A WHIRLWIND JOURNAL TOUR OF THE 2011 BIARRITZ EXCHANGE
From an excited welcome by our Biarritz club hosts at the train station on May 20, 2011 to a sad farewell one week later, 20 ambassadors of our club, along with 2 ambassadors of the Madison, Wisconsin club, experienced what can only be described as extraordinaire, merveilleuse, et la plus mémorable -- stupendous, marvelous, and most memorable!
We are in French Basque country so a tour of the Basque Museum and a Bayonne fresh-air food market (rampant with a riotous display of color, fragrance, and texture) is a natural way to start learning about this culture and our new friends' part of the world.
But that is only the beginning - a few highlights of the rest of the week's adventures include:
Exploring places like St-Jean-de-Luz, Baigorry, St. Jean Pied de Port, the Arnaga Mansion, Espelette, and Urdazubi-Urdax. Dining on the largest paella we've ever seen at a lovely lawn picnic at an equally lovely mansion in Ciboure. Sipping hot chocolate at Empress Eugenie's former palace (now a 5-star hotel) while overlooking Biarritz's Grande Plage. Learning some of the finer points of two Basque sports - petanque and pelota. Enjoying a champagne reception with the deputy mayor, Andre Labeguerie. Tasting Basque wine at Irouleguy, one of France's smallest (but charming) wineries. And attending parties - lots of them…from a Basque welcome party of dancing and pintxos (Basque tapas) to a boisterous clown party complete with the hokey-pokey to a farewell dinner of ziquiro (grilled baby lamb), songs, gifting of hats (San Francisco baseball caps from us to them, Basque berets from them to us), and good-bye tears.
But the most important things that happened on this exchange were the friendships that instantly began the moment we stepped off that train in Biarritz and were greeted so effervescently by our hosts. The heart of Friendship Force beat loud and clear on that day and continues to beat loud and clear today.