An open-ended adventure by Rosie
Currently traveling
  • Day81

    Day trip to St Jean de Luz

    Yesterday in France ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Today was fabulous! Another gorgeous day - cool to start, then quite warm, and sunny. I don’t know how long this can last, but we are making the most of it! We had heard this place was lovely, and only 23 minutes by train from Bayonne. So after breakfast we hopped on a train, and found such a beautiful town. It was bigger than we had imagined, though the historic centre, like most towns, is small. But it is a big beach - no surf - in a bay, not unlike San Sebastián, with a port behind where all the fishing boats are. You can stand and look west and you see the Atlantic, and you look east and see the Pyrénées - or where they come to join the sea. So beautiful. Maybe like a mini Nice, but without all the hype.

    There is a promenade all along the waterfront and another thing that we found surprising was that on a Monday in the second half of October there were many people enjoying the day here. Local tourists, and also many people on the sand and even in the water! I think we are lucky to be there now, as I imagine that in summer it would be horribly crowded. But today it was perfect, plenty of people enjoying themselves, many bars and restaurants open, many shops with Basque products and of course the charming Basque architecture.

    We had lunch, walked round the historic areas, sat and read kindles on a seat facing the water, and walked the full length of the bay and up to the headland. A lovely day. Now back and about to find something to eat!
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    Ira Kowalski

    Cutting a dashing figure, Amr.

    Ira Kowalski

    The Basque end of Manly Beach.

    Ira Kowalski

    Joyful picture, Rosie.

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  • Day80

    Bayonne - a day of Festivity

    October 17 in France ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    This morning we sadly left St Jean Pied de Port and the end of our walking programme. Our bags are again our responsibility, and we got the train down the mountain to Bayonne where we are staying for 6 nights in the same room!! We had only ever seen the train station at Bayonne, but today we emerged into the city itself and it is amazing! We found the hotel and left the bags as was too early for check in, and walked round. This is where the Nive river which flows through St Jean PdP, and the Adour river which we had seen in various cities upstream meet and flow together to the Atlantic- both now very big and wide.

    Bayonne is Basque and it is just charming, with the Basque buildings and language - spellings and script are different, though French is the basic language that people speak. It does feel different and special, and they are very proud of their products - specially cheeses, chocolate and ham. And today was the culmination of the Foire au Jambon - a huge event celebrating ham. Amr was thrilled, and even I tolerated the masses as it was such an atmosphere - there was an area in a high marquee with all the local farms with their wares, and you could buy cones of jambon, choriso, and sandwiches - baguettes and cheese…and all sorts of other assorted products. We wandered in there, and picked at the food and were in heaven. We had walked along the line of restaurants beside the rivers on both sides which had laid out huge long tables which were empty when we walked by at 11 or so, and wondered why there were so many…well by afternoon the place was throbbing - all the tables we filled with crowds eating and drinking, bars everywhere, you could hardly walk along the streets - it was a perfect sunny and not too hot day and everyone was out having fun. Jazz bands playing, people singing and dancing. This is the first city, even more than Paris, where we have seen such joy and bustle!

    Of course this was Sunday. Monday typically most shops are closed, and people will be back at work, so we will not expect quite the same atmosphere tomorrow, but just to see all that festivity was such fun. There is also quite a merge with the Spanish food and language here…to our delight we have found they do the chiperones we loved in Spain (call them xiperons).

    Amongst all this we visited the wonderful cathedral - another UNESCO world heritage site and deserves to be so, wonderful and with a beautiful cloister. Tomorrow we plan to get a train (23minutes) to St Jean de Luz, a beach resort near here as it should be good weather.
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    Hartley Cook

    I’m a bit late with this, but congratulations to you both. A great achievement and your diary has given me plenty of vicarious joy.

    Carolyn Anderson

    Wow - all that humanity!!

    Olivia Sertori

    Wow so many people!!

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  • Day79

    Wind down day in St Jean Pied de Port

    October 16 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Today was a bit weird. We have finished…we could sleep in (that doesn’t happen - we are in a rut of waking around 6.30), but we didn’t have to do anything! I had always had a dream of walking up the route Napoleon which is the way the camino leads to Spain over the mountains which we didn’t do in 2013 - when we went the less arduous route round the mountain. We had had a little look at it in 2013 just to see what it was like up there.

