The real deal!

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

I’m having a throwback to our time in the Pays Basque of France in April/May last year. Two weeks ago I wrote a post for The Good Life France about these cookies. Les véritables macarons of the Pays Basque were such a surprise when I discovered them … how had I not known? They truly are the real deal when it comes to macarons.

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Click right here to read my article on TGLF and you’ll see what I mean.

I used to think all macarons were like these:  the trendy, frou-frou, multi-colored, every-flavor-under-the-sun kind that have become so popular in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, many people love these … and I have tried my best to love them too, with mixed results. But the moment I tasted the crisp crust and soft interior of the richly-flavored Basque macaron, the truth was revealed to me.

A single layer of gustatorial goodness. No filling required. Locally it’s called “mouchou”, from the Basque word musu, meaning kiss. Yes.

But my post on TGLF explains that.  Writing that article had me lingering in my photo files from our trip. I was reminded of the very different and fascinating Basque country of the Pyénées-Atlantiques departement of France. Although we were based in beautiful Biarritz, we explored widely … as we do.

Here’s the main beach, one of many, in Biarritz. A surfing capital of the world, a lot of newbies learn and experiment at this beach. The more serious … and I do mean SERIOUS … put on amazing spectacles just around the corner, when the surf is up.

IMG_8743IMG_8716The palace (shown below) was originally built by Napoleon III for his wife, Princess Eugenie, and entertained many aristocratic and royal guests during the golden years of the resort in 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s now a luxury destination with a first-class restaurant.

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But today I want to share a bit about the birthplace of the scrumpdiddlyumptious Basque macaron. The town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is just twenty  minutes south Biarritz and even closer to the Spanish border. Fabulous San Sebastian, Spain is only a half-hour away … but that’s another story and I will definitely do posts later about those places.

Famous for its crescent-shaped bay on the Atlantic and its history of fishing, pirates and royalty, today many of the attractions are the beautiful beaches and golf courses more recently developed.

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Away from the sea, the countryside is pastoral and gently leads up into the Pyrenees. Dotted with farms and rustic villages,IMG_8550 the quintessential white-washed homes and outbuildings are finished with  wood timbers. Doors and shutters are stained blood red or deep green, the colours of the Basque flag. Garlands of local hot peppers hang everywhere.

The Basque people are proud of their ancient roots and language (Euskara), the latter spoken extensively and found on signage throughout the region. Lively traditions and delicious cuisine (particularly charcuterie, cheese, ham, seafood) are mainstays of the area, celebrated with frequent festivals. Click here for an excellent detailed article.

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Oops, I’m losing focus … as I often do! There’s just so much good information to share.

The heart of Saint-Jean-de-Luz history revolvesIMG_8564 around the royal wedding in 1660 of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, and Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain. The chapel where the ceremony was held and the buildings in which the newlyweds and their entourages held court exist, along with much of the old town, as they did all those centuries ago.

The local pâtisserie, Maison Adam baked their popular macarons, even then. Apparently the king’s bride-to-be and his mother loved the cookies, so they were served at the wedding.

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The closely guarded recipe remains the same to this day and, through all these centuries, the family business has been handed down through father and son. Baked into rustic rounds that are sold as single biscuits, until recently, these Basque macarons were seldom found outside the Pays Basque.

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Visit the shop, in the same location, in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, or in Biarritz. They also craft irresistibly delicious chocolate … warning: there is a chocolate fountain in the store in Saint-Jean. If you have time, even if you don’t want to practise your French, take a look at this gorgeous website with vintage photos.

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I could go on here for pages, but will just share some more photos. As I mentioned above, this link is the one to read for a truly fine article … and, don’t worry, it’s not too long. You may even want to plan a visit to the Pays Basque of France by the time you finish reading. We would definitely return.

Oh, and berets! The Basque beret! That’s one of the reasons I wrote some characters from the Pays Basque into I Promise You This. I loooove the berets! *Promotion opportunity here ~ I Promise You This, Book #3 in the Love In Provence series will be released by Amazon on May 17th! It’s available for pre-order now. I can’t wait for you to read it. 

