Among the delicious Basque specialties that can be enjoyed in Bayonne, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, south-west France, there are two that stand out from all the rest – ham and chocolate!
Ham has been produced in this area since the middle ages. Legend has it that in the 14th Century, local man Gaston Phoebus shot a boar which fell into some salt water surrounding the Salies de Béarn. There the body stayed until it was found the next season – in perfect condition and perfectly delicious.
A Ham Fair has been held in Bayonne during Easter week every year since 1426. Bayonne ham is made throughout the south-west regions of France but is called Bayonne ham as it was shipped all over Europe from the city’s port. This major fair is more than a market, it is a festive celebration with a vibrant but relaxed atmosphere.
There will be some fifty exhibitors who come to share their know-how and their finest, most succulent hams as they vie for the status of best ham producer of the year. Featuring some of the best products from the region not just ham – but local produce such as peppers from Espelette, foie gras, oysters, Basque cakes and spices. You’ll also find delicious cider produced in the area and often served from a huge barrel. Cider was traditionally made here for the pilgrims who journeyed to Compostela a thousand years ago.
The Spanish influence is clear, you will also find taloas (Basque corn cakes) and piperade (a blend of fried peppers, onions and tomatoes) as well as Basque pintxos a kind of appetizer served on small pieces of bread and washed down with wine.
Sample the hams at the market and wander along the stalls surrounding the market along the bank of the river Nive to find cider, peppers, cheeses and all manner of delicious gourmet produce. Enjoy the free music as bands play in the streets and the famous Basque flute marching bands pass by.
While you’re in Bayonne, don’t miss the chance to try some chocolate. Bayonne is the home of chocolate in France where it’s been produced for the last 400 years.
More information from the Bayonne Tourist Office website.