Southern French Sand and Lackadaisical Meandering

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Bonjour! I have just spent the weekend in Bayonne and Biarritz France, walking up innumerable hills, exploring beaches, and burning my skin in the Basque sun. This weekend our class took an excursion to Bayonne to discuss the refugee crisis and how the city has responded. Our lecture was centered around how current French involvement in Africa has forced many to flee their homes, pushing people into Spain and France. After our lecture, we embarked on a walking tour through collective gardens and learned about community outreach programs.

Bayonne is a beautiful and old Basque city. The hot air mixed with sounds of French words and smells of flowers and pastries. Class was cut short due to some unforeseen circumstances, so all of us decided to extend our stays. Some braved a 6-hour train ride to Paris, some traveled 3 hours to Bordeaux, another group hiked 16 miles through the Pyrenees, and I chose to take a 30-minute bus ride to Biarritz to spend my weekend on the beach (and walk about 16 miles myself).

This little French town looks straight out of a postcard. The ocean bares its teeth with rolling waves but it’s just a show. The water is warm and playful, nipping only at the ankle. Some of the other students joined me before embarking on their own adventures. We all basqued in the sun, periodically drenching ourselves in the crystal water. This group has become closer as the days go on. Sand and salt bonded to our hair and nails refusing to budge.

Sun-kissed (and slightly burned) only my friend Cate and I were left behind. In a heat-induced daze, we ate French cookies and lazily wandered to our weekend beds. After a brief rest in the setting sun, we decided to return to our Spanish habits and get a beer. The nearest place was an interesting little hotel and bar containing a dozen or so incredibly intoxicated people in their 50s and 60s. We entered and everyone stared. Everyone seemed to be 10 feet tall and leathered. I walked to the bar and the man barked “French or Spanish.” Having met many English speakers throughout the day, I thought I might try my luck and answer instead with English. The man was disapproving. A pair of glasses sat on the counter with gold rims in the shape of hands with middle fingers pointed up. I put them on and frowned. They liked this. Still, in a bit of a solar daze, we sat and drank our beer.

Another day spent in the sun came after. Meandering through the streets of Biarritz, Cate and I felt a part of a dream belonging to no one in particular. Allowing ourselves to be pulled along by the slight breeze and shifting clouds. The week before finally settling into my bones. This was the first day of slow-moving rest. We found ourselves at a small, hidden beach with a high tide and massive waves. Sunning ourselves on rocks above, we were surrounded by blue on all sides. A meditative resting place with lizards buzzing by. Last week my blog was late. My moment of rest had come only here. Now today, rain is falling and I return home to Bilbao. A moment of solar slumber with sand and salt permanently in my hair and nails. This time I’ll say au revoir.