Stage 1; Hendaye to St Jean Pied de Port 80k.
Passes; Col de St Ignace169m. Col St Pinodeita 179m.
Monday 29 August 2011
We arise at 6 am in the dark, and as quietly as possible stuff sleeping bags into sacs and dismantle the tent. We roll down to the sea and eat pastries, sitting on the sea wall as the sun rises. Before it is fully light, we start our journey, along the corniche road that leads to St Jean de Luz, which is rolling and scenic, and at this time, relatively quiet. On driving along this road last night it seemed quite steep, but now that we are riding it, it is easy and fun. At the top of the undulations, there are wonderful views across fields and rolling country of the shining sea. Arriving at St Jean de Luz, we stop by the railway in an early ray of sun for a coffee, before finding the route to the hills. The two cols we cross are very low and even later on the same day it is difficult to call them to mind. The roads at first are quite busy, and it is exciting to gradually wend our way onto the quieter terrain. The signs have Basque and French spellings of the names, with a special Basque script and plenty of x’s and z’s.
We arrive in St Jean Pied de Port about 1pm, just in time for lunch, which was eaten out on the pavement of a busy café, right beside the large noisy wheels of passing lorries. After this we find the campsite, which is built within the castle, with small slit windows looking down into the moat, turrets, and along the walls. Later in town, we walk along the walls that encircle the town. We eat all together, all six of us, and I am very disappointed with my Regional specialty dish, Piperade; which seems just like a can of ratatouille with a bit of egg chucked into it and disastrously for the hungry cyclist, not a single carbohydrate. The site has large chestnut trees and many owls that call in the night.