Saturday, January 2, 2010

Clay and cliffs in Guéthary

Guéthary seen from the seaGuéthary is a small basque coastal village in Pays Basque that formerly lived on whalefishing. It was also known as a refuge for artists like Ravel and Debussy. Today it is a small tourist place that has kept all of the original charm.

My Swedish friend Lena said to me, I have moved around a lot and know many places in France, but this is the place I love best. I understand her. This old fishermen village has an immediate, raw charm with the typical basque houses, the steep streets and the cliffs. Lena first visited the region during her honeymoon. They then continued to travel there during their vacations for years before finally buying the old postal house in the centre. She used to be a shop owner, but longed more and more to explore her creative side. Lena had just turned 35 when she followed a one year pottery training in Nièvre. It is a fantastic area to work in, free and creative, she says. If I have my oven, I can work anywhere. 

Lena Balthazard working with potteryLena takes me around the village. From her place it takes us less than two minutes to reach a terass with a magnificient view over the sea. The sea is low, so we can see the cliffs and the stones, a calm sea with a few surfers out. On our right we see out over Bidart and the cliffy coast all the way to Biarritz. So beautiful!

When you come to Guéthary, don't miss her pottery store. She makes real beautiful things. Mostly utilitary things like teacups, plates and serving plates with soft and simple colors. The forms are pure but still elegant and they remind me of Swedish handicraft at its best.

Surfers outside GuétharyPreferred places to eat: Number one, no doubt, is Le Madrid with superb food and terass with view over the ocean. Her favorite bar is Le Bar Basque. The hot spot with incredible view over the ocean is Heteroclito. Kafe Loco has international spices in their food. L'air TT serves regional food and tapas in the centre of the village. Three fish restaurants are gathered down at the seashore, Harotzen Costa, Txamara and Alcyons.  A very wellknown restaurant is Table des frères Ibarboure, but Lena finds it too stiff, even though the food is superb.

Pottery by Lena BalthazardOne beach is guarded during summer, Parmentia. It is the most visited and shared with neighbor village Bidart. From the lighthouse the men looked for the migrating whales. Once dead they were drawn up to the shore and cut up. The other two beaches, Cenitz and Alcyons, are not guardes, a bit rougher and here you find more of the people from the village.

Tourist office site
Surfer photo from Wikipedia.

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