Today we went to Bayonne, first we walked up through the market hall.

market hall

While the others browsed the stands, I noticed the cafe at the end selling a local variety of Coca Cola.1 If I were on my own I probably would have tasted it. The city isn’t far from the sea, there is fresh fish on sale.

fish in market

Next we took a winding route across the city walls to the botanic garden, and then through the Porte de la Poterne to cross through the wall into the old city. Here is the door with Matthieu for scale.

large door

We went to a French comics shop - le Banc Dessiné (which I greatly appreciated), then stopped in a café to rest a while and use their toilet.

Right near the café was the large Cathédrale Sainte-Marie.

cathedral exterior

Tucked inside the northern entrance to the cathedral is a sculpture of a mason, a signature from the builders of the cathedral.

mason sculpture

Adjacent to the cathedral is a cloister, which was hosting an exhibition on Basque festive costumes. The person staffing the exhibition has written a thesis on Basque traditional dress, he seemed eager to explain everything and answer questions.

In the meantime, the mannequins were very creepy.

creepy mannequins

Down from the cathedral we headed into the Lapurdum architectural interpretation centre (CIAP), which had only opened a few months ago. The centre had some stairs leading down to an old roman basement, and the rest of the exhibition seemed mainly concerned with establishing the ‘basque character’ of an adjacent apartment complex. Peter guessed it might have been a situation where the centre was a requirement of planning permission.

I was impressed by the ordinary uses for some quite elaborate buildings. This building on Rue Orbe houses a Monoprix supermarket.


We went over to the other side of the river Nive to see the Basque Museum.

Peter wanted to know whether the old town survives further away from the river, and it does. There are the same old narrow streets, and going on the graffiti it seems like the edgy/alternative side of town.

peter bridge

This mural belongs to a supporters group for the football club Aviron Bayonnais.

basque graffiti

This cafe is named after the late Burkinabe leader Thomas Sankara.

cafe sankara

The Basque Museum had a lot of general ethnographic exhibits, like a collection of chisteras for playing pelote basque. What stood out for me was a lengthy exhibition on the development of freemasonry in Bayonne, and a series of portraits of famous French figures (Victor Hugo, Léon Gambetta) by Léon Bonnat2 on the top floor of the museum. The painting of Adolphe Thiers was so dark his suit blends into the background, gives him a sinister look.

  1. Called euskola, a contraction of the Basque ‘Euskal Herriko Kola’. 

  2. There is a whole museum in Bayonne dedicated to Bonnat’s work, but it was closed.