Sunday, 30 March 2008

Becoming a Ham Fan in Bayonne

I guess that you want me to be politically correct and claim that I have always known that Bayonne (Baiona) forms part of the Basque Country (Euskal Herria). For sure, I was not yet a teenager when I first heard of their famous smoked ham. But I am afraid that I always used to think of the town as French.

According to the guide books this is wrong. Apparently, there exists quite a lot of Basque nationalism here. During our recent visit, we honestly did not see much of that but, possibly, we walked through the wrong streets or were blinded by how much better small nationalities thrive on the Spanish side of the border.

The ham, on the other side, we simply could not avoid, since there happened to be an open-air ham trade fair while we were there. It is, in fact, interesting that ham looks so different when you chop of the hoof, as they do in Bayonne, compared to when you leave it on, as is the Spanish custom. Nor did we miss the chocolate, which certainly is not cheap, but there are many stores so, at least, it is easy to find.

Picturesque houses, nice food at restaurants along the river and a lot of atmosphere. Bayonne is a truly liveable town. Basque or French? For a tourist it does not really matter.

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