Beneath Biscay

By Douglian

Monkey see...

Today we made the short drive from Zarautz up to France and Saint Jean de Luz in the french Basque country. An attractive former fishing town, nowadays making a living from tourism. After looking around the town and stopping for a weak and expensive coffee we drove around to the Fort de Socoa at the west end of the bay. Here we had a tasty meal of squid in a chorizo sauce with wild rice. From there, along the coast, stopping to visit the Château Observatoire Abbadia near Hendaye. The chateau was built in the mid 19th century by the Irish-French Basque explorer Antoine Thomson d'Abbadie d'Arrast. He built it in neo-gothic style, seemingly as a monument to his life and interests, including much decoration relating to his 10 years spent in Ethiopia. An astronomical observatory within the chateau reflects his interest in science. The engraving over the main entrance "Céd Míle Fáilte" accompanied by the obligatory shamrocks, pays tribute to the Irish part of his ancestry (albeit spelled incorrectly if I'm not mistaken).

After that it was back into Spain with the intention to visit the town of Hondarribia, which came recommended by a friend. Unfortunately we didn't have a detailed plan and headed for the harbour area, which turned out to be a modern marina, rather then the old town centre where we should have gone. We decided to leave the town for another time and head back to Zarautz.

I'm not sure what M. d'Abbadie's intention was for the gargoyle in the picture. Apparently a monkey looking through a telescope. My own interpretation is that it marvels at how we have evolved to the point where we can study and understand the universe. Charles Darwin had published the origin of the species just five years before construction of the château started. On the other hand the gargoyle could equally well be ridiculing the idea of evolution. I wonder.

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