My Ideal Rural Walk in Basque France
Trip Start May 12, 2010
13Trip End May 28, 2010
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As soon as we pointed our rental car away from the coast last August, we immediately felt that we were entering fertile ground for a "charm walk", a route animated by the delightful sights, sounds, smells, and sometimes tastes of a new culture.
In this case, we are talking about a quintessentially old culture. Some experts consider the Basque to be one of the world's oldest people groups, with one of the world's oldest languages - not at all related to the Indo-European languages the family of languages comprised of most ethnic groups in Europe and south and central Asia. A book I scanned just prior to the trip linked the Basque with Plato's lost city of Atlantis - fanciful perhaps, but adding emphasis to the reality that the Basque were in this region of Spain and France as early as any other group and probably earlier. Their language and culture was not imported as is the case with other influences in Iberia and France. The Celts, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans were all outside influences that came and left their mark, but the Basques were here in the beginning, as far back as anyone seems to be able to calculate historically or archeologically.
I was relieved today to see the sun once again - since our first shower on Day 1 of the Adventure, we've had nothing but sun - so our group can enjoy the warmth of this Sare setting in its best light.
Our coach circled around the village on the only road barely wide enough for a full sized coach. We stopped in the tiny center on the hilltop marked by the obligatory, picturesque Romanesque church and, after we hopped off, Mariano, our driver, coaxed the bus through a couple of tight turns and down the hill. The pre-walk comfort stop was a predictable challenge, but one we'd anticipated, and soon we were on our way, winding through the narrow lanes of the village past the pelote (uniquely Basque series of ball games played on a handball-like court) court, and into the surrounding farmland.
We walked a loop around the village to the north, and came back into the square at the mid-point, about 5 kilometers into the route. Here we took a break in this delightful little community hub. Several sidewalk cafes were open on the square or the lanes leading away from it, a tiny little grocer around the corner served our needs, a lady manned a stand selling local pastries - offering exactly what she'd been selling last August when we were here, a scrumptious kind of tart filled with cherries, and the church stood to one side like a colossal anchor on this scene of traditional warmth and tranquility.
Another feature of Basque countryside is stone fencing unlike any I've seen. Great slabs of slate or sandstone are upended, then butted together side by side to form a barrier about five feet high and several inches thick - the thickness of the slab. Wildflowers continued to grace this trail, as
As a walk planner, this trail satisfied my expectations of the ideal rural experience: rural aspects of the trail were delightful - opportunities to walk amongst local neighborhoods and farms, fields, and fauna; the start and finish was warm, full of culture and character, and seemingly discovered by only a handful of other visitors; we had opportunity in mid-walk for a refreshing break in the center, or the chance to opt out of the second, more challenging part of the trail; and the weather was optimal!
Walking Adventures International