Biarritz, France: Today I entered my third country on this Euro tour and couldn’t find the actual French border. As I cycled on the outskirts of the Spanish city of Irun, on three occasions I passed a sign indicating the French border is one kilometer away. And on none of those occasions did I see a line, a sign, or any demarcation between two countries. Somewhere and sometime this morning — I wish I could precisely say when and where — I crossed a border, and in that instant the language, the government, the road system, and to some extent the way of life, changed. I knew I was in France when I saw a Carrefour billboard.
The biggest change I noticed is that the French, even in these parts, have lunch and dinner at more reasonable hours. I rushed to the closet restaurant I could find in Biarritz before things unwind around 2pm, which is just the time they’re getting started in Spain. I find this amazing: You can travel a few dozen kilometers east, and lunch and dinner timings differ by a couple of hours.
After a delicious lunch of roast chicken, green beans and lemon tart, I strolled around the fashionable French seaside resort of Biarritz. It’s in a picturesque spot and has some interesting Art Deco and Belle Époque architecture.
I had some escorts exiting San Sebastian — maybe the Spanish wanted me to leave, after all. As I left San Sebastian in the morning rush hour, I stopped to verify with two cyclists that I am headed in the right direction. “Is this the way to France,” I asked. “Go right,” one replied, pointing straight rather than right. When I asked for clarification he said, “Follow us.” And off we went, for about 15 km until the roads to France were idiot proof and not even I needed to ask for further directions. “Good luck,” one said as the cyclists peeled off and I kept going.
A year ago today I started cycling across the US from Astoria, Oregon, at the Pacific’s edge. It’s a propos that I find myself on the other side of the Atlantic on this anniversary date, still cycling eastward. It’s been quite a journey since Astoria. What a difference a year makes.
After spending the past five days on the Bilbao-San Sebastian-Biarritz circuit, I head to the countryside tomorrow toward Bordeaux.
Day 17 (Tuesday, June 21): San Sebastian, Spain — Biarritz, France
Day 17 distance: 54.98 km
Day 17 ascent: 411 m
Terrain: Hilly, semi coastal
Weather: Sunshine and blue skies
Distance: 1,230.67 km
Climbing: 8,993 meters
Rest days: 4 (I took a rest day in San Sebastian yesterday. Rest day is a misnomer as I spent more than half the day doing “housekeeping.”)
Police interactions: 1