Cycling on the Basque Coast #1 – Ups and Downs

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The first day in our home exchange in Ciboure on the Basque Coast gets off to a good start with breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Pyrenees. There’s so much sun we even have to open up the awning.

Breakfast on the terrace

Breakfast on the terrace

After breakfast we go into the centre of Ciboure to buy fresh fish directly from the stalls representing the people who caught it. We choose a dorade rose (red sea bream) which is supposed to be the best of the sea bream family.

Ciboure

Ciboure

We then go to the Coopérative Maritime which sells clothing brands such as Saint James, Cap Marine and Armor Lux, very popular on the coast in France,particularly in the summer. I find a navy zippered cotton cardigan which will be perfect for cooler evenings by the sea.

Typical Basque architecture, even for recent homes

Typical Basque architecture, even for recent homes

We go home and change into our cycling gear and set off by car to join the cycle path to Bayonne, a nice easy ride for the second day of the holidays. Jean Michel tries a couple of different places and then decides it’s the right one. Theoretically we’ve cycled along this path before but I don’t recognise it. But that’s not surprising – I don’t remember a lot of places we’ve been …

A stop along the hilltop cycle path

A stop along the hilltop cycle path

Instead of the flat path I thought we were taking, it starts with a steep hill. OK, I think, now it’s going to get flatter. But it doesn’t. We whizz downhill which is always worrying because there is inevitably a hill going up on the other side. Jean Michel then realises he’s somehow confused Saint Jean de Luz with Biarritz and the roller coaster bike path is not going to stop for quite some time. I groan inwardly.

View from the hilltop path

View from the hilltop path

The coastal scenery is admittedly very beautiful but I’m so busy changing gears that I can’t really take it in. I also can’t take many photos because there is no way I’m going to stop on the way up a slope or I’ll never get going again. Also, my first gear isn’t working which doesn’t make things any easier.

Le O restaurant, Plage de Cenitz, Guéthary

Le C restaurant, Plage de Cenitz, Guéthary

After a while, I realise that if we don’t stop soon, we’ll never get lunch. It’s already 1.30. I see a sign that says “restaurant” just before another hill. We’ve only done 6 ½ kilometers but I’m exhausted. The road goes downhill and we come to a concrete building with a sort of garden tent attached to it and tables and even deckchairs on the grass in front, with a stunning view of the sea.

Tables and deck chairs on the grass at Le O

Tables and deck chairs on the grass at Le C, Cenitz Plage Guéthary

We don’t hesitate. I go inside to find a table as there are no sunshades over the outside tables and it’s about 28°C in the sun. I gradually start to recover and my beetroot shade slowly disappears (I’m not burnt as I’ve slathered on sunscreen). I look at the menu. Twenty euro for harmburger meat and French fries seems a little exaggerated.

Café gourmand at Le O

Café gourmand at Le O

Then I spy the set menu for 19 euros – dish of the day, a glass of wine (will I ever get up the slope?) and café gourmand. The dish of the day is Spanish: small sweet peppers stuffed with garlic cream and cod, served with rocket. Sounds perfect. The waiter very sweetly brings us bread and some sort of spread while we’re waiting.

Jean Michel congratulates me on all the hills and suggests we go back to the car, load the bikes again and go to the place he meant to go to in Biarritz in the first place. Sounds like a good idea to me. I manage to cycle back up and down the hills, only getting off and pushing the bike twice.

The flat path

The flat path

When we finally get to the flat bike path, I’m not sure my legs are going to cooperate. But apart from a few initial undulations, the bike path really is flat. It’s also shady and I begin to wonder whether I was right to leave our sweat shirts in the car. After those horrible hills, it seems dead easy though. The sky isn’t as blue as it was when we started out.

Along the Adour near Bayonne

Along the Adour near Bayonne

At Bayonne, we find the café where we had a cold drink last time we cycled from Biarritz, next to the Adour River with a lovely view of the old town opposite. Afterwards we cycle around a bit. The sky is looking more and more threatening so we decide we’d better start making tracks.

On the quayside in Bayonne

Having a drink on the riverside in Bayonne

We stop and put our jean shirts on. The tide is turning and the air is much cooler. We hope it won’t start raining before we get back to the car because we obviously don’t have our rain capes. About 3 K before we reach our destination, we feel the first drops. We’re nearly back at the car when they start getting heavier and, thankfully, IN the car when it really starts to rain.

Storm brewing on the cycle path

Storm brewing on the cycle path

However, it doesn’t last that long and we follow the coast road back to Saint Jean de Luz, congratulating ourselves on not having to go up and down all those hills again.

AllAboutFranceBadge_bisThis post is part of the Lou Messugo monthly All About France blog link-up. For other entries, click here

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14 Responses to Cycling on the Basque Coast #1 – Ups and Downs

  1. Gaynor says:

    I’m tempted. even with the hills!

  2. Jill says:

    Hubby and I are heading to this area for a few days this year. Extra excited after seeing these pics 🙂 looks lovely . You guys put me to shame with all that exercise! X

  3. We spent a couple of nights cycling in the Basque area last year. It was lovely, but my husband had convinced me that it wasn’t the real mountainous area we would be cycling in, so it wouldn’t be really steep and difficult. Let’s just say we agreed to disagree on the steepness! The cafe gourmand pic looks delicious – it’s one of my favourites.
    FrenchVillage Jacqui recently posted…Cycling in the Charente-MaritimeMy Profile

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      I see you’re a cyclist too! I think the most strenuous cycling holiday I’ve ever been on was along the far west coast of Brittany. A real challenge especially as I still had a 3-gear bike!

  4. Wow, I’m always impressed by your cycling trips. I loved seeing your photos from the area – I stayed in St Jean de Luz for 4 days this past May. The photos of the path along the ocean are so gorgeous! Looks like quite an adventure 🙂
    Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted…My Method on How to Select the Perfect Airbnb AccomodationsMy Profile

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Thank you! You know, I didn’t become a real cyclist until I was well past your age. I think each part of our lives corresponds to certain needs and wants. Maybe you’ll take up cycling in 20 years time.

  5. LOL I can’t believe all of this happened in one day! You are pretty tough to do all the cycling! I go to Holland this week, and I am NOT in shape for the cycling I will have to do just to get around! What a crazy day, and I think we can all agree that we are happy you were able to get some pretty pictures after all!

  6. curtisbausse says:

    Cycling, fine,as long as it’s in the Landes – lovely and flat!

  7. I’m so impressed with your cycling Rosemary, around where I live is very hilly and I can’t manage at all. I love riding along the flat of the coast but hills and me just don’t go together. We just had a lovely cycle ride in and around Dresden, along the Elbe…which was flat! Another place I like to cycle is the Ile de Ré…again..flat! With excellent cycle paths far from the road. It may be flat but it’s very pretty, if you haven’t been I highly recommend it. I’ve been to St Jean de Luz once and loved it: it rained, we went to the maritime coop and visited everywhere by car! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance again.
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…Silent Sunday – 16 August 2015My Profile

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Phoebe, it took me a while to build up to my present level and I preferred flat bike paths before as well! I’ve cycled on Ile de Ré and really enjoyed it.

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