Adventures in jai alai and cheese
Yesterday was busy! We started by walking to the aquarium, which took us to the Rocher de la Vierge (the rock of the virgin), which is a famous look out point. It‘s a stone bridge that goes out to a rock with a statue of Mary on it, and both the bridge and the rocks provide beautiful views of the Grande Plage (Large Beach) in Biarritz as well as ocean coves where many people were swimming among the rocks and the waves.
The aquarium was fun, and we arrived just in time to see Charly and Izar the seals get fed. Charly and Izar were two seals that washed up as babies in the winter on the Basque coast from colonies in Brittany, Ireland or the U.K., but they could not be released back into the wild so they stayed at the aquarium.
The aquarium had a section on marine mammals (including a rather extensive history of whaling which was surprising), a shark and rays section, and a tropical waters section, in addition to showcasing local fish and sea creatures.
After the aquarium, we went to the Halles, which is a large covered market that operates all week long (like the Granville Island market in Vancouver). We stopped for lunch at one of the many restaurants by the market, and had our first mediocre meal of the trip. We will not speak of it again. The service was slow, so we missed our market shopping (the market closes at 2). We then returned to our apartment and went to the beach.
The waves in Biarritz are pretty big, which is why surfing is so popular here. The wind was blowing, and the tide was coming up, and there was a crowd of people right where the waves were breaking. We realized this was because the waves were very strong, and people were getting pounded by them. Between the crowds, the mist from the water, and the crashing waves, we were surprised the lifeguards could see anything. Claire and Elisabeth stayed for little while, but the conditions were not ideal.
Later on, we planned to attend a Cesta Punta tournament in the city. It was a bit of a transit adventure getting there since the buses were still disrupted because of the Féria in Bayonne. Once we got to the Parc des sports (sports park) we had to walk all the way to the other end to find the right building. But we made it!
Cesta Punta/Pelote Basque/Jai Alai is a Basque sport played with a wicker basket attached to the arm of each player and a really hard small ball made of wood covered with rubber. The court has three walls that can be used to bounce the ball off of, but only in the black area. Matches are played to 15, and a tie breaker is played to 5. Teams of two players are red and green.
We saw the second half of the Espoirs (hopefuls) tournament semi-finals, and the semi-finals of the professionals. Jai Alai is really fun to watch! The ball is really fast (up to 170mph), and the way the players catch it and throw it back is spectacular. The blur on the wall in the top picture is the ball! The noise of the ball being caught in the cesta (basket) and thrown against the wall adds excitement to the whole fast-paced experience. Where’s the jai alai league in Seattle?
Today we went back to the market at bought Jambon de Bayonne (the local delicious smoked ham), four different kinds of local cheese, and a beautiful fruit tart. In addition to bread, of course. We only remembered to take a picture halfway through.
(the red berries are groseilles, which we believe are currants)