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Have you visited the Basque region of France or Spain? Have you ever tried the P’tit Basque or Petit Basque cheese? It’s mild and delicious and your local cheese shop might carry it. Check it out.

Bon weekend!

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions ... okay, and chocolate ... and I'm seldom without a camera. I write women's fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!

Comments

  1. I have met some very nice folks from the Basque region of Spain although I have not yet visited there. It’s on the list! Those macaroons sound delightful.

    • Patricia Sands says

      Darlene, they are soooo good! I see that Evelyne’s Whole Foods sells them and I’m going to check that out here. I was fine until I wrote the post and now I can’t stop thinking about them!

      You will love the area when you go! Make sure you include San Sebastian too.

  2. Jeanine Rougier says

    J adore cette région , merci de nous la présenter avec de belles photos ????

  3. Stop! You made me too homesick and mouthwatering. Le Pays Basque is an interesting region. And I absolutely adore the cheese from there. Whole Foods, here in the States, carries the Basque. It’s outrageoulsy expensive but soooo good.
    And I’m a fan of macarons too.
    Thanks for the virtual tour and the lovely photos.

    • Patricia Sands says

      Oh, Evelyne! I am going straight to our Whole Foods tomorrow to see if they have these macarons! Thanks for telling me that. I’m glad you enjoyed the visit!

  4. Those buns made me hungry!

  5. I am pretty sure one of those yummy treats equals the allowable calorie count for the day, but who would care? I would never. You’re posts always pull on my inner gypsy’s desire to pack a bag and head out. Patricia, you do torture your readers, those of us stateside, anyway.

    • Patricia Sands says

      Hi! Calorie count is not allowed in France, Brenda. 🙂 So you are right … no worries! So good to see you back on the blog!

  6. Un autre beau coin de France à voir absolument! Merci pour ces belles photos Patricia ?

  7. How had I not come across the mouchou on my visits to the Basque country? I’ll have to put that right!

  8. Well I’m not big on macaroons, but I’m really loving your photo journeys through France. I think I need to visit that castle. I think my husband should have built me a castle when we wed. In fact, every dude should build his bride a castle, right?

    Thanks for the fun blog.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Patricia Sands says

      Hmmm ~ my husband keeps telling my our home is my castle. Good try! And listen … I’m not big on macaroons either. The American macaroons are full of cocoanut, right? Bleh! The Parisian macarons are one thing, but these Basque babies are divine.

      • Well I would certainly try the Basque macaroons. I’m game for giving anything a try once.

        And my home is also my castle – or so I keep telling myself. This big old Victorian here in Vicksburg is certainly big enough to qualify as a castle.

        Patricia

  9. I SOOOOO ENJOYED THIS POST. WONDERFUL PICTURES AND INFO. I HAVE PRE-ORDERED THE NEW BOOK, IF ONLY MAY WILL HURRY? THANK YOU , SO MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR TRAVELS WITH US. JOY WOOD

    • Patricia Sands says

      How lovely to hear from you, dear Joy, and I’m so glad you are still enjoying traveling along with me. May 17 will surely be here before we know it. That’s how life goes these days! I’ve already begun working on the next three books. Kat’s journey continues. Happy Spring!

  10. So beautiful! I have never been to Biarritz, but I know San Sebastian very well. Such a wonderful region, so full of delights for all senses.
    Have a wonderful Easter weekend, Monika

    • Patricia Sands says

      You are so right, Monika. San Sebastian is a beautiful town in a charming region. That entire Côtes Basque region of France and Spain offers a unique travel experience. I wish you a happy Easter too.

  11. Is there no end to France’s diverse regions? I’d heard of Pays Basque, but never thought of visiting. Until now. I don’t think I’ve ever tried one of those brightly-colored macarons. They look too prim. But the Basque variety look absolutely delicious. Thanks for the tour, Patricia!

    • Patricia Sands says

      You are so right … I feel there is no end to the beauty of France. Every area we visit provides such interesting stories and visuals. The Pays Basque is definitely worth a visit and I guarantee you will love their special macarons! I brought some home to share with family and friends and they vanished in a flash!

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