Rest Day: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Wednesday, 18 June 2003

Walking in France: Basque houses and ramparts, Saint-Jean-Pied-Port

Basque houses and ramparts, Saint-Jean-Pied-Port

We had not had a rest day since Rocamadour, over three weeks ago, but here it was necessary, more for mental than for physical recuperation. Most of our walking companions were finishing at Saint-Jean, not going on to do the Spanish half of the pilgrimage, and we needed to regather our enthusiasm for the next stage of our expedition.

Crazy-bells is our name for the frenzy of bell-ringing that seizes French churches early in the morning, presumably to get the citizens out of bed. Here it was at the late hour of 7:30, which suited us very well. The day was overcast and clammy as we ate our muesli, and by the time we had wandered up to the old citadel, it was starting to rain. We were the first customers at the Bar da Eduardo, sitting indoors in the warmth.

A short walk away was a large supermarket where we got cheese and sausage for tomorrow. At the railway station we found out about trains from Pau to Paris. Then it was time for lunch. Instead of our usual skimpy picnic, we had pizzas and wine, simply delicious, in a warm little cafe, then retired to the tent for a sleep.

When we crawled out, the sun was shining and clouds were breaking up all over the sky. Our washing, which had been damp for several days, was finally getting dry.

Walking in France: Finally getting our clothes dry

Finally getting our clothes dry


Venturing back into town, we met another three sets of walkers whom we had met along the way, just arriving, and heartily glad to be finished. There is a lovely sense of comradeship amongst the walkers on the pilgrimage.

The weather was so improved that we ate outdoors for dinner. Keith had steak with green pepper sauce and I had Poulet Basquaise, which was good but not as good as the one in Gourdon, weeks ago.

We were amazed to see the Methuselah from the eatery at Navarrenx, sitting with a group of pilgrims at a nearby table. Until then we had thought he was a Navarrenx local.