough. Actually, some of the flights were having me do a five-hour stop somewhere in Amsterdam or Paris and I did not want to do that. Suddenly, a light bulb lit in my head (well, not literally, of course) when I saw that there were flights available from Bristol to Bayonne and coaches from there to Bilbao. The price was just about right and the possibility of travelling to the French Basque Country sounded promising.

So that’s what I did. The flight itself was barely two hours from Bristol and the bus ride from the airport to the centre of the city just about twenty minutes.

Bayonne is located in the French Basque Country, which is different from the Spanish Basque counterpart and separated by a border so unimportant you don’t even notice when you cross it. It is about an hour and a half from the border and once it’s passed, the gorgeous Spanish city of San Sebastian is right there. Both sides have this distinct “Basque” look, but in Bayonne you definitely feel in France. Unlike its Spanish counterpart, I did not see anybody speaking Basque, nor did I see it written anywhere.

This city and commune is located by the confluence of the rivers Nive and Adours and its proximity to the sea and to Spain means that this Roman “castrum” (military camp) has had links with England (under English control in the 12th century), was involved in maritime trade and also had a role with the Spanish Jewish population that was persecuted in the 15th century; it was here that they settled.

The historic centre of the city is just very beautiful, with Gascon and Basque influences. Gorgeous buildings, narrow medieval streets and amazing food. Very well worth a visit.

While in the area, I ventured near the sea to visit the equally lovely cities of Biarritz and St Jean de Luz, both of them worth a trip.

Bayonne, France

One of the streets in the historic city centre. Bayonne Cathedral is in the background.

What can I say…It’s just so pretty!

Bayonne, France

“Le Petit Bayonne” by the river Nive

If the plan of the day involves getting lost in these streets, what a great idea that is.

Bayonne, France

It looks quiet, but there actually were lots of restaurants and bars. It was very lively indeed.

The buildings with their painted beams had a very strong Basque accent.

Bayonne, France

The Basque influence does not end here. In August they have the traditional Fêtes de Bayonne, which looks a lot like the San Fermines in Pamplona, Spain.

Below, merchants show off their wares at the weekly market.

Bayonne, France

I am not a huge shopper, but I enjoyed the food stands a lot.

And talking about food kiosks, the French produce was amazing (compared with the stuff we can buy here in England)

Bayonne France

I have become sort of a tomato fan. Love them with Modena vinegar, olive oil, a bit of salt and goat cheese. I cannot indulge that much here in England though. The tomato situation here is not very good.

Below one of the towers of Bayonne Cathedral (St Mary of Bayonne), built in Gothic style.

Bayonne, France

The construction of the Cathedral took place in stages, between the 13th and 16th centuries.

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