Ariake Tokutsu / Marubeni overseas intern
* In this column, Marubeni Group staff provide a glimpse of the cities in which they are living and working.
I wonder how many people can picture something when they hear the name of the Basque Country? There are many beautiful French cities like Paris, Lyon, and Nice which are known the world over, but in this edition of World Report I would like to introduce the Basque Country, a region which particularly stands out for its character.
The Basque Country is the name given to the border region that spans the Pyrenees from southwestern France and Spain. It takes about five hours by train to reach the port of Bayonne from Paris. As the Basque Country possesses both mountains and the Atlantic coastline, the great splendor of nature is right before your very eyes.
The Basque Country is blessed with abundant nature and is a treasure trove of delicacies. It is the perfect all-rounder, with meat, fish, spices, and sweets on offer. The town of Espelette, for example, is famous for its red peppers. These are used in everything from alcohol to sweets, and here you can eat your fill of interesting gourmet food. Also, Bayonne was the first place to receive chocolate, truly making it the birthplace of French chocolate culture.
If you head out to the ocean, you will find fresh oysters. If you go to the mountains, you will find exquisite Bayonne ham sourced from carefully raised Basque pigs. There is so much here! The towns and villages are full of special local products and attractions, and it might even be said that a trip to the Basque Country is like going on a gourmet food tour.
Another big feature of the Basque Country is a culture that is completely unlike that of any other place in France. Long-held traditions remain today and house-building is very specific; you won’t see beautifully contrasted red window frames against white walls anywhere else in the country.
Something else I would like to focus on is the original Basque language. Mysteriously, the origins of Basque are not exactly clear, and though we can’t say that it serves an important role in daily life, even today it is carefully passed down through education, and signage in the Basque Country is always written in both French and Basque.
A vast natural landscape, abundant gourmet food, an exotic culture... the appeal of the Basque Country knows no bounds. Access to the region is not the best so I recommend that you hire a car and take a relaxing drive there. Stopping for a little while in Bayonne after a sight-seeing trip to Paris is a waste — the small villages and nature are the real attraction of the Basque Country!
Good for a gourmet tour, good for a picnic in the mountains, good for visiting villages… there are many ways you can enjoy the Basque Country. I’m certain that you will find your own special spots.
Marubeni Group communication site “MS+ (MS Plus)” (October 15, 2014)