Day Fifty Five: St. Jean de Luz to Biarritz to Labenne-Ocean - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

May 21, 2017

Day Fifty Five: St. Jean de Luz to Biarritz to Labenne-Ocean

This morning afforded the chance to do one of may favourite things in Europe or anywhere, and that is to be able to walk in a quiet village to a bakery to bring home fresh things for breakfast. In this case the bakery was just two doors down, so that would scarcely qualify as even a walk. After breakfast, we packed the bikes and rode one block, to the covered market. As usual I was looking for cheese, and Dodie was looking for fruits and vegetables. We both also always look for BBQ chicken (with roasted potatoes), and though we found it, we had already bought sandwiches at the bakery and had to pass.

There was as usual an extensive selection of cheese, though only two cheese vendors were operating on this off day. I chose one at random and asked for my favourite - a mild cheese like a Franche-Compte with whole black peppercorns inside. The lady scolded me. In this region black peppercorns are unheard of. Anyone wanting peppers in cheese wants the local Espelette red peppers, most likely in a brebis (sheep's milk) version. OK, fine, hit me with some of that", I said (more or less), and the lady brought out a large wedge. Dodie vetoed this based on the claim that it would take me days to eat it, and the lady said she could not cut it down. So I settled for some sensible few slices of some other darn cheese (no peppers at all), and of course it too was great (and rapidly wolfed all down).

In the fruit and vegetable area, we do see the effect of not being here in a harvest season, yet some things still stand out. After a month of iceberg lettuce in Spain, for example, leafy red lettuce looked very photo worthy to me.

After a probably inordinate amount of time with a total of one block on the odometer, we exited into the town proper. This of course is the place stuffed with bakeries, chocolate shops, restaurants, and boutiques. It set us to thinking - how great would it be to live here! So as we left town and entered the "suburbs" we looked at houses and wondered how much they might cost, and which one we would choose. The best ones, of course were large and overlooked the water, but not being greedy, we also considered living in the "slums", one street back.

At the covered market
Heart 0 Comment 0
Basque cheese
Heart 0 Comment 0
BBQ Chicken!
Heart 0 Comment 0
There was about 40 feet of cheese display like this!
Heart 0 Comment 0
Leaf lettuce, yum
Heart 0 Comment 0
We always find the "aquarium" section interesting
Heart 0 Comment 0
Back on the streets of St Jean de Luz
Heart 0 Comment 0
St Jean has this "pink hotel". Makes us think of the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, with the pink hotel, the boutique, and the swinging hot spot.
Heart 0 Comment 0

This whole game did not really last long, because of course the number one criterion for a house is that it is within at least cycling distance of a bakery. There are hills around the town, so cycling distance is quite short. Of course that set us to thinking how much our range might be extended with a ebike, and from there of course we wandered off to other tangents and never quite selected a house to buy. Not for another hour, anyway.

The lovely bay of St Jean
Heart 0 Comment 0
Maybe buy this house?
Heart 0 Comment 0
Or settle for one in the "slums"?
Heart 0 Comment 0
So much camping here - the reason we tried to hang on to the tent. But Dodie's knees really would not be able to lie on just a Thermarest.
Heart 0 Comment 0
One more possible house?
Heart 0 Comment 0

We used that hour climbing up and shooting down sharp hills around the bay that houses St Jean. All around us people were out walking, running, dog walking, or heading for the beach. With the great food, mild climate, and recreational opportunities we could see just how high the quality of life is here.

Pretty soon we left the little jewel that is the St Jean bay area and climbed through Guethary, a hamlet in the hills. In "downtown" I spotted a real estate office with photos in the window. I scanned these quickly and snapped a shot through the glass of a likely candidate. Just 254,000 euros. Hmmm, possible. Just then the lady who ran the office came out and asked if she could help me. Because of the glass glare I had not gotten a good shot of my selected house, so I asked her if she had a take away paper copy. Yes, she did, but it turned out she needed to print it from her computer. Now I was waiting for her to find and print the file, which got me in trouble with Dodie, who had been left hanging by the roadside with a "hang on a second I just need a photo of that". But it could be worth it since now I have the lady's card. Maybe our next address will be Guethary in the Pyrenees Atlantiques region of France. Just gotta check the bakery locations, though.

