Philobiblon: Biarritz: la vieille putain

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Biarritz: la vieille putain

Bon jour, mes amis ...

Okay, I'll switch out of French now (since I've probably already made several grammatical errors), but rather excited that slowly but I hope surely my French is coming along - I'm increasingly not only able to ask questions, but understand the answers!

In fact I organised a whole lesson for tomorrow in French, and the organiser didn't once switch into English, although I'm sure she could have.

Now you might think I'm being insulting in calling Biarritz an old whore, but I mean it in the nicest possible way. It reminds me of Luxor, of Sorrento and, perhaps less surprisingly, of Nice - towns that have all been utterly tourism-centred for a century or more (well millennia in the case of Luxor) and have relaxed gracefully into the role.

They take an extra percentage off every tourist (and local) wallet, but don't egregariously set out to rip off - well except the really green travellers - but in all cases it is done with a smile and a laugh, and perhaps a shot of free local liqueur - which tastes vile, that's part of joke - but it is all in good humour. They're not embarrassed about the fact this is their business and they wants to have fun themselves and for their visitors to come back, or at least tell their friends to come along.

Not all long-term tourist destinations achieve this - Venice is one that still retains a remarkable ill-humour towards the whole business - maybe they have to be sunny places? And newer places tend to get very surly and sour about the whole "grubby" business. (E.g. Greece, with the honourable exception of Crete.)

Previously for coastal France I've only been to the Med and it is nice to see waves again; they make a beach complete. And there were serious waves yesterday - tres dangereuse, a fellow guest at the hotel was telling me this morning. I agreed, showing her my skinned knees, the result of being heavily dumped by a wave that treated me like the T-shirt at the bottom of the washing machine load.

It wasn't that big, but there was all the power of the Atlantic behind it. For their size they're much more powerful than those I've encountered in Australia. Perhaps because most of those showed the effects of the windbreak off Sydney heads otherwise known as New Zealand. (It's all right - a joke - really Kiwis!)

Today, however, la mer is showing her pussycat, calm side. I'm hoping for the same tomorrow, since the lesson I was arranging was my first-ever attempt at real surfing (as opposed to bodyboarding, at which I am - or used to be 10 years ago - moderately competent.

To any relatives reading, it's OK, really. I've watched the lessons, and they don't get beyond waist-height. If I get serious about the business I'll have to improve my swimming.

But I've always said I wanted to learn to surf one day. Expect a report tomorrow, provided no broken limbs prevent it ...


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home