Day 2

Bayonne and Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Rising to greet the morning sun on Day 2 in Bayonne, we didn’t think the day would take us to Saint-Jean-de-Lux. We indulged in a sumptuous breakfast spread at Hotel Les Basses Pyrenees; impressed with the selection of delicate cheeses, delicious pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereals, breads, and strong coffee. Still trying to get to know our travel mates, we sat next to a couple, Lynn and Rob, making small talk through breakfast.

Touring Bayonne

With appetites sated and spirits ablaze, we embarked on a voyage of discovery through the storied streets of Bayonne. Todd introduced us to a local tour guide who would teach us more about the town and the history of the Basques. Our journey unfolded like the pages of a cherished novel, each chapter revealing new wonders and ancient truths woven into the fabric of the town. The first stop was the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne.

A spectacular Gothic style architecture building of the Roman Catholic church. Our guide gave us a brief history and importance of the building before we entered to see the incredible interior.

The seven provinces of Basque Country
The seven provinces of Basque Country

Afterwards, we made our way to the Musée Basque, a treasure trove of knowledge sitting on the edge of the Naive River. Here we delved deep into the annals of history, tracing the storied lineage of the Basque people across seven provinces—three in southern France, and four in Northern Spain. As I mentioned in the pre-tour post, my last name is Navarro, we believe based on the Navarra province. To see it on the Basque Country map was a poignant reminder of my probable ancestral ties to this area.

We learned the Basque people have their own language, called Euskera, that is different from both Spanish and French. Euskera is unique as its origins are not based on Roman or Greek. It is one of the oldest languages in all of Europe and we learned that most current native speakers are under 40 years old as those over 40 were prohibited from speaking Euskera under the Franco regime. Most people of the Basque region are multilingual also speaking Spanish, French, and/or English. Here are some common Euskera phrases we learned during our trip.

Upon leaving the museum, we continued the tour to visit a chocolatier, Maison Xokoa. Chocolate became a major trading commodity to the Basque Country and into France. We explored the history of chocolate makings and had an opportunity to purchase some—which of course we did!

Afternoon trip to Saint-Jean-de-Luz

The afternoon was free to do as we please. Alongside our fellow tour mate, Patty, we opted for a quick jaunt to Saint-Jean-de-Luz. About 40 minutes away by train, this quaint seaside beach town is tourable within a couple of hours. After lunching at a local restaurant, we followed the recommended Rick Steves walking tour from the tour provided guidebook. This led us along the sandy beaches lining the promenade, through the pedestrian shopping district, and concluded at the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste—the church where Louis XIV married the Spanish princess Maria Theresa in 1660, marking a pivotal moment in Spain’s history.

Wrapping up ending to day 2 of Bayonne and Saint-Jean-de-Luz

After returning from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, we joined other companions for dinner. Our breakfast mates Lynn and Rob, along with John, Robyn, Bob and Nancy had a challenging time ordering at Le Victor Hugo. Happened to be the waitstaff only spoke French and Euskera! A lot of finger pointing and miming made our ordering fun. Afterwards, as we walked back to our hotel, we were treated by an outdoor choir of some sorts. We never understood why the concert was happening, but we got a real treat hearing some fantastic singing. Perfect end to the evening!

Click on the above to listen to one of their songs! Enjoy!

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