    Amr persuaded me that we should just go up as far as we wanted, and then come down again, not dream of going the whole distance (25kms or more), and I did agree to that…so we set off at about 9.30, without sticks, with Amr gallantly carrying my smaller backpack with food and water…it was weird walking free! We easily followed the route, well marked, but it did just go up and up relentlessly! I don’t think we can have gone very far in 2013, because we would have remembered the climb! And I do remember that we loved seeing the mountains up there which were totally new to us, but this now is the view that we have been seeing for the last few,days - beautiful mountainous countryside.

    So we ventured up, and went about 6 kms on the climb and then decided to say enough, had our lunch looking at the beauty for the last time, and thankfully walked back down. Even walking that 12 kms, plus the rest of the walking round was pretty taxing, and I think we finally feel that it is over, and we can stop walking, and be happy and satisfied.

    Now we are thinking about life after the camino. Amr has booked tickets for 2 concerts in London. We bought our ticket for the train down to Bayonne tomorrow morning. Part of our transition is having R and R in Bayonne for 6 days. It is apparently a lovely town and we have only ever seen the train station before or after a walk. It is still in the Basque Country, which we love, and is near Biarritz, and St Jean de Luz on the Atlantic coast which will be lovely day trips, but we want to just stay in one place - not move bags! Then we go to Paris for a week and meet Omnia there, then go with her back to Liverpool.

    I’ll be writing every day while we are in France to remember our doings, but maybe not every single day when we get to Liverpool and totally unwind. But after a week there we go to London, and will go to Bristol to see the cousins there, and meet up with more friends, so still plenty of excitement for us.
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    Carolyn Anderson

    Beautiful views but looks very hilly!!

    Cathy Sertori

    What a perfect day and a lots of adventures still to come! Xxx

    Denise Allen

    You are both amazing I was sad at the thought of the end of the walk but now looking forward to the next stages

    Hartley Cook

    Biarritz is worth a look.

     
  • Day78

    St Jean Pied de Port - we have arrived!

    October 15 in France ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    We have finished our camino! We arrived here at about 2.30 having walked about 19 kms. Hard to believe it’s over, and we’ve done it…Amr has added up the kms and gets a total of 963 kms, but that is including our non camino walking as well…I am going to work out our actual camino distance, and it will be well over 800 kms, despite the boost we got in taxis!

    It was another beautiful day, and thankfully we didn’t have to climb up as many mountains…we mostly followed the valley from Larceveau to St Jean, sometimes at road level, and sometimes elevated along the shoulder of,the valley…and always the most perfect scenery. Basque countryside is totally picturesque - all the houses look freshly painted, and all are decorated in the traditional red-brown, or dark green, and in the basque style. Even the industrial buildings look attractive - the cheese or milk processing plants - not the usual eyesores! And of course the Basque names and totally incomprehensible signs make you realise you are in a different place.

    We were in step with quite a few pèlerins now who had arrived from Le Puy (nothing like the numbers in Spain though) and chatted to a German girl who had walked from Geneva, and a man from Haut Savoie (who obviously feels that is a separate special area of France like the Basques do). So it was not strenuous but gorgeous, and we arrived at the St Jacques gate, and found our hotel. Our room is perfect - on a corner, so views 2 ways on to the river and the mountains. And we are here for 2 nights. Hotel Central, and it is central. We know the town quite well now - so attractive and busy…here things do not seem flattened by covid…though there may be fewer pilgrims. But bars and restaurants are busy, and the shops are open and many people. Also it is Friday, and this is a good place for a weekend visit I suppose.

    First we (Amr actually) did a huge wash of all the dirty clothes that we had let accumulate over the last few days. Then we had a walk around, lit a candle for Ira in the basilica, and had a Basque wine and a tapa in a bar. Had dinner in the same restaurant that we went to after arriving in 2015, and looking at the photo of then, we were having the same wine! We both had a beautiful fresh trout, with salad and potatoes. Amr had a vegetable soup first which was delicious, but I knew if I had it I wouldn’t face the trout (but I did manage a dessert!). Now I’ll try and select the photos - all day was a photo opportunity it was so gorgeous, so it will be a hard choice.
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    Ira Kowalski

    Congratulations!!!! I shall miss the daily Camino posts. Very selfish, I know. And thank you very much for the lit candle. It is working a treat.

