Well, the continuous run of good weather we’ve been having for the last month finally broke last night. We were lashed by continuous rain throughout the night which looks like it is set for the day so it’s time for a duvet day and a catch up on the blog. We are more than happy to have a lazy day after a week or so of sightseeing and walking. It’s a shame it’s the weekend though as a duvet day is just that little bit more enjoyable on a weekday. Especially a Monday. But hey ho you can’t time the weather.
So leaving our final stop at Capbreton on the Côte d’Argent we continued south into the La Côte Basque heading for an aire at Anglet at the mouth of the river Adour from where we would be able to walk to Biarritz and Bayonne. The aire was in an ideal location set below the road at the edge of the river away from the large seafront carpark. It would have made for a perfectly relaxing couple of nights had we been able to actually get in to it. Ah, the joys of over engineered machines. After fifteen minutes of faffing, jabbing, prodding and poking the machine the barrier still wouldn’t budge. By this time I’d paid twice and been harangued by two French couples simultaneously jabbering away at me in rapid fire French offering me the benefits of their wisdom on the workings of the machine. I did thank them as they were only trying to help but I couldn’t concentrate on anything with them all talking at once. The upshot was that the machine was supposed to print out three different tickets but only spat out two (well, four because I’d paid twice) which wasn’t the magic formula for opening the barrier. Fed up by this point we reversed away from the barrier and decamped to the sea front car park. Meh.
Ce n’est pas grave as the French would say as we still had an excellent couple of days soaking up the ambience of Biarritz and around for a spot of people watching. Surfers were out enjoying the waves, families and dog walkers were out strolling in the sunshine and we were out observing it all. We walked the four or five miles along the sea front to Biarritz which took quite a while as we were waylaid stopping to watch the surfers one side of the path and the golfers on the other. Before going into decline in the 1950’s, Biarritz was the Monte Carlo of the Atlantic coast and a playground for monarchs and important shiny people but the rise of the Côte d’Azur in the 1960’s put paid to that. Rediscovered in the early 1990’s by affluent Parisians and a new international surfing set it is now firmly back on the map.
Boasting six lovely sandy beaches it’s a great place to lose a few hours sitting at a beachfront cafe eyeballing the surfers. It definitely has a glamorous but laid back feel to it although every inch of space on the promenade, beach and water is, I suspect, fiercely fought for in the height of the summer.
Bayonne, by contrast, the following day was all but deserted although it was Sunday. Three miles inland from the coast Bayonne is small by city standards and the narrow streets of the old town are a pleasure to stroll around. Attractive, tall half timbered buildings abound with the added attraction of the fourteenth century castle and the twin towers of the Cathedral. The three mile walk along the river from Anglet was pretty unremarkable and a bit noisy and grim though so we made the return journey on the bus.
St-Jean-De –Luz, purported to be the most attractive resort on the Basque coast, was our next stop. We got to the small aire situated just outside the old town and shoe horned ourselves into a space. Happy campers we were not. Even though it’s less than a five minute walk to the centre of the town, harbour and beach it has nothing else going for it. It’s tight for space and sandwiched between four lanes of traffic to the front and a busy railway line to the back. If we were going to enjoy St-Jean then it was time to spend out on a campsite. And we are soo glad we did. For €18 with our ACSI card we had a sea view at Bord de la Mer campsite and it was a lovely two kilometre walk along the coast into town.
With its safe, sandy beach, pretty plaza and upmarket boutique shopping it’s a popular spot for holiday makers but also being the only natural harbour between Arcachon and Spain St Jean is still a busy fishing port landing mainly anchovies and tuna.
Having hugged the coast for the best part of two hundred kilometres it was time to head into the Basque hinterland for a few days before coming back to the coast to cross the border into Spain. We based ourselves at an aire at the delightful knoll-top village of Sare as it looked like a good base for walking and we weren’t disappointed. We took a footpath up the steep hill out of the village which gave us glorious views over the surrounding countryside.
We weren’t heading anywhere in particular but just climbing up………..and up.
We didn’t realise, until the path cut across the railway track, that a rack and pinion train built between 1912 and 1924 climbs the steep gradient up to the top of La Rhune, the last mountain top at 905 metres before the Pyrenees fall away down to the Atlantic. We’d passed the station on our way to Sare but thought it was more a funicular thing with the train just going a short way up the mountain to clear the trees to give a nice view. We were fortunate to arrive a few minutes before a train trundled along on its way down the mountain and we watched and waved as it passed.
The train takes thirty five minutes to get to the summit at a sedate nine kilometres an hour.
The following morning we went to the station intending to go on the train but a sign up said that the summit was hidden under a blanket of cloud so we decided we didn’t want to pay €19 each not to be able to see our hands in front of our faces at the top. Instead we went back to the aire at Sare and I decided to walk up to the top on the off chance that the cloud would clear while Tim pottered about in the van doing various jobs and sorting out some music ready for his next gig………whenever that might be.
Oh I’m so glad I made the effort to walk up as by the time I got to the top the cloud had lifted and I sat eating my lunch in glorious sunshine with a panoramic view. Merveilleux!
I must have enjoyed it as I walked up again with Tim the next day.
It was touch and go whether we’d see anything at the top but we surfaced into the sunshine above the cloud hanging over the summit and had our lunch under warm sunny skies. Parfait!
A quick flit to the pretty village of Ainhoa, lined with seventeenth century houses, ten kilometres away ended our tour of the French side of the Pays Basque and our time in France before we pointed ourselves in the direction of the coast again heading for San Sebastián or Donastia to give it its Basque name.