St Jean Pied de Port
The plan for today was to do our monthly supermarket shop at the last big Carrefour, before going into France and spending the night at a village called Sare, just over the border.
Getting into Carrefour was a bit of a palaver as there were height restrictions at the entrance, but we found another entrance round the back, high enough to get the van in.
It was one of those massive hypermarkets where it’s so big that you end up losing the will to live looking for stuff. We got most of what we wanted, in particularly Spanish things that we might not be able to buy easily in France, such as jamón and chorizo. We also filled up with diesel, as it’s over 15c dearer in France, and the tanker drivers are also taking industrial action at the moment.
The sat nav took us across the border down a country lane, and it really was a pleasant drive through some very picturesque villages, and it wasn’t long before we were in Sare. Unfortunately for us, the motorhome aire had very recently been turned into a car park, which was full of cars, so we wouldn’t be able to stop there for the night. We therefore drove onto our planned stop for the next night in St Jean Pied de Port, about an hour away.
France has a ‘beautiful village’ scheme similar to Spain’s Los Pueblos Más Bonitos de España, called Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (almost a direct translation!) and St Jean Pied de Port is one of those villages. It really is picturesque, and we were able to walk along some of the wall of the old town and admire the views. It had been a very hot and muggy afternoon, so we called in at a bar to enjoy a nice cold glass of white wine – it would have been rude not to.
The drive to Navarrenx took about an hour along the country lanes. We’ve started listening to BBC podcasts on our longer drives, and there’s some excellent material available. When we had free WiFi in San Sebastián, I downloaded some 200 podcasts, which should keep us going for a while.
Navarrenx is another one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. Like St Jean Pied de Port, it’s a walled medieval town, but it has a very different feel – less touristy even though both are on the Camino de Santiago.
We walked all round the town – it’s not that big – and there are information boards dotted around the place which tell the history of the town (usefully in English as well as French). It really is deserving of its beautiful village status.
Our neighbours on the aire were a couple from the USA, who are full timing in a van with Kentucky plates. She was amazed to hear that I’d stayed in Glasgow and Bowling Green KY, and had also been to Mammoth Cave, a place she used to go regularly to as a child. It’s a small world, and all part of the fun living life on the road, meeting some great people.
The sleepy village of Sauvagnon is just north of Pau. The aire doubles as a community centre car park. There are a few shops (though no grocery) and little else. With a name like Sauvagnon I was kind of hoping that there might be a wine bar here, but there wasn’t and so we had to open a bottle in the van instead.
It hardly stopped raining all day – pity the poor young couple who got married at the local Mairie. We managed to get out for a quick walk during a break in the rain, so the day was spent reading and planning a route and stopovers the other side of Carcassonne, where we expect to be in four or five days time. There are quite a few Roman sites to the north of Provence which we hope to visit.
We visited our first French supermarket since leaving Spain, and it was interesting to see the difference in the products sold. Gone is the aisle of jamón ibérico, and instead aisles of French cheeses and pastries.
We’re now back in the eastern hemisphere – very important when keying co-ordinates into the sat nav! Being a Sunday, there isn’t much to do in Lannemezan, as everywhere apart from a couple of cafés was closed. We’re spending the night on a free aire on the edge of town, and there’s one free electricity point which we’re in the queue for.
We filled up with LPG yesterday, and like a numpty I didn’t replace the fuel cap (in my defence it was peeing down with rain!). I’ve looked on t’interweb, and a replacement is £24, and you can only get them in the UK – D’OH!!!
Our neighbours tonight are Anne and Bob, a full timing couple from Yorkshire. It’s their 40th (ruby) wedding anniversary today, so they’ve kindly invited us in for drinks this evening to celebrate with them. It’s a good job we stocked up on the wine the other day!