Marie-Sabine et l’oeil de Sainte-Lucie

“Is this normal to see here?” I asked the woman walking along the beach? “Ah, bah, non!…” I was referring to a guy walking behind and above me along the sidewalk dressed in a lime green thong with arm straps. That was the beginning of the most interesting night I have had so far.

It started out as polite conversation–“Where are you from, what are you doing here in France, etc.”–that evolved into the story of the eye of Sainte-Lucie. The woman pulled out a handful of shells from her purse.

“They look like ears,” I said.

“I’ve heard that before, but many see them as eyes. Do you know the story of l’oeil de Sainte-Lucie?” she asked.

The quick and dirty behind this legend is this: Long ago, there was a woman named Sainte-Lucie who became very ill. Upon getting better, she gave away all of her money and possessions to the poor. Her husband got very mad at her, and as a result, she ripped out her eyes (who her husband adored) to get back at him and threw them into the sea. Sailors who found the eye-shaped stones called them the eyes of Sainte-Lucie.

“They supposedly bring you luck,” she said, and with that, she dumped all four of the shells in my hand.

She told me that she had spent the last hour combing the beach, and the only one that she had found today, she had dropped and lost. Sometimes she would spend six hours a day looking for these shells, and maybe find one. Quelle gentillesse (How nice), I thought.

“I would always get bored on the beach, and then one day I saw some people who looked as if they had lost something and were looking for it,” said Marie-Lucie. That’s how she picked up the habit.

As the conversation continued, she asked me if I had been to all these places in Biarritz. The palace hotel? The rock of the virgin?

“No,” I replied to all.

And with that, she asked me if I would like to go see them, and she gave me the best tour that anyone could receive. She was full of history of the city of Biarritz. She talked at 100mph in elementary English and perfect French, narrating the scenery out my window, all the while narrowly missing pedestrians clogging the streets. If you have ever seen Amélie, it was like the scene where she grabs the blind man by the hand, pulling him along the busy sidewalk, describing everything that she sees at lightning speed. It was unexpected and serendipitous.

I owe it to her to share the story of Sainte-Lucie with you all, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing about it.

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