Wednesday, May 20 - St. Jean de Luz

We met for our morning lecture at a houseboat near the hotel. It is used as a restaurant and has a room below the restaurant. There we met our guide in Bayonne ( and environs), Andy Fisher. He is a New Zealander, married to a Basque woman, and seems to have converted to their cause. An excellent guide and a nice relief from French-accented English. His first lecture was "the History and Culture of the Basque Country until the French Revolution." The Basque country includes not only the most southerly Department in southwest France (Pyrenees-Atlantique) but even larger areas across the mountains in Spain.

After lunch in the hotel restaurant we went by bus to St. Jean de Luz. On the way we stopped to see Ortillopitz: La Maison Basque de Sare. This is an impressive 17th C Basque home, illustrating typical building practices. Built in 1660 for a relatively well-off Basque farmer. This was interesting although the description of its features by the local guide was a little long.

After that we went on to St. Jean de Luz, once a small Basque fishing town and now also a popular resort. It's a beautiful place, has an impressive church, and is famed as the wedding place of Louis XIV and the Infanta Maria-Therese of Spain in 1660. Not just a fishing village, St. Jean de Luz was a site of both local and transatlantic whaling and of the sardine and cod fisheries. In the 18th C it was the site of piracy and privateering.

Thus it achieved a deal of wealth and this is seen in it's church, St. Jean Baptiste. Although plain on the exterior the interior is lavishly decorated. Begun in the 15th C it was not completed until the 17th.

After visiting the church we did a little shopping and then strolled down to the beach to see that. Then back to the hotel. We were on our own for dinner but did not go out until fairly late for us, only to find the town was closing down for a holiday. We had a Spartan dinner at the cafe next to the hotel. It was filling.

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