I tiptoed down the big wooden staircase and into the entrance hall, not knowing how many people were up yet. I could hear quiet chatter coming from somewhere in the house but couldn’t quite tell who was awake or where the conversation was coming from.
I still couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be staying here, to have friends who could put us up for a couple of nights in such an impressive building. It felt a bit like something from a film set, with its wide hallways and tall ceilings.
I stood there for a moment, the big wooden front door behind me, a wardrobe that could have been the entrance to Narnia to my left and above me a gallery with a great thick wooden beam that someone said should have belonged to a scene in Zorro. One room lead into the next, tastefully decorated and lovingly lived in.
I headed to the kitchen and found some people had already eaten, others were about to tuck in to toast and I joined them as I sleepily tried to remember how to say good morning in French and yes please to coffee.
People wandered in and out and plans for the day were discussed. Some had places they had to be, others were keen on joining in with the visit to an art exhibition in the next town over and then popping to the beach for a bit. We decided we’d be up for that too, so we piled into the cars and set off.
After a few hours of wandering through different venues observing the colourful works of Jean-Claude Pinchon we concluded we probably weren’t the best art critics in the world. Then, we headed to the seaside for a bit of a splash in the waves before returning to the house for an evening barbecue.
We were an assorted company at the big Bidache house. Several people live there all year round, others come and go during the week and yet others come for short visits or simply a couple of nights, as we had.
Sightseeing can be a wonderful thing but to really get to know a place you need to dive into the culture, get to know the locals, learn a bit about its history, experience daily life in the place. And mealtimes at the house provided the perfect occasion to do just that.
A mixture of English, Spanish and French flowed easily. We laughed and ate and switched from one language to the other as needed, everyone trying to talk in a language that wasn’t native to them so as to make the most of a great opportunity to practice.
I love meeting people from other places, learning their stories, sharing experiences. Each person opens a window to a part of the world I otherwise might not have experienced and some tales spark my cravings for distant lands and adventure.
As the night air cooled and we sat below the starry sky, we discussed the correct way to say this and that in French and how to best translate the meaning of certain expressions. Conversation wasn’t limited to grammar and language, though. We bonded over meaningful discussions, telling funny anecdotes and getting to know one another a little bit better.
Good food and good company do wonders for the soul. And it was just what was needed to kickstart the summer adventures.