Day 54: Irun to Bayonne - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

March 31, 2024

Day 54: Irun to Bayonne

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Ko iiSince Irun is a border town it did not take much pedaling to reach France. We always like to see the abandoned border stations, since borders have been associated with so much grief in the past.

There is still a police car hanging out by the station.
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The Bidasoa river forms the border between Spain and France here. After crossing, we rode along the French side for some time.
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This was our first French cat.
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Boardwalks ran along the French side of the river, and were fun to ride.
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I had the chance to shoot another bridge.
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A Great Cormorant. Too bad we cannot count it as a new bird, it is just in a new country.
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We could look across to exactly where we were yesterday, on our walk to Hondarribia.
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From a distance we thought this boat might be covered with a new bird type.
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Scott AndersonThat’s wonderful.
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2 weeks ago
but they were Ruddy Turnstones.
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and there were these Mallards. As French ducks, they will say "coin coin" and not the "cuac cuac" they use when they cross the river to the Spanish side.
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So many boats.
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Once we were well and truly into France, we could see quite a difference in the building style here. Balconies are more often wood, and exteriors are decorated with "fachwerk" style wood.
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Once we turned to run parallel to the open water, we found that this is quite a surfing area.
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The waves are gentle, so we guess lots of people can try surfing here.
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Caught one wave!
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This rather fancy building was sitting at the beach.
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And there was a bit of a surfing industry - like this surf school.
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We will be following EV1 - the Velodysee
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Even EV 1 can not save us from the fact that there is a headland to cross here.
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The no shoulder road continues up there!
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At the top, people we standing at the cliff and looking out. Not for me!
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We came down from the cliffs and were at the approaches of St Jean de Luz. This place made a good impression on me last time, enough that I went onto a real estate office to see what was on offer. Any time we daydream about moving to France, I mention St. Jean. Dodie favours Strasbourg.

Of course the  first thing to do in the first French town is to check out the first bakery. This one had some nice tartelettes. I went for the abricot, with the creme amandes!

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Our chosen tarte.
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I went and told the bakers that we have been marooned in Spain and Portugal and that this was our first boulangerie after crossing the border. They happily posed for the photo, knowing that they are celebrities (to me).
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St Jean has attractive beach, and buildings.
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Part of the harbour and town.
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Just on the outskirts of town, St Jean had a small but good market, with not one but two rotisseries. The photo makes it look very crowded, but we had no trouble walking our bikes in.

Market outside St Jean de Luz
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We stopped at the first rotisserie and got a 1/2 chicken plus container of those yummy potatoes that have been roasting under the chicken drippings.
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I reminded Dodie about the potatoes, but she was on it!
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This is what we got.
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We also saw strawberries, probably real ones, but did not have room for them.
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Yes, there is a bit of room to move here.
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It's asparagus season! These are so popular in Germany, where they are call spargel, the name we now usually use for them.
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We will expect to see lots more cheese in France.
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Tourtiere, is a classic French savory pie. In Quebec it is always made with ground pork. I think this one had apples.
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The famous Basque Cake. We got one with cherry filling.
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The lady one the right came and spoke to us while we were eating our chicken on a bench.  She is from  Mirepoix, near Toulouse, but is out visiting her daughter (left) who produces honey nearby here. The daughter later gave us a gift of mandarin oranges. Such nice people. They were not the only ones today that stopped for extensive UQs.

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These portable pizza ovens are available to us at home as well. It seems to do a really good job.
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We have now made it all the way into St Jean. See also the Basque name.
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St Jean de Luz is a beautiful little town, with walking streets and lovely Basque style buildings. Lots of people were out enjoying the place this  Easter Sunday. See the shots below:

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We began to climb and descend a bit on the other side of town. Though hard to see, I took the shot below because it was a really steep drop.

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We arrived at a hamlet with the church visible in the photo below. It's unremarkable, except that when we passed here last, a large procession had exited the church and was making its way to some neighbouring church. I remember it specifically because of the particular incense they were using in their botafumeiro as they walked.

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There is a chance we visited this bakery while watching the procession.
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Common carrion crow-not the crow we have back home. Thanks Scott, for the correction.
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Scott Anderson??? We don’t have these in America.
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2 weeks ago

We were doing fine and really enjoying the ride, but about mid way through the temperature dropped and rain began. We had to put on the serious rain gear, and we started to lose feeling in our fingers.

We approached the famous Biarritz, and not remembering the place (or if we had ever been there) we tried to get a sense of it, without leaving the track, or for that matter, stopping.

Coming to Biarritz
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The first impression was of a long beach, with some kind of retail or restaurants in buildings behind the sand.
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Up in the town, some grand buildings.
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This is Hotel du Palais.
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Fancy buildings along our way.
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From Biarritz, we hunkered down, concentrating on not freezing, as we covered the rather nondescript distance to Bayonne. The track ran beside the harbour inlet, and was good - with marked bike lanes.

In Bayonne, we had phoned the night before and booked into the Hotel des Arceaux. We did this despite really bad reviews on Booking, but we found the man on the phone to be perfectly polite, plus able to understand us.

The hotel is a super narrow 17th century building, wedged in, on a narrow main street leading to the cathedral. We are on the walk up third floor, not bad, because there are five floors in total.  As to the quality of the place, it's tricky. Objectively, it has wildly not level floors, low quality flooring and walls, tiny bathroom, rickety bed, and so on. This compares to the amazing high quality hotel rooms we had at all price levels in Spain and Portugal, with tile everywhere, amazing plumbing, good windows, and so forth.  But this rickety old place is what we have come to expect for France. Not to mention the croissant, orange juice, coffee breakfast offered for 8.50 euros.

We booked the "superior" room.
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Scott FenwickWe stayed here in early October 2023. Not a flashy hotel but it worked. I think we even had the same room. The bike storage was a bit tight from what I recall and our weather was a little nicer too. But you and Dodie just seem to keep motoring along. It is fun to ride in France!
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2 weeks ago

We were really chilled, and exhausted from the chill, but still we dumped our stuff and set off up our street to see the cathedral Saint Marie.

Our street in Bayonne.
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The cathedral has colourful paintings, decorated ceilings, and very gorgeous blue tones stained glass. It really was attractive.

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The classic St Martin cutting his robe scene.
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We returned to the hotel, remarking on just how wet, chilled, and tired we felt. We fixed that partly for me, with a hot bath in the tiny bathtub. I am starting to learn how to get in and out of these things, but after being lulled in the warm water for a time, it requires a big effort of mind and body to get out.

Despite the rain and cold for the second half of the day, the Basque country provided us with a really beautiful and fun ride. Now of course, we will try to recover quickly, for an early start and fun repeat, in  another riding day tomorrow.

Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 2,439 km (1,515 miles)

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Carolyn van HoeveHi Steve & Dodie! Enjoying following you along this trip! And you're heading to Boubiers and Ian's place? Are you planning to store your bikes there? He's a lovely man and we've kept in constant contact since we dropped our bikes off there last October. You'll be able to say hello to them for us. Can't wait to get back to them in September when we're planning a traverse across the Spanish Pyrenees following in the footsteps of TA / Kyle & Kirsten.
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2 weeks ago