Lost In Limoges

From the sheep-dotted pastures of France's underpopulated Southwest, Limoges rises in all its grey glory. The city's claim to fame: fine porcelain. The half-timbered houses of the Medieval center are surrounded by strip malls and McDo. Land-hungry Brits descend with flailing pocketbooks (thanks, RyanAir). The weather is remarkably cool year-round. Sure, I live on rue de Nice, but this is NOT the Cote d'Azur. Welcome to Limoges, "the middle of nowhere"-- or as Pierre says "everywhere"-- France.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Living It Up In San Sebastien, Spain

The beautiful Basque city of San Sebastien—its sweeping beaches facing the dramatic Atlantic surf—is a glorious combination of natural landscapes and urban treasures. Green mountaintops (one crowned by an enormous statue of Jesus, reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro) look down upon an awesome crescent of boat-dotted harbors and grand boulevards with tall art nouveau architecture.

The narrow alleys of the Parte Vieja are lined with tapas bars, where neighbors gather for dinner, conversation, and revelry well after 9 pm. This, by far, is the best aspect of Basque culture: the communal social spirit of late-night nibbles and small plates. And it's heaven for foodies: sampling multiple tasty morsels (from roquefort filled fritters to sardines).

When it was cloudy and overcast, we opted to play poker over a few brews overlooking a square plastered with Basque separatist slogans. (Though ETA's put down their arms, the Separatist movement is alive and well. We gaped at the protests and spectacles: masked folks parading through the nighttime streets and overturning trash dumpsters in a busy thoroughfare.) Kristin taught the ladies Texas Hold'em.

A word about San Seb (as the squads of philandering, drunk, Anglo youths have so affectionately dubbed it): the world-famous nightlife means booty-hunting pub crawls (til the wee hours) are the norm. In August, anyway, when the hordes of backpackers descend upon the city, don't expect much sleep if you are staying in the Parte Vieja. Echoing voices bounce off the alley's tall buildings and into the Pension's corridors and guestrooms. Best to carpe noctem and retire at dawn.


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