Sunday, October 11, 2009

St. Palais, Beyrie, and Orsanco

On friday, Sept 11, we visited the real basque country. We got up early in the morning and headed for the markt in St. Palais. This is the town where Dh and his family used to go to market when they lived in Orsanco . This particular open air market was a lot of fun. We actually got there too late to see the big livestock such as cows, sheep, and goats.

However, we saw lots of different kinds of birds. There were chickens and baby chicks, there were ducks and ducklings.

The chickens were so funny. I saw one lady who had the back of her car full of chickens with their legs tied together. When she would pick some of them up off the pile, they would start squawking and flapping their wings. As soon as she would lie them down again, they would instantly be quiet and still.

There were cages full of guineas. These, however are ducklings. Lots of pots and dishes full of ready to eat food. This Paela looked really yummy.
There were lots of stalls with all kinds of things; clothing, shoes, jewelry, food of all kinds etc. etc.

We walked around the town, looked at shops, and Mado shopped for flowers for the cemetaries that we would be going to. Many of the windows and all along the streets were baskets full of pretty flowers. Many of them were geraniums of all colors. By the way, most of the cities in France and Belgium have these flowers our all summer. It is very pretty and cheerful.

A sample of the signs

Of course after all that walking, we had to stop at a little cafe and have some refreshments and talki and watch the people passing by.

We all had a hot chocolate which was served with little cookies.

These are the guineas. Dh's family ate them and say they are tasty.

These signs are in Basque.

The church in St. Palais.

"The Lord is my light" says the marble pillar.
This is the school for those who dedicate themselves to the priesthood and become priests. Laurent started attending this school at age 7. He lived and studied there for a bit over 5 years. He decided not to be a Catholic priest much to the disappointment of his parents.

The teachers and workers lived in these apts. across the street.

The ruins of an old castle or something in Beyrie.
The church at Beyrie. Dh attended this church many times in the 2 years that he lived in Beyrie with little uncle (1950-51.

The cemetary has lots of family buried here.

The children of Beyrie who died for France.

This little courtyard had just a few houses that were located off to the side, between the church and the school.

Down the hill a little ways from the church is the school Dh attended. He was so excited to find it again. Luckily for him it was lunch time. All 43 students were off for lunch. He talked to the ladies through this window and they invited him into the classroom.
This is the very room where he went to school. Of course the whole school has been renovated and modernized. He enjoyed seeing the room and picturing himself in it as a little boy. He said he remembered the room as much larger, but then, he was much smaller. Also, the walls were not decorated in those days and inside there was a stove to heat the room.

We continued on our trip and soon arrived at the little bridge that leads to Orsanco. The bridge had just been painted in preparation for festivities that week-end. We stopped here to have a picnic lunch.

Everyone enjoyed reminising about picnicing at this very spot 30 years ago. (The last time we were there.)

The french are always prepared to have a picnic. Out of the trunk came this little table and folding chairs. Mado packed a typical picnic lunch. We had baguettes, thin sliced, cured ham, salami, cheese, fruit, chips and drinks.

As people drove by in their cars, many would wave hello.

This gate led to a cow pasture and across the pasture was Martinia, the house where Dh lived. When Dh lived in Martinia, it was pretty shabby. It had a dirt floor and that wasn't even flat and even. It was a "rolling floor". It had little lumps and bumps in the dirt that was packed down. In that house he slept in the "black room". It was called the black room because all it had was a tiny little window in one of the corners and it didn't let in very much light. The walls did not meet the floor and so there are several stories that come from that situation. One of them is that whenever Dh was sick his Mom would make him a bitter tasting tea. He just hated it. So, instead of drinking it, he would throw it into the crack between the floor and the wall which led to the cellar. Then the tea would drip down. His Father, not knowing what was happening, would hear the trickle and would get infuriated at the cat, thinking that the cat had peed in the house again. Poor cat was always in trouble. The house had no electricity and no running water. It was Dh's job to go down to the creek about a mile and a half or more away and bring the water to the house in buckets. Several trips had to be made each day.
In the Basque country all the houses have names. We looked at many of them; Ibineta, Dentzenia, Etchesaharia, Phardoya, Bentaberia, Amostoya and many other. The Basque country side is sooo beautiful. It is full of green rolling hills and pastures of little flocks of sheep, cows, and pigs. Most of the houses have red tile roofs and are painted white with various colors of trim.

We visited Mayie, a cousin, and her husband. They have built a beautiful chalet. It is made of wood, walls and all. There are problems though. The "committee" has said that they have to paint all that beautiful wood white to "match" the other houses. They are upset about it as the house is not even the same style as the other houses, but an actual swiss chalet. But, they have no choice, so paint they will. They were so gracious and hospitable to us.

Driving to the church in Orsanco.
This is Etchesaharia. It is the largest house in Orsanco. The owners had gone to South America and made a lot of money. Then they came back and built this house.
The church.
This is the city hall which is just across the street from the church. It used to be the school where Dh went from 1945 to 50. Of course, it is also refurbished and looks great now. Dh got to see all 4 schools that he attended as a kid. He and his brother and sister really enjoyed talking about the good ole days.

Lots of family buried in this picturesque, country cemetary also. This is the grave of Dh's grandmother Secail.

Remember the gate earlier in the post? After walking across the cow pasture you can get to the back of Martinia. In the back Dh was so excited to find 2 old oak trees that were there in his day. All of the homes before were very old and quite shabby. Some were really like shacks. Well, all of that has changed. The homes are lovely now and there are fences everywhere. Our little company was sad that they couldn't walk around in the fields and behind houses. Well, little Mado was not to be detered. She marched right up to one of the houses and talked to the lady who lived there. She told her our story, how Dh was visiting from the USA, how he used to live here, how they all lived there and how much they loved it. They really wanted to go to the back of Martinia. Well the lady said that they now owned 4 or 5 houses there and that we could go down this road and turn right and then left and we would come to the gate. As long as we shut the gate we could go in and walk around to our hearts content. We did just that. Dh and his siblings found those 2 oaks and spent the next 45 minutes, at least, looking at it, talking about it, looking out and seeing Beyrie in one direction, Orsanco in another direction, the roads that lead to it, the places they used to walk to, the church, etc. They had a great time remembering all the things of their youth. As I looked at this beautiful countryside, I was amazed at it's beauty. I also was surprised to know what distances they traveled by foot. The houses are really far apart and then there is the church and the school and other places. They thought nothing of going from one to the other. They walked or ran everywhere. It's not wonder they were and still are in such good shape.


Anna said...

I love these stories. I can't wait to go there!

Yvonne said...

What wonderful stories and great pictures. You must be loving all of this. I am so glad you were able to visit all these wonderful places that were so important to your hubby.