Saturday, 31 August 2013

St Jean de Luz, France: La Rhune et L'amour est dans le pré

It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful blissful beach town of Anglet and say bonjour to the mountainy busy beach town of St Jean de Luz. This time I opted for the 4 Euro predictable train instead of the excitingly unpredictable adventures of hitchhiking.

St Jean de Luz is a Basque town 15 km north of the Spanish border. It has nice beaches, the European HQ for Quicksilver and a picturesque backdrop that includes the foothills of the Pyrenees.

I was back to Couchsurfing! My host, Pierre, was an intern at Quicksilver. He had two awesome housemates, a Spanish guy and a French girl. The Spanish guy cooked an awesome Spanish (aka Mexican) dinner for Pierre and I on my first night. The French girl had 3 friends over to watch the French version of farmer wants a wife (L'amour est dans le pré. Love is in the farm field). The 7 of us crowded around the TV watch while eating crêpes... Don't stop reading my stay does get more exciting... Although, it's very different to the Aussie version (unfortunately I've seen an episode or 2). The farmers are old, unfortunate looking and certainly don't have much experience. The Frenchies sit around the TV laughing at these poor guys... I may have joined in.

The next day everyone was off to work so I thought that I should also do something  productive with my day. La Rhune, the first mountain from the west to form the foothills of the Pyrenees. It is just shy of 1000m and very touristy with two old trains running up and down all day. I decided to hike. It took around two hours to reach the summit. The last section was a little difficult with over half the people turning around instead of reaching the summit.

La Rhune
St Jean de Luz from halfway up La Rhune

The Mountain Goat

That night I cooked my famous dinner...again (that is number 7 in France). Then a French and a Spanish guy introduced an Aussie to a British TV series, Misfits. It is possibly the best thing to come out of the UK since settlement of Australia. The next couple of days just involved the beach and since Pierre was from Brittany galette was on the menu for his turn to cook.

On my last afternoon/night I caught a bus 5km out of town to Quicksilver European HQ to meet Pierre. Quicksilver built a skate park out the front and installed a bar. They bring a band in every Thursday and give their employees 2 free beers. Today just happened to be Thursday. It was a US band that performed rock/metal covers.

After the band finished we went to a house where there was 10 of us sitting in a little bedroom that had been converted to the lounge room. A lot of wine and snack food was being passed around, among other things. I was the only person in the room that wasn't a Quicksilver intern. Once again everyone assumes an Australian travelling the west coast must be on a surfing tour... I feel like I'm letting people down when I say I don't surf (I promise to change this during my 3 weeks back in Aus in Jan).

My plan was to go to San Sebastian next but I managed to line up a 2 week HelpX on 1 day notice. I was back to hitchhiking 50 km east to possibly the smallest town I have been in my life. Helette, a tiny Basque town in the countryside. This time I didn't bother making a sign as I doubt anyone would know the town so a thumb was going to have to do. My first ride was an old guy that didn't really speak English. He spoke in French and I spoke in English, somehow we understood each other and the conversation worked. The next guy that picked me up was a Professor from Marseille. He was exploring Basque country. We stopped in few other little towns on the way to my drop off point to take a look around. My last ride was a French Canadian with her 3 year old daughter in the back. She lived in the town next to where I was going  and drove me all the way to the front door. She even offered for me to stay at her place.

Lessons Learnt:
There is something not quite right with an Aussie that doesn't surf.
A flexible schedule is important to take advantage of opportunities.
Hitchhiking is the best way to travel France.

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