Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

St Jean Pied de Port et Biarritz March 6, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 10:00 pm
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Had my second USAC excursion today!! We went to two towns; the first a Basque town named St Jean Pied de Port and afterwards Biarritz (same town I went to alone during the nasty windstorm)


The USAC students gathered at the University at 8:30 am to get on our charter buses for the trip.


About 45 minutes into the ride we stopped for a great view and got free Chocolatines for breakfast! Nothing starts my day off better than a perfectly flaky and buttery croissant filled with chocolate. Plus I got to eat it while enjoying this view!




I can’t remember the name of the little village –or the history, but there was some story, told to me in French, about a Princess who lived here and was accused of murdering her kids and thrown into the river…from this point possibly….and somehow she lived…wish I remembered more than the vague details, but that is about all I know of this place. We only stopped for 20 minutes or so.


After breakfast I was a bit more alert and paid attention to the Basque history lesson on the bus. We were told we would be given a quiz in St Jean Pied de Port to fill out from memory and were allowed to get help from the locals. There were several “Basque” prizes we could win. My greedy ears perked up and I learned quite a lot about the Basque country in France for that quiz:

  • Basque country has 7 provinces – 4 large ones in Spain and 3 small provinces in France
  • Only 30% of French school kids in the provinces learn the Basque language in school, but 99% of the Spanish kids do. (The language is nothing like French, not sure how close it is to Spanish)
  • The Basque houses typical of France are white with red, blue or green shutters and roofs. The region we visited had red, but as you travel closer to the Ocean, green and blue become more prominent.
  • The red was originally painted with ox blood


  • A typical Basque house would have 3 stories. The bottom floor is for the animals, who help heat the house. Middle level is for the family and the top is where the hay and straw would be kept as insulation.
  • I think I mentioned St Jacques Chemin in an earlier blog. It is a religious pilgrimage that passes through St Jean Pied de Port. There were many clam shells on doors signifying free shelter for pilgrims
  • St Jean Pied de Port actually got its name because it is the crossroads of two important trails. In addition to St Jacques, there is also a trail that goes from Hendaye (coastal town just outside of Spain), over the Pyrenees and to the Mediterranean! If you walk it 8 hours a day, the journey lasts about 2.5 months! How epic would that hike be! My USAC director Robinna hiked it for 5 days, from Hendaye to St Jean Pied de Port





St Jean Pied de Port had a fortress, which we entered and climbed to the top of (picture of Vanessa above is taken at there) and the view was beautiful! This was the first village I have been to that is truly in the heart of the Basque country.

After the fortress, there was an hour or so of free time, during which I asked some tourists and locals for help with my quiz answers and researched Basque food and the provinces in a souvenir shop for more info. I added more than was required on the paper, mainly because the answers were easy to find and there wasn’t much to see in the town. After our free time USAC went to a ciderie for lunch!


Above: Zaid getting seconds on the cider!

Our Basque meal the following courses:

1) Jambon de Bayonne – kind of like a thick prosciutto, served on top of a dish that you don’t find in the US. Best comparison is chili.

2) Confit du Canard avec pommes des terres – A fried duck dish my host mom has made a couple of times with fried potatoes on the side. It is too greasy for me, but everyone else loved it!

3) Salad – Lettuce leaves with vinaigrette. Simple.

4) Fromage and Gateau Basque – The cheese was okay. The cake was delicious!! It has an almond paste inside =)



Oddly I didn’t like the cider. It wasn’t sweet like others I’ve had and  I prefer Apple Frost to the Basque cider.


Did I mention there was one waitress for our group of 80 people? Bussing and serving a multi-course meal was definitely a chore for her and lunch lasted a good 2 hours. I was very impatient by the end and ready to get to Biarritz.

It was beautiful the last time I went, but absolutely incredible today!



I once again didn’t have time to get to that Museum of Chocolate, but I did go inside the Musee de la Mer (Sea Museum/aquarium). The seals were hilarious! This one had a rude awakening when his friend nudged him in the belly. His bark and panicked reaction reminded me of when you wake Roux up from a nap.


