When I left Rockridge I was only a little sad to be leaving behind my beloved hydrangeas just as the season was getting started in earnest. To my great surprise and delight the southwestern coast of France and the north coast of Spain are virtually covered in them–and in every size, shape, and color imaginable (cone, mophead, lace, blue, purple, magenta, light pink, green). In France they are most commonly called Hortensia. They are prolific and huge–these blooms are bigger than a human head. Unbelievable. I found the Hortensia especially striking in Biarritz, where they cover hillsides and line the boardwalks along the sea.
Tag Archives: Biarritz
I love looking at florists in different places. Maison Roumagnac is a beautiful shop in Biarritz that does expert design and carries a variety of unusual cuttings in addition to the usual roses, hydrangeas, and freesias.
The storefront on Avenue Victor Hugo
Moby Dick Asclepias (Gomphocarpus fruticosus), and hanging amaranth
detail of Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Beautiful (fully evolved) pincushion protea
Of course between Paris, Marseille, Lourmarin, Guéthary, and Hondarribia (Hondarribia is the Basque, but the town is also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish and Fontarabie in French), much is missing from my typically daily entries here. That noted, we are very happy to be in Spain. This part of Europe is especially striking due to the stark constrast in food, language, and terrain found just across the border from one country to another. A twenty or thirty minute drive from Biarritz and we’re in a whole other world. We landed in Hondarribia, in the old quarter of town at an amazing hotel called Obispo, housed in what was a 15th century palace. I love this place. It’s charming–old yet comfortable, and impeccably kept including all the amenities a modern girl could want (WiFi! while it was fun to be liberated, it is fun to reconnect too).
We arrived slightly exhausted from all the fun we had with our friends, the vacationing Parisians, in Guéthary (is it possible to have too much fun?) so we did the unthinkable and sat down to dinner at 8:30 (does it count that it hasn’t been before 10PM or finished before 12AM for the last week?). The Hotel Obispo recommended Sebastián, which happens to be just around the corner (no walk or drive to the new part of town necessary). It looks beautiful from the outside, so it wasn’t hard to draw us in. Here is our meal in pictures and a few words (I was too relaxed to remember to take any establishing shots, but the restaurant’s website has a good virtual tour and great historical photographs too).
The restaurant’s website states that “[the space] was a grocery shop several centuries ago [and] the most representative elements of the shop are still conserved, such as the window displays and glass cases once displaying the groceries which supplied numerous generations of residents of Hondarribia.” Here are various bottles (age unknown) in the window display case.
We ate upstairs. This was our view; a window box planted with purple amaranth and ivy. Across the street are window boxes with red and white geraniums.
The upstairs dining area. Note that we are among the first present for dinner…there was one other couple across from us. The benefit of the early hour is great photographs. I loved the alternating colors between the beams on the ceiling. Only a Spanish chef/restaranteur could pull that off. Honestly.
These are the beautiful cards containing the chef’s suggestions for the evening. Qué bonita! Las ilustraciones sólo!
An essential component of any fine dining experience: fine linens for the table. I found Sebastián’s particularly soothing due to a delicate pique.
Txacoli: it has become as essential to my existence as Almodóvar. Sin txacoli lo que es la vida? These tall cups (unlike the shorter versions I am used to drinking Spanish wine in) are very cool. It is like drinking liquid ambrosia, the liquid of life. The wine is produced in the countryside outisde of Hondarribia.
Don’t be fooled by any imitations; the “Getariako Txacolina” sticker across the foil is as essential as any Bordeaux A.O.C. It is an extremely limited area in which these special grapes are grown, and the special wine produced.
Ah gazpacho, con una anchoa y algún aceite de oliva bueno
Monkfish and shrimp–preparation unknown, rather forgotten, in a good bottle of Txacoli
The “taco de atun rojo de Hondarribia a la parilla.” With my limited Spanish I have little clue what I ate (sorry). I half expected some tuna in a corn tortilla. Wrong. What came was 1,000 times better. It tasted like the most beautiful tuna steak seared in a deep seasoned pan of pork fat–there was surely a strong bacon-ish element that was delicious. On the side are some crispy onions and a drizzle of parsely-seasoned olive oil. Amazing.
I can’t be sure because I forgot to photograph the menu, but I am fairly certain that this dessert was advertised as the “chocolate brick.” It delivered as advertised.
Overall an extremely successful first night in Spain. We will indubitably return to Sebastián–did I mention the service is impeccable? If, for nothing else, the fine pique linens! Salut!