Friday, May 22, 2009


Today we said goodbye to the coastline and headed into the mountains, on sinuous roads meant for motorcycles, blasting through 400-year-old villages with the combined boom of 16 big twins (and one triple, but it was new so we'll sweep it under the rug for now...). But back to the beginning, at a cafe on the cliff overlooking the surfers of Biarritz; there is an old building on a rock at the beach's terminus, which for all the world looks like a ghost of San Francisco's Cliff House, circa 1890. The Southsiders have pointed this out on their magnificent blog, but to see it in person is uncanny.

Nobody told me our meeting cafe was THE hookup spot in town - I was only looking for java, but pretty girls seem drawn to pretty motorcycles, and Shayne and Kelly ended up recreating those fabulous Norton posters from the 1970s; willing models but impossible passengers in those sandals...have fun in St. Sebastian, girls. And by the way, you're famous.

(As an aside, when the Southsiders came back into town that evening, the place was thronged with the young and beautiful.)

I was treated to the luxury of Daniel's modified Norton; to the rest of the world it looks like a Fastback model, but that's only the skin, and even this has been caressed into a new shape which he finds more attractive. A good look at the photos of this green beast will reveal much to the trained eye... and it's a highly civilized ride.

The Pyrenees don't rise dramatically here, but they do climb and drop into hollows and valleys, following rivers for a while or cresting a peak with expansive views of the countryside. It's all verdant and lush this wet/late Spring, but we were lucky and by lunchtime the sun had fully blessed our gathering... and as our stop was so long, it was no wonder; plenty of time for sol to part the clouds.

Near the Spanish border, a lineup of cars resembling Jean-Luc Godard's film 'Weekend' crawled along - the local trick is to buy cheap alcohol and cigarettes in Spain, and all those cars go only so far as the first village, which serves their needs. After that, free sailing.

We shortly entered a real 'pays Basque' town, can't recall the name, but the architecture is so characteristic of the area; lots of white stucco, tile roofs, exposed stonework, storm shutters, and Basque signs in a unique font - every local business, truck, menu, and town used the same lettering.

As mentioned, our lunch stop was a feast, as we over-ordered the jamon, patatas bravas, paella, and sandwiches, so had to sit long enough to eat it all!

But, we managed, with a little help from friends who appeared suddenly in their Bullitt-inspired '67 Mustang GT.

Daniel and I attempted a siesta in what appeared to be a local park, but turned out to be a schoolyard. The children's games were straight out of Borat; two boys ran around in oversize papier-mache Devil and African Man carnaval heads, swinging balls at other kids, while a little girl wore a black scarf on her head, a tied-on crooked nose, riding a straw broom, scaring the squealy girls.

So, we high-tailed it out of town and back into the mountains, this time following a river running its course to the sea, its mouth just shy of Biarritz. The Norton trumpeting gloriously, thrumming beneath me as we flashed through the trees.


YJH said...

well Paul, it seems now clear that no one else but you could do better for the AD (art direction) of the new Norton corp_let me know if you need an assistant : I'll be there ;-)

John Joss said...

Paul, you're in danger of being arrested for having too much fun. Colour me to match that luscious Norton: green with envy.

southsiders M.C. said...

Yes this the Word John: "to much fun" that's all we lived together this last week end

Frank Sider said...

Paul it was good to have you for our first Spanish run ...
Next time we will go to Bilbao ... more wine and more pata negra

YJH said...

I wonder who took a bite off the French baguette_anybody knows_thanks