Le Fetes De Bayonne – Day 1

Yesterday, as I landed in Biarritz Airport in the Basque Region of France (this part of the country hopes to secede and become independent), I noticed that everything was so green and lush, almost tropical.  It turns out it has been raining here for the past six weeks, and I just happen to bring the good weather along with me on my journey! Like I said earlier, Ama Mikela (Mother Mikela, my host) and her daughter, Elisa, have generously let me stay at their maison here in Biarritz, the neighboring town from Bayonne (where all of the action is happening this weekend).  I am specifically here for Le Fetes De Bayonne, an annual festival that only started about 25 years ago, to celebrate Saint Leon, the official saint of the town (he apparently is King Leon, not the actual saint, a very fat man who they “wake up” in front of the town hall every mid-day).  I was able to pop into the center of Biarritz for a short trip to pick up a red belt for the evening celebrations; the town is a beautiful summer spot for the French (hotels and casinos galore!).  There are gorgeous, pebbly-sand beaches, especially known for their perfect surfing waves, and every inch of sand was covered by semi-tanned bodies.

Last night, once we were dressed and ready to hit the streets of Bayonne, Elisa and her friends tried to explain what I was in for – from what they told me, I knew it was going to be a good time.  It is a huge party, everyone dressed identically with white pants, a white shirt, a red belt and a red fular around the neck, dancing, singing, drinking, bar hopping, and doing other fun traditions, including il paquito chocolatero (literally translated to the “little chocolate pack”).  It is where a whole line of people sit in a row facing the same direction, and a person jumps into their arms; the people sitting start to pass the flying person above their heads to the people behind, and it continues until that person falls.  As the evening continues early into the morning, more and more paquito chocolatero happen throughout the streets.  Here you can see my attempt in being the flying chocolatero!

Le Fetes De Bayonne at night is a massive party that doesn’t finish once the bars close.  The crowded buses back to the suburbs and neighboring towns are full with drunk, happy, boisterous French people singing until they reach their destination.

Needless to say, last night was a lot of fun, but I am looking forward to heading to le fetes this afternoon to see what the day has to offer.  I’m sure it will be a very different scene!