It feels like a long time since we disembarked from the ferry at Santander. The 24hr ferry, was neither economical nor entertaining. However, it did allow for the tourists to adapt to their new roles. Tour dietician, OscarVallance, spent most of the journey on the front row’s shoulders picking off strawberry tarts. Phil Bell, while being capable of dissecting complex historical arguments, struggled considerably with the concept of the “freeze hat”. The ferry heli-pad was the location for the first test of the international cricket series “backs v forwards” Zandy Macdonald finding all sorts of turn on the flat wicket late in the day.
After barely having time to adjust to our surroundings we found ourselves in the stunning surroundings of St. Jean Pied de Port for our first tour fixture against Biarritz Olympique Espoirs. Following the match we toured the sleepy French town finding ourselves at an oyster bar late into the night. Will Boardman sampled some of the crabs, while Tim Little narrowly avoided a bout of Tabasco induced Crohn’s. Tour fish, Marcus-Alexander Neil, continued to fulfill his role with panache, venturing into the town river in an attempt to drown the tour bear, Charlotte.
Sore bodies and sore heads were dragged out of bed the next morning for a light rugby session followed by an afternoon of “white water” rafting. Unfortunately the white water was largely created by the reenactment of the battle of Trafalgar that took place on the sleepy Basque river. The midget boat, lead by giant Will Rowlands, struggled to gain a foothold, however no one was left adrift quite as badly as the management boat.
A few tough days training were followed by a nice relaxing evening of wine and cheese tasting in the charming village of St Etienne de Baigorry, the location for our first week’s stay. The tourists appreciated the sharp tones of the rose and the boldness of the reds the Basque region had to offer. Ian Williams reviewed them as: “no Sainsbury’s vino de messa”. Our visit to this culturally rich region was topped off by a brisk walk up to the top of one of the large surrounding peaks in St Etienne de Baigorry. Ferret stayed at the bottom of the hill after taking medical advice to allow his heart rate and blood pressure to drop after the rather arduous drive up to the parking area. It is fair to say we were blown away by the hospitality of this region and the rich culture it has to offer. It was with heavy hearts that we boarded our cramped mini buses to travel to the coast for our next stop over on tour.
Now based in Soustons at a sports training complex, we are looking forward to a few days training ahead of our exciting fixture versus Bayonne.