On Wednesday, after Ann sent off some work she had finished, we set off for the village of Ainhoa, one of the French Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Villages). It had a large church in the center of town that was fairly impressive from the ouside, but was really spectacular inside when it was lit up. The rest of the village was charming enough and well-preserved, but I don't know if it really deserved its designation.
On the other hand, Espelette, where we drove to next, was quite impressive with its beautiful buildings, many of which were decorated with strands of dried red peppers. The AOC of Piment d'Espelette, the special red peppers of the region, encompasses a number of villages, with the village of Espelette giving the AOC its name.
After leaving Espelette we headed to Sare, another of the Plus Beaux Villages, where we were supposed to meet up with a French couple, Philippe and Isabelle, whom we had met about 20 years ago when we both rented gites in the Auvergne. At the time they lived in Paris, but had since moved to Hendaye on the Atlantic coast near the Spanish border, where we had visited them about 15 years ago.
We didn't get to see much of Sare, because when we arrived there we got a message from Philippe and Isabelle saying that they were running very late. Eventually we agreed to drive to Saint Jean de Luz, a port town near where they lived, and meet them there. We then spent a couple of hours with them and their 11-year-old daughter, Delphine, in Saint Jean de Luz, which is a lovely town that gets very crowded in the Summer but was not overrun with people now. There is a charming port area, a long sandy beach, and some beautiful old buildings. We also picked up a Gateau Basque, a special Basque cake that you see everywhere in the region, at a place our friends recommended. We had a great Gateau Basque when we visited them in Hendaye 15 years ago, but have not found a good one since. The one we bought in St. Jean Pied de Port when we arrived there was simply awful; the one we picked up today turned out to be very good.