Today was Sarah’s birthday and we love St. Jean Pied de Port so much we decided to spend another day here just walking around and soaking in the scenery. We also didn’t want to spend the birthday girl’s birthday night in a dorm room so we decided to delay that until tomorrow.
Most of today revolved around opening cards and presents and savouring the local food and wine. For breakfast we had strong French coffee, fresh crispy baguettes with local butter and a selection of homemade jams and jellies at Maison Ziberoa. After breakfast we took a walk down the river past an old abandoned mill and further out into the hilly countryside. It was mostly cloudy and the wind was a bit brisk, but we managed to build up enough of an appetite to enjoy a leisurely lunch of green salad with local sheep’s milk cheese and walnuts, pasta and some wine.
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After lunch we climbed up to the 17th Century citadel that once guarded the old town. Being alone, wandering around the thick stone walls, peeking through the arrow slits at the pastures and vineyards to share the same views once enjoyed by medieval archers really gave us a feel for what the city must have been when it was a an important frontier town near the border of Spain. It was getting to be a bit chilly so we left and ducked into St. Jean’s well preserved 16th Century Gothic church to get out of the wind. High ceilings, large stained glass windows and an impressive altar gave the place an imposing feel. The mood was broken when Sarah asked if it would be appropriate to blow out the candles that some unknown people had lit, apparently for her birthday.
It was obviously getting to be time to leave the church so we went back to our room to rest up for dinner. The room had been made up and everything was in order, but we were a bit confused by the fact that the underwear that we had hand washed and put out to dry, had gone missing. I guess that is a mystery for tomorrow.
For dinner we went to Oillarburu, a traditional Basque family restaurant just inside the walls of the old city. The entree was huge, tender white asparagus in a vinaigrette with thinly sliced Bayonne ham. For the mains there was freshly caught trout in a delicate sorrel sauce, tender sliced lamb with a hearty red wine and mushroom sauce, sweet potatoes and, of course, a nice bottle of wine.
It was one of those days where we really didn’t do a lot, but we made a lot of memories. Good food and beautiful places always seem to do that.