In the real estate office
Heart 0 Comment 0

We then began to climb to Bidart, a small Basque town just before the Biarritz bay area. We were just calmly plodding along the road (our specialty) when Dodie noticed that each side street had a man standing in a reflective vest. We had earlier seen a poster that announced a procession to come, in which a statue of the Virgin would be transferred from one church that they named, to another. We had discounted our chances of ever finding where such a procession might happen. But now Dodie put two and two together and confirmed with one of the reflective vested fellows that they would be closing the side streets so the procession could come down our street! All we had to do was to carry on up, to arrive at the starting church, hopefully before the Virgin started her journey.

So that's how we entered the main square of Bidart, with the Mairie on one side and the church on another. For the record, the church is called Notre Dame d'Uronea. The square has Basque houses standing around it, and many restaurants plus a bakery and a souvenir shop. A very pleasant place.

Soon two priests emerged from the church, one swinging an incense burner. Interestingly, the incense was the same brand as used at Santiago. Is there only one type - worldwide? Or is it a local preference, or a certain local wholesaler? Can I buy this one, other ones, on Amazon? These are the types of thoughts in the head of this weird cyclist standing with a camera by the church.

The priests were followed by the Virgin statue, by girls in Basque dress, and then by a long procession of people in medieval dress, representing various guilds, such as Espellete people, duck raisers, bakers, and even pirates (corsairs). Finally, bringing up the rear (unusually) were what would appear to be the mayor, counsellors, or other civic officials, all in fancy dress. And oh yes, a brass band. Finally two horse riders came to lead the parade. One of the horses was white, and though beautiful was not a Camargue horse. Too bad.

Just to be sure, I went into the souvenir shop and introducing my question as obviously stupid, asked the lady what town I was in. She confirmed it was Bidart, but also gave the similar sounding Basque name, explaining that in Euskara (Basque language) this meant crossing of the roads. We peeked in the now empty church too and found it to be on the same pattern as the one in St Jean - barrel vault, wooden elevated pews, and a model ship hanging from the ceiling.

The Virgin is carried from the church
Heart 0 Comment 0
Priest with the same smoke as at Santiago
Heart 0 Comment 0
Kids in Basque costume
Heart 0 Comment 0
One horse arrives
Heart 0 Comment 0
The white horse
Heart 0 Comment 0
More priests
Heart 0 Comment 0
Guild members in costume, next five shots
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
The bakers. If you look closely you will see the shells and Santiago links. It's a mystery how this fits with the bakers
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
The city oficials bring up the rear
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Bidart town square
Heart 0 Comment 0
Inside the church - very similar to the one in St Jean
Heart 0 Comment 0
The Espelette pepper Guild
Heart 0 Comment 0

A little more slogging brought us to an overview of Biarritz. There is the Rocher de la Vierge, where a statue of Mary looks out to sea from a small rocky island joined to shore by a passerelle. We have seen this concept in a statue at Hendaye, too, and of course is because of the seafaring background of the people.

We descended and went out onto the rocky island. To one side was a very sheltered cove wth a perfect beach, that of course people were taking advantage of. To the other side was a full view of Biarritz, with its stunning buildings and central large beach.

As we went out onto the island, wheeling the bikes, we were stopped repeatedly by people who noticed not only the goofy bikes and hats, but now also the Camino shells. Of course we are near to St Jean Pied de Port and to Irun, start points for the Frances and Norte Caminos, so people may be more aware of the whole thing than elsewhere. But actually those who stopped to ask about it were not just locals. They were foreigners, or French from other regions, who had done it themselves, or they were people who knew about it and just wanted to ask. Among those who had done it, we felt like members of a fellowship. We all knew how tough it can be and all the details of how it goes. Among those just asking, a lot of congratulations were offered. Finally I said to Dodie we should take the shells off the bags, or we would never get anywhere, and besides it was over. But Dodie correctly pointed out that the shell is traditionally worn on returning, not going, and that we were in fact still returning. I guess we just have to talk fast and keep moving.