    Carolyn Anderson

    Well done!! I too will miss my morning read each day 😊😊

    Olivia Sertori

    So picturesque

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  • Day77

    At Larceveau, a truly magic day

    October 14 in France ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    This day has been the most spectacular, and the most demanding! First, we woke to stars and a totally clear sky - no fog! I had thought it was inevitable but no, it was perfect all day, cold start, warmed up to 21°, no wind - we are so so lucky. And it is predicted to continue tomorrow! Last time we came through here the weather was miserable, not actually raining, but cloudy and threatening to.

    But we worked for our magic views! We were dropped by taxi about 5 kms closer, leaving about 19 kms for us to walk, and we are now in Basque country, and the taxi man was Basque and said it was the most beautiful part of France, and I think we agree with him! So we had a few kms to get to St Palais, where we had stayed last French camino, which was a little off the GR65, which was our route. Last time we looked at the map and worked out ourselves how to get back to it again, and walked about 20 minutes along little roads and connected up with the route and continued. Well today we were still on the Vézelay way, so we followed the GR654, which we have been following for the last few days. We knew the 2 GRs met and we continue together after that, but we found ourselves winding along paths, and then up one of the steepest and longest climbs ever - and this one was in a tunnel of hedges and trees, so we couldn’t actually see the views that we knew must be there…finally we reached the top and of course it was magnificent - sweeping views over to the Pyrénées and just beautiful green farmland, with the typical Basque houses, with the red-brown decorations. I had remembered a huge climb soon after leaving St Palais and connecting with the GR and was a bit mystified. We had been walking, and climbing, for ages after St Palais, and hadn’t even met the other GR. Well, we finally did meet up, and found the point where the routes all meet, and then continued on and found ourselves at the foot of the huge climb I had remembered..this time we had climbed over a mountain to get to the point that had taken us less than half an hour round the side last time! This all sounds complicated, but makes sense to me, and I want to remember it! Anyway, up we went again, and this was even longer and higher I think, but it was out in the open and we could see the breathtaking views all the time as we got higher and higher (and look back at the other side where we had climbed earlier!).

    Since the routes had joined there are suddenly more pilgrims, and there was quite a collection of people having a lunch break up the top where there is a little chapel, and trees and 360°views. Just gorgeous. We had several breaks today - had a coffee stop at St Palais for old times sake - we had enjoyed staying there before, a very pretty and lively town, and then this afternoon after so much strenuous climbing we stopped again at Ostabat-Asme, just a few kms before arriving here. Nowhere here is flat, but everywhere is absolutely stunningly beautiful. It is just picture postcard country, and we were seeing it in all its glory with this perfect weather.

    We found our hotel, and knew it was where we had stayed last time, coincidentally, as we were using a different booking company. It is spartan, but spotless and totally adequate for us, and it is refreshing to have clear surfaces to put things on, not lots of decorative ornaments which get in the way, even if pretty! The funny thing is that I found I automatically connected with the wifi! It must have remember it from before…there is a password, but we never found out and never needed it! Dinner here will not be like last night, but will be fine - probably the menu of the day, with no choices. I will try and find photos that do justice to the scenery. You just can’t reproduce the panorama, but will try. Last day walking tomorrow.
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    Rebecca Thomas

    Lovely photo Rosie!

    Carolyn Anderson

    So beautiful Rosie

    Olivia Sertori

    So beautiful! Glad the weather worked out 🌞

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  • Day76

    Addendum to Sauveterre

    October 13 in France ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Just have to add a little extra about our evening here. First at the recommendation of our Aussie host we went for a walk round the island in the river..not a long way, and just below where we are staying..didn’t realise it was an island in the river…so we set out, after our downtime, and had a glorious walk round continuously picturesque scenery…the river has a bit of white water there where they do canoeing…then we wandered back up to the town to see where we were to eat. We found the only place that seemed to be in action - no sign up saying Le Légende - but it turned out to be the place. Just a tiny restaurant, about 6 tables inside, and you wouldn’t want to be outside once the sun sets. It is so cold in the morning and evening, but lovely and moderate in the afternoon.