Afterwards Elly and I walked around the beaches for an hour and a half, saw the rock of the virgin and went inside a Catholic church where Saint Eugene’s crypt is. All in all my day was perfect, but I’m about to go to bed and can’t wait to catch up on my zzzzzzzs!




Oh, and forgot to add I got first place on the quiz and thus first dibs on the prize. Score! I now have a sweet Basque souvenir to bring home, but I’m not going to say what it is on my blog because I think it will be someone’s gift. I’ll put it in my FB album though.





Happy weekend!




Biarritz February 8, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 8:17 pm
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My plane trip for last weekend was cancelled again! I was bummed, but decided that I couldn’t repeat the previous weekend. I had to stop wasting time in Pau and get out of the town. So, I woke up Saturday morning at 5:30 and arrived downtown at about 7:45 am. There were a surprising amount of people out and about. Some of the cafes and bakeries were already open, the sun had just risen, but was blocked by clouds and it was lightly raining. Walking along the stone streets with smell of a new rain and fresh baking pastries put me in a great mood for the new day. Mornings are so underappreciated.

The “centre ville” of Pau sits on a hill above the train station and you have to walk down a really steep hill or ride a tram down to the station. I chose the tram this time and caught it just as it was descending, crossed the street to the station and took a 2hr train to Biarritz.

My trip was very last minute and the night before I had been too lazy to plan it out. I googled Biarritz and knew of a couple tourist sites there, but I didn’t look up directions or the open hours. All of the towns I’ve been to thus far have had the train station downtown, so I figured I would just walk around until I found something interesting. I realized I was taking my chances with that plan and that was one reason I didn’t invite anyone along. My friend Kim was offended today when she found out I went somewhere without her, but honestly I sometimes prefer travelling alone. My main reason is kind of selfish; I just like to be alone with my thoughts and go where I want to go without having to make conversation or worry if my travelling companion is content. Plus, planning out a trip is exhausting and I didn’t want to be responsible for us getting lost, which is exactly what happened.

I got off the train and saw a sign reading “Musee du Chocolat –>”. There were some other signs, but I disregarded the rest and started walking in the direction of the chocolate. I followed these stupid signs into the suburbs for about 1/2 an hour. It was raining really hard and the wind blew my umbrella inside out about a dozen times (Why do always go to the coast during the storms?). Then the signs stopped as I came to a fork in the road. I got lost for another half an hour, backtracking and searching for more signs. I wanted to ask someone for help, but the only person I saw passed by me as I was cursing in English at a bus stop sign. He gave me plenty of distance as he passed and I didn’t feel like proving my insanity by chasing after him for directions. I had missed a bus by 10 min and another one didn’t come for 2 hours. At this point I gave up on the museum and walked to the beach. The storm had just passed and the beach was deserted. I spent a good half an hour enjoying the massive waves and a huge waterfront all to myself. At one point I climbed on some boulders to empty out my boots. I discovered that day that my pleather boots are not waterproof, on the contrary they retain water very well. Actually, I didn’t have anything waterproof so I’m thankful I brought my umbrella with me!





On my way back I noticed a sign that gave the directions to downtown. It was a long walk and on my way I found a city map as well as the chocolate museum!! Unfortunately, I discovered it had just closed for lunch and didn’t open until 2. My train was leaving at 2:30 =(

At this point I was running out of time and needed to figure out the buses to get back. I waited at a stop and asked the driver if he went to the train station. He didn’t, but was kind enough to give me a free ride to an intersection with a stop for the proper bus. It was one o’clock now and I figured I could spare half an hour to get food. I went into a bar and had one of the best salads of my life: smoked salmon, mussels and shrimp in an oil dressing with parmesan, bell peppers, heaps of lettuce and tomatoes …mmm….I could take a train back there just for another salad.


After Biarritz I went to a small village called Salles Adour to spend the night at Ravid’s place. I need to go do homework now, so I will write about Salles Adour another time.