August 20 (and in case you are interested, Day 44 of the cruise)
We anchored off of Saint-Jean-de-Luz around noon today, and it is a lovely day – high should be 85 and there is a wonderful breeze. In this port, we need to take a tender to shore, there is not a big enough port for ships.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is in Basque country in southwest France on the coast near the border with Spain, and immediately you can see the difference from the Bordeaux architecture. The homes are in the Basque style and even new ones must be in the whitewashed style with red roofs and red but mostly green accents.
The name of the town means St. John of the marshland. There was the need to use boats in the town in the past, now the land has been reclaimed. The Pyranees mountains are close and so are the beaches, so this is a very popular resort area and the beaches were packed (and topless). The population is about 12,000 but it quadruples in July and August. 40% of the homes here are second homes. Louis XIV came here to be married.
Much of the 17th and 18th century architecture has been preserved. It is an important point on the costal pilgrimage route from France to Santiago de Compostela.
We took an excursion to the town of Bayonne, about a 30 minute drive. The name of this town means lovely river and it is the capital of the province. 80% of the medieval walls are still intact. They use small electric buses for transportation around the town.
The signs are in three languages, French, Basque and Gascon.
One of the little known facts is that Bayonne’s oldest gourmet traditions in chocolate making. The Portuguese Jews introduced the technique in the 16th century and it was the first town in France to introduce what was then referred to as the “devil’s drink”. Of course we had to try and buy some!
We visited a church with a ring outside, which was for anyone in need of help, if they reached the ring, they had to be taken in and cared for. If they didn’t there was a statue outside with rings that they would be taken to and left. I imagine there was a great rush for that ring. At the church cloisters there was a craft market and I bought a lovely necklace.
We returned to Saint-Jean-de-Luz and explored the town, the Maison Adam for its famous macarons, then returned to the ship for another dinner on the terrace. That night a bottle of Bordeaux was in our room with a lovely note as yet another gift for the world cruise travelers.