    So we knew we were early - dinner is never before 7, and usually 7.30, but we thought we could fill in the time with a glass of wine…which we did. A very nice Basque Spanish wine, and bread and the best French butter! The vibe of the place was fantastic…a kitchen probably smaller than ours where they were producing the fabulous food. We had a carrot dish (Amr) and a leek dish for entrée, and a fricassée of mushrooms and many other delicious veg for Amr and I had a risotto with pumpkin and assorted other yum vegs…in fact I think it was all vegetarian…don’t know if it is actually veg, but it was sensational, and partly because of the ambience, and largely the fab food. We had cheese and a sweet chateau Lafitte sticky (Amr says he doesn’t think it’s THE château Lafitte but it was delicious! So now in bed , content, and ready for sleep!
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    Denise Allen

    So tiny and the food looks absolutely delicious

    Olivia Sertori

    They're the yummiest carrots I've ever seen 😋

    Ira Kowalski

    Love the morning mists.

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  • Day76

    Sauveterre-de-Béarn, spectacular walk

    October 13 in France ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Last night at our beautiful chambres d’hôtes we of course had a great dinner - just us - other guests weren’t there to eat…we had fresh trout from the river, vegetables, rice with a delicate ginger, lemon sauce…just delicious, then cheese, and one of the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had!

    So this morning our same friendly taxi driver picked us up (and bags) and dropped us about 5 kms into today’s walk, making it a total of 17 kms walking distance. I think 22 kms would have been quite manageable, but it was probably arranged as today we walked up and down most of the day, with just a few flat stretches. And it was gorgeous! Started in fog again, but it burnt off quicker today, and we didn’t miss too much we hope. But we certainly had some spectacular panoramas as we approach the Pyrénées - now definable in the distance, and hilly countryside with corn and blond cows. Sometimes we were walking in tunnels of hedges and trees and couldn’t see out, and then would emerge to amazing sights.

    Sauveterre is a beautiful, historic and well preserved town. We saw it looming as we approached, and then had to walk up many many steps to get up there! And our chambres here is right above the river, by the Pont de Légende. We have a large airy room with a balcony looking over it all. Amazing. But the amazing thing was that it is run by an Aussie! We thought it would be an English speaking person as the name was Melville…he bought the place earlier in the year…had been moving here anyway (escaped from Australia in November) because he had business here, and in the end was persuaded to buy and run this BandB! He had been producing reality TV shows and making documentaries but that was all drying up and he changed paths…very laid back, and fun talking to an Aussie. His daughter is here too, working for a Canadian company from France…?

    So we are relaxing in our room, and have vouchers for dinner at a restaurant La Légende (not attached to here, up near the church) which sounds excellent.

    We only have 2 days of walking left, and are feeling rather sad that this life is almost over. The next 2 days are extremely exciting for us though, as we will meet up with the path that we walked before from Le Puy 6 years ago. And we know the scenery is stunning. We will be going through St Palais where we stayed last time, but this time we walk through, but hope we may stop for a coffee if it is the magic time when bars are open! From where the paths meet, the same route takes us on to St Jean Pied de Port. Though we are not yet in the Pays Basque we are noticing dual signs in place names sometimes (maybe there is a Béarn dialect) and the atmosphere in this corner of the country changes. A very special part!
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    Denise Allen

    I love these austere bedrooms

    Olivia Sertori

    😍 😍

    Olivia Sertori

    Wow I can't believe the Camino is almost over!

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  • Day75

    Orthez, closer to mountains

    October 12 in France ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    A beautiful day! We luxuriously left the hotel by taxi at 9 am and were driven about 10 kms to make the walk about 19 kms…it turned out to be 17.5 kms and was easy! It was cold and foggy when we started - the cold is very good for energy, as you want to keep moving to keep warm, but the fog lasted longer than yesterday - the sun finally came through at about 12.45, by which time we were hoping we weren’t missing too many views of mountains.

    The fog is the price we are paying for this perfect weather - beautiful clear days, except it makes for fog in the morning till the sun burns it off. We are certainly getting hilly, but we are strong now, or the hills aren’t taxing at the moment! I may take back those words when we get more and more mountainous in the next 3 days. But it was very peaceful - still lots of corn. The taxi driver told us that the corn here is all for the animals. We had a good conversation with the taxi driver. Her son had lived in Australia and she had visited him in Queensland. She said she was also to meet us in Orthez in the afternoon to take us to the BandB, as it is a few kms out of town. (We had had instructions to call the hosts)…so that was easy. She told us to go to the bar in the main square and call her when we got there after 3.

