The main reason that we came on this trip, the founding principle if you like, was to visit the Basque Country. We’ve been in and around it for a few days now, but today we headed into the heart.

Before I show you what we found there, let’s take a look at a few more photos from around the area. Here are some from our day of walking around Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

A grand hotel appropriately named Hotel Grand.

I took this photo because I liked the colored dots and squares near the top of the tower.

The area across the harbor is officially a separate town called Socor.

A private home or condos? Hard to tell.

An unusual hull shape. At least in my limited experience.

We attended a concert in the local church by a choir that sang traditional Basque songs.

We devoted a day to exploring Biarritz and Bayonne, but got rained out. We walked through a thunderstorm in Bayonne to visit the Basque Museum at 10:00AM only to discover that it opens at 1:00PM on Thursdays! Cold and wet and faced will killing three hours, we made a quick visit to the cathedral and headed back to St. Jean.

Fun fact: Bayonne is where the bayonet was invented!

Today we drove from St. Jean to Pau. If you take the direct route, it’s about a one hour drive, maybe ninety minutes. It took us most of the day because we used the smallest roads through the furthest parts of Basque Country.

Our first destination was Aldudes, nestled in a beautiful Pyrenees valley near the Spanish border. We came to see the almost-extinct breed of pigs that yield the highest grade of Basque jambon (ham). Unlike American factory pigs, these lead a happy, pampered life. Up to a point.

How do they see with those ears flopping in their eyes?

Notice the one little guy running around like a puppy. They were all playing like this earlier. They would run up to the fence to have a look at us, then dash away if we moved Then they were fed by Mom and got sleepy.

This guy liked playing with his little stick.

We also visited a nearby fish hatchery that raises top quality trout for the French restaurant industry.

We left Aldudes and headed for Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This small town is a popular gathering point for pilgrims heading over the mountains to Santiago de Compostela. Our goal was lunch.

White buildings with red or green shutters are typically Basque. I miss them now that we’re out of the area.


  1. did you have Basque jambon for lunch, after photographing those cute piglets? I was reminded of Sy Montgomery’s The Good Good Pig, which I loved. I still feel twinges of guilt eating any pork product.
    After reading The Soul of an Octopus, I no longer order octopus sashimi (tako). I still enjoy calamare though – I wonder if squid have a soul too? Somehow squid don’t seem to be as sentient as an octopus… But pork is in my culinary DNA – char siu, spareribs in black bean sauce, pulled pork tacos (I was mistaken for Mayan in Mexico lol) and of course, BACON. I love vegetables (and fruit) too! Fresh, roasted, grilled, baked in a pie and fermented. I wish I could have joined you for lunch! Your photos inspire me to follow you in your footsteps – maybe 2024 will be my year to visit Spain! Thank you.

    1. Yes, come! There are also cheeses and wines you won’t find elsewhere.

      I share your concerns about eating cephalopods. Their intelligence, in fact their entire anatomy, is so different from ours they might be from another planet. Some think they are – not via space ships but via DNA brought on a comet. In any case, I have to inform you that squid and generally considered about as bright as octopuses (not octopii). Cuttlefish are perhaps the dopey cousins in the family..

  2. I loved the piglets–reminded me of Spot and Daisy on the Bishop’s farm! After a long day of manure shoveling (me) and snuffling (them) we would sit on the loading dock, staring at the fields, one nestled under each of my arms. I don’t think a photo exists–but I’m sure now you can picture it!
    What cute piglets, and with such similar markings! What a fascinating trip! Love, MEB

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