New feature: “Memories Of”

This post is the first in a new category of “The Daily {French-Italian} Cure” called “Memories Of.” These posts will be the contributions of others who have lived in or visited either Italy or France, and have a certain memory of what it was like. If you have a story to share, please let me know. For this first, beautiful memory, I thank Anna Harrison, translator of literature and film.

I REMEMBER living for the first five years of my life with my grandmother in Saint Jean de Luz. I remember playing in her sunny garden as she sewed at her window. The comfort of knowing she was there and running to show her a flower or a fascinating pebble or bug I had found. Hearing her acknowledge me and knowing she was always listening, always happy to hear what I had to say or show.

Saint Jean de Luz is a small town close to the Spanish border, just south of Biarritz. It is, in some ways, like many other villages and yet very much part of the Basque Country, or Euskadi, and therefore very distinct and proud of this distinction. The white houses with red trim are the norm (you see a few with dark green or “bleu luzien” trim, but usually it’s red) and the fishing boats, for this was a fishing port first and foremost, are emblematic of this area. The town was known most for having been the place where Louis XIV married the Spanish infanta, Marie-Thérèse. I had my first communion in that church.

What I remember most about St. Jean de Luz are the walks along the “promenade” that edged the beach, holding my grandmother’s hand, looking out over the beautiful bay with the Socoa Fort on the left and the Sainte-Barbe hillside to the right, and stopping to chat with acquaintances along the way. There were also the walks to the market and visits to the port, where the fresh fish were sold straight off the boat by the fishermen.

I remember the amazing aromas that greeted me as I walked down one particular street, leaving my grandmother’s house. There, one after the other, I passed tiny, ancient stores, each with a smell that embraced and lifted me and which I’ll never forget. First the coffee store, with a gigantic coffee-roasting machine right in the center of it, continuously turning and grinding away at the lovely coffee beans. Then, a candy store that smelled of warm caramel and licorice. Finally a boulangerie, and the fragrance of fresh-baked bread! What a joy for the senses. Not to mention that this street was a block from our house and just off the promenade to the beach.

Saint Jean de Luz has changed a lot now. Things have been modernized and built up and many many more tourists fill the town. But it’s still the place where my grandmother rests and will always be a beautiful cherished memory.

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2 Responses to New feature: “Memories Of”

  1. Aznarez says:

    Ceci est un joli témoignage d’une enfance bénie dans ce beau Pays Basque et moi (sa tante) qui réside à St Jean de Luz, je ne peux que me joindre à l’hommage rendu : l’arôme du café en grains moulu emplit encore nos narines, le marchand de bonbons existe toujours – même s’il n’est plus à la même place – seule la bonne odeur de pain s’est atténuée avec le mélange de pain traditionnel et pain industriel… mais la plage qui s’étale entre le fort de Socoa et la pointe de Sainte Barbe nous offre toujours sa magnifique perspective.

  2. Merci Colette, c’est pour tout ça que j’adore la France…pardon my imperfect French, but I’m sure you know what I mean. These small things are the most beautiful, no?

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