Arcachon to Hondarribia(Spain) 219kms(138m)
Arcachon to St Julien en Born 60m
As I left the Hotel de France, I noticed a proliferation of coquilles everywhere, and immediately assumed the owners were ardent fans of the Route St Jacques. When I asked the proprietor about them, he disappointed me when he said they simply served a lot of them in the restaurant and kept the shells for decoration!
Joy of joys! Rare is the long cycle expedition when I don´t have a puncture. I’d shod the wheels this time with special Marathon Plus expedition tyres that should have been puncture proof………….. But like a typical man, I was in denial at first, and pumped up the tyre to see if it was a phantom puncture. Guess what? Three kms later…………….. Two arms of an ‘industrial-sized’ staple had become embedded in the tyre. I don’t remember cycling through any office space…….
Don’t do this without a safety net! I was lured by one of those ever-so tempting restaurant promos you see by the side of the road(menu/plat du jour offers) so I sat on the terrace of a village eatery and had the plat du jour. Sadly, un quart du vin et painwere included in the 8 euro price. This breaks an important personal rule of cycling (ie. no alcohol during the day) but then I remembered that even Tour de France riders (60 yrs ago) used to drink wine en route, even spirits, to get them up the hills. However, the penalty I paid
this time was the consequence of eating some broccoli bake. I was burping the stuff for the rest of the day. Very nasty!!
Riding solo. People are frequently surprised that I ride these expeditions solo. I have lots of reasons for doing so, but one important one is having maximum flexibility. When I arrived in St
Julien en Born, the fatigue caused by my respiratory infection persuaded me to stop for the day, so I asked a passing gentleman if he could direct me to some accommodation. He immediately guided me to his office (headmaster of the village school) and began ringing people. He negotiated a specially discounted rate for me (being a pilgrim) and walked with me to the house. A young couple, Fabrice and Magali, with three small children, were just setting up their Chambres d’hote and had only moved into the village three months ago. Their house was seriously
under reconstruction, but one room was finished, which they let me have, and asked if I would dine with them that evening. New and enthusiastic to the trade, they spoilt me thoroughly. The two hour dinner tested my O level French to its unknown limits, but we handled topics like immigration, education and language learning with surprising ease. And Magali wouldn’t let me go the next morning without giving me sandwiches and fruit for the journey. If you come this way, I recommend you stay with them: 225 Rue des Ecoles, St Julien en Born Tel. 0558435229
St Julien to Hondarribia(Spain) 78m
A day for meeting people. You don’t expect to meet a 23 yr old lone walker, but I did. Christoph was from E. Germany, works as a carpet designer, and had started his walk on the Camino frances in Spain and was making his way north in France. Further down the road I actually met my first pilgrims going to Santiago (and this is after 1100kms). Two ladies walking,
about 200 metres apart , were together in fact. Marie Francoise (Fr Canadian) and Anne-Marie (French) had started their journey in Bordeaux and were expecting to take about 2 months. They looked set for the long-term.
Spain approaching. With the approaching Spanish border I not only expected it to be getting warmer (and it was in the low 30s) but I also
anticipated seeing road-signs telling me that Spain was on the horizon. On the contrary, all I saw were signs to Donostia (San Sebastian) and I assumed that an important political statement was being made. North of the border, I was already in the (French) Basque country, and as far as the Basques are concerned, the Spanish frontier is not their frontier. The first sign to Espagne
came just 200 metres before the Pont St Jacques which divides France from Spain. For the Basques you are simply moving from one region of their country to
First indulgence. No sooner did I see a churrería but I had to treat myself to a ración de
churros. Absolutely delicious, when they are freshly prepared. But these are much better eaten a breakfast time, along with a cup of very thick hot chocolate. Naughty but very nice!
Alberge Juvenil.My accommodation for the night was at the super-modern Youth
Hostel in Hondarribia, virtually empty but for a large group of special-needs children, whose uninhibited sense of fun (and making noise!) made the corridors ring into the late hours. I do admire the patience and fortitude of their carers. However, that night, my respiratory infection came to a crisis point. I coughed continuously, slept little and had to take a remedy for a nasty headache. As I write this (in San Sebastian) I’m certain the worst is over. So today is a
semi-rest day, but I still had to cycle over a huge climb in the severest of rainstorms I’ve ever experienced on a bike. The wind and rain simply enshrouded me. I had to take off my specs so I could see the way ahead!! When I
finally dropped down to the coast, very cold and soaked to the skin, I went into the first bar and ordered the Spanish equivalent of a hot toddy: a glass of very warm milk and a large brandy. It may have done nothing for the infection, but it puts a smile back on your face!!