Biarritz used to be a Basque fishing village, but before the turn of the 19th century it developed into a resort place. I guess since that development was in the "Belle Epoque" the buildings take the form of grand palaces and mansions, not to mention gorgeous pink hotels. All this grand construction could make for a user unfriendly city, but to the contrary with beach right in the middle, it felt just fine, and the architecture was something to marvel at.

The terrain in these parts remains one of hilly outcrops, and Biarritz is built on several levels. We understand this only from our guide book, because we are not in to climbing or exploring hilly levels. So we never did see, for example, the main shopping area.

Another thing missed was the 2017 World surfing championship. This is a big surfing area, and was the site of the 1980 word championships as well. But though we saw lots of tents and signs, no surfers. We think probably the tide was out.

The bridge to the island of la Vierge, Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
A protected beach cove by La Vierge
Heart 0 Comment 0
La Vierge
Heart 0 Comment 0
Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
A grand building in Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
More Biarritz major buildings
Heart 0 Comment 0
This remnant fishing/boat enclave was being used by daredevil divers
Heart 0 Comment 0
I caught this one in motion
Heart 0 Comment 0
The grand plage at Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
Typical bathing beauties - as you would expect on a French beach
Heart 0 Comment 0
The surfing competition - was not going on for us
Heart 0 Comment 0
Biarritz street
Heart 0 Comment 0
This Russian church from the late 1800's was one of the only ones we saw
Heart 0 Comment 0
Typical buildings at the edge of town
Heart 0 Comment 0
Another building at the edge of Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
The lighthouse at Pt. St. Martin marks the northern limit of the bay at Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0

Not far north of Biarritz the river Adour enters the sea. The Adour and the Nive are the two rivers passing through Bayonne, which is a few kms inland. Beyond Bayonne, the headlands disappear and, as we hope, the land becomes flat and sandy, laced with bike paths, for 100's of kms.

The is no ferry that we could see for crossing the Adour near the sea, so we had to follow a bike path inland, until the first bridge. We considered going a little further upriver, which would have landed us at Bayonne, and the hotel near the train station where we stayed on Day Thirty One. We liked that hotel, but we were unimpressed by Bayonne. So despite the fact that the cathedral was in sight, we turned away, crossed the bridge, and headed back toward the sea.

We had assumed that near the sea we would find lots of hotels. But all we seemed to find were those great bike paths, mandering through the forested flats. The towns on our map, like Boucau, Tarnos, and Ondres did not seem to materialize like proper hotel spawning places. Still we were sure that Capbreton would be rich in hotels, so big and brown did it look on the map.

Maybe we were not that sure, because we hatched another scheme. At Labenne-Ocean we went into one of the many camping spots and asked about any possible cabin for rent. The girl seemed a little puzzled, and I asked her if maybe what I had been calling a "ca-bine" would be to her a "ca-bane". A light came on, and she said that what I wanted was a "mobile home" (but you have to say that with a French accent. "But that's English", I protested. "Yeah so what" she replied, or whatever the French equivalent of that is.

So we got a "mobile home" for 45 euros. I would like to say that it is not mobile, never was. It is a cabin. But it has three beds, a kitchen, living room, shower, and front porch with table and chairs. It definitely is home, until tomorrow. We are thinking that this is probably the way to go as we proceed up this camping place laden coast. I just don't know about "mobile home". Next time I will try out "chalet".

But beaches go on forever to the north of the city
Heart 0 Comment 0
Look Avi and Violet - an adventure park at Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
Great bikeways begin at Biarritz/Bayonne
Heart 0 Comment 0
Here we see the Bayonne cathedral at the right, but instead we took the red bridge at the left and headed back to the sea
Heart 0 Comment 0
Typical forest bikeway north of Biarritz
Heart 0 Comment 0
Our cabin, or mobile home
Heart 0 Comment 0
Inside, there were two bedrooms, kitchen/sitting room, and shower. This could be the way to go as we progress up this holiday coast.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 2,362 km (1,467 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0