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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Away from the sea, the countryside is pastoral and gently leads up into the Pyrenees. Dotted with farms and rustic villages, 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.
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 revolves 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.