The next day starts as rainy as the last one, but for a driving day this is just fine. After passing by the ARIANE skyrocket (much smaller than I would have thought), the plan is to continue south west until the ocean stops me. Kilometer by kilometer the sky gets brighter, the distanced clouds open up and leave me flabbergasted: The high mountain range of the Pyrennés sparkles with fresh white snow. I would never have guessed to see fresh snow in June that far south, but here it is.
I decide to take a side trip to Pau, the only urban centre in the Béarn / French Pyrenées. I leave Hector at the free parking on Place Verdun and take a look at the boulevard des pyrenées, the historical centre and the castle.
Pau turns out to be an attractive mixture of medieval roots and present-day life, old buildings and new functions. Money seems to flow into the infrastructure and into the historical heart of the city, but still it appears very un-excited.
For today, a stop of 2,5 hours is fine and then I continue my voyage. After 5 days and 1.953,6 km I reach the destination as far south-west as I will get: Saint Jean-de-Luz, only one or two inches away from the Spanish border. Beneath the rain clouds, the Atlantic ocean looks similar to the German North sea, but just as ordered, the weather improves significantly the next day.
As soon as the rain stops, I take my wonderful folded bike and have a look at the centre of St. Jean-de-Luz with its typical Basque houses and Spanish flair. Even when covered by a grey and cloudy sky, the hilly ground, speckled with white houses and opening up to the wide ocean invites you to come here and spend some time.
Saint Jean-de-Luz is a pretty town of perfect size: between fisherman’s harbour and beach you will hardly get lost. Small shops, restaurants and bars spread around the city’s heart and in one of them I am willing to try local specialities and ask for the Plat du Jour.
However, the local guys next table are convincing enough that for unused palates this might be not the best choice… Finally I leave it up to the waiter and enjoy the first steak-frites with a glass of Bordeaux rouge.
After lunch, the sun comes out, accompanied by holiday feeling: yeah, south, finally! The sea has changed from grey to bright blue and the beach gets populated with people in white bathing gowns. The temperature rises and the life guards take their seats, overlooking the grande plage with cool dignity.
I am charmed by the surrounding and instantly full of energy: first is shopping for “Linge Basque”, then sightseeing in the church Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Inside, the building is full of dark wood, containing 3 levels of galleries and a sailing ship. The altar shows several rows of golden saints and the entire impression is warm and beautiful.
Later, the evening sun welcomes me for a relaxed drink at the beach bar that happens to be right beneath my camp site at the beach Erromardie. The majority of people around is local, the music is reggea and the sunset takes its time – yes, holidays are made for slowing down.
Despite the flair of St. Jean, I decide to continue my travel from here further North: Biarritz and the beaches close to Hossegor are just too tempting and one sunset does not kill my restlessness.