    Orthez is beautiful. It has a historic medieval part, and a huge tower, part of a castle and ramparts from XIII century, so we had time for a visit to the sights and a bit of a wander before settling into the bar to wait for our ride. And we are now at yet another amazing accommodation with spacious and lovely room. Dinner here.
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    Samantha Gillett

    If only these 13 century cobble stone streets could talk!

    Samantha Gillett

    What a beautiful photo.. Looks like a jigsaw puzzle!

    Samantha Gillett

    Teeny tiny windows!

    Rosie Marzouk

    I think that tower was the dungeon!

    Rebecca Thomas

    Wow!

     
  • Day74

    Hagetmau - a peaceful walk

    October 11 in France ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Today was an easy 17 km walk, through now undulating country, and tomorrow we leave Les Landes and arrive in Pyrénées-Atlantique, our last department. And tomorrow we may start glimpsing mountains! This morning was cold (5°) and foggy. It was fine walking, but you wouldn’t have seen views, but I don’t think we missed a lot in the beginning. And I wore my down jacket till almost midday, when it eases up to very comfortable temperatures. But I still prefer to wear shorts..as long as the trunk is warm, the legs are fine and feel better.

    This is very much corn country and we saw one farm where there were piles of kernels ready to transport…the corn gets left to die and dry before it is harvested it seems, then they get all the kernels and mush up the leaves and stalks.

    Once the fog lifted it was beautiful, and we climbed high with lovely views, and through small hamlets. This town where we are is very pleasant and we stopped for a coffee/chocolate as our hotel is about a km further than the town, and we won’t be returning for exploration. While there one of the pairs of French women we’ve encountered arrived too and sat down with us which was nice as we won’t be seeing them again. The other pair, Anne and Michele, we will see as they left a car here at this very hotel, by coincidence, and will call in and say goodbye when they arrive.

    So we are having a quiet afternoon at this modest but very perfect hotel, and have dinner here, and I expect it will be good as it is a restaurant also, and the hotel is full tonight! That is a change!
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  • Day73

    Saint-Sever and a bull fight!

    October 10 in France ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    This was a quiet and normal day until we arrived at Saint Sever. We walked 21 kms, first in the fog for an hour or 2, and then through the countryside- pretty but not spectacular, lots of corn, some pine plantations, we didn’t see poultry farms that had been mentioned…and on arrival here we first walked along the Adour river, very pretty lined with plain trees and then you climb up to this town which is high up above the river.

    We stopped for a drink on the way up, and easily found our charming chambres d’hôtes, and a very nice room, bags here. We knew there was something afoot, and we heard there was a fête of some sort, but our hostess told us it was a bullfight…it was such a new and unexpected experience, and we decided we should take the opportunity…she said it was a great atmosphere, even though they kill the bulls…anyway, we decided to go! On the way we visited the world heritage church and cloisters, very beautiful.

    And it was rather ghastly, but so weird, and I have to admit that by the end I was a bit hardened to the whole spectacle…it is theatre, and a bit hair raising. And something neither would have imagined in a small French town! Everyone was there - the elderly and infirm, children and all in between. There was a band playing um-pah-pah music with people clapping in time etc…anyway, an unusual day!

    Now off to dinner. ….back from dinner, and it was wonderful, as usual. We are not the only people staying here, but the only ones having dinner…and we were served first a chestnut soup with foie gras, then eggplant rounds surrounding an œuf parfait (which I had had before and thought it just meant a perfect egg, which it was)…but have found it is an egg cooked in its shell for an hour at exactly 65°, then gently tipped out of the shell…, then a Basque meat dish axoa de veau (that spelling is wrong, but it was a basque word with an x) with potatoes, and à tarte tartin…she said she loves cooking, and all the vegetables are from the garden. So now am going to bed very full…but very content! Just also have to mention that this house is sort of a museum…it was build in 1780, and all the furniture and decorations are old and beautiful. Amr particularly lusts after a beautiful Jordanian tapestry. Anyway, now off to bed.
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    Denise Allen

    All looks wonderful as usual, except for the bull fight!

    Cathy Sertori

    Wow, what an experience! I didn’t realise they killed the bulls 😔 The hotel looks elegant

    Olivia Sertori

    The poor bulls :(

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