Travelled : 35 miles to Sauveterre-de-Bearn in the French Pyrenees
Visited : Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Sauveterre-de-Bearn.
Stay : Sauveterre-de-Bearn, €14.10 with all the usual services
Expenses : 27 days @ €78 per day.
These hyphenated named are all starting to get confusing.
Up not so early, we had a coffee and fruit and set out to walk Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry. The whole village is only a few streets but most of the homes and shops are along the main road which follows the River. The more we walked the more we thought how underrated it is by both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. It’s Basque houses are well maintain, many dated by their lintels to the mid 1600’s. The church is quite unique, with three rows of terraced seating up each side and a magnificent pipe organ. The river flows under several ancient stone bridges as well as providing a lovely background to the Jardin (garden) that flanks the river.
The Basque are famous for their ponies, jambon (ham) and chilli. We have seen plenty of the ponies but we had an opportunity to taste some aged smoked jambon and some spice mixes today in the village this morning as well as visit the local street market. Anyway back to the Hymer we do the housekeeping and hit the road.
It’s only about 15 kilometres to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We are on the edge of the Pyrenees and the high mountains give way to rolling hills. As the road meanders we pass several kilometres of vineyards surprisingly they extend high into the hillsides and we wonder how they are harvested if not by hand. By the time we drive into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port it’s lunch time. We manage a parking spot easily enough and go for a walk.
The old walled town and citadel reflect the fact Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port was once the local capital of government. The river Petite Nive winds through town providing a lovely backdrop to the cobbled streets and balconied houses. There are little stone bridges here and there and thankfully no cars in the old town. Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a key town on the Pilgrim Walk through the Pyrenees and we see lots of very tired and scruffy walkers obviously just arriving and just as many in the outdoor stores buying up for their departure. In summary Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a post card town well worth a visit. As the French tourist season has closed, there’s only a few pilgrims and ourselves so it’s very pleasant walking about.
We head off again, north east this time toward Sauveterre-de-Bearn about 40 kilometres further on. We cross River Saison leaving the Basque country we have really enjoyed over the last week and into the Bearn region. There is no aire listed only a service point, which does have a nice car park but lots of signs about no overnight parking. So we chicken out and stay in a nice little campsite on the river. A bit of a blessing really, it’s a hot and humid afternoon and its noticeably cooler down on the river than it was in the village on the hill above us. After settling in, we walk over to the river and have a swim. The river is a series of rapids then deep pools that wind around and through the ancient stone bridge and walls of some fortress long since in ruin. The water is very cold but refreshing, even Pam enjoys it after the initial shock.
Anyway it’s beer and rose o’clock and we wander off up town looking for a little bar….
Michael and Pam