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Day 14, Capbreton to Hendaye, Last full day in France

I overdid it at breakfast. To be fair it was probably the best so far.

Orange juice, large bowl of decent muesli, with large sliced banana, bowl full of milk, yoghurt, stewed apple, two croissants with butter and jam, two pain raisons and two large mugs of café au lait. I can hear the tuts, but the bakery items were the miniature variety, so it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. However, it took all morning to feel even the slightest bit ready for a stop.

It was a totally different day outside. Drizzle in the air, roads wet, grey day, very few people about. Such a contrast to yesterday.

It was still very mild, so just summer gear on.

It was noticeable that the quality of the velodyssee path was declining. Fewer signs, not always the new tarmac. Perhaps they were running out of money when they got this far south, or lost interest. Had at least two cases of a pair of signs together, but can't tell which way is north and which south, and with it all grey sky, no sun to guide the way. This led to a navigation failure arriving on the outskirts of Bayonne. At one point I'm going down a forest track and the only signs are the yellow shell ones for the Camino Santiago.

Probably made the wrong choice as the buildings start and I end up adding 8km going through a depressing industrial area of Bayonne, with a lot of derelict factories. I finally reach the northern bank of the river leading to Bayonne and follow it all the way to the very old and pretty centre. The combination of grey day and still full stomach suppresses any desire to make a stop, even though it's a very pretty place in the centre - cathedral, lots of old buildings etc. I'm now on the south bank of the river and heading back to the river entrance. Went past the very small marina there that we used as refuge on our voyage down. Seeing it again I can't imagine how Lancastrian fitted - all the boats in it are much smaller.

From this point the coast gets hilly and a lot more interesting. Steep cliffs, interspersed with amazing sandy beaches with crashing waves. We're entering Biarritz. This is a stunning place, even in the grey. You could easily spend several days looking around. A real spread of people, from surf dudes to rich elderly sitting in cafe's. I'm working hard on the hills, at one point even blue drive was nearly not enough. Bit of a preparation for the spanish coast. Still cycling past places to stop, but probably down to the last pain raison being digested, so planning ahead think St Jean de Luz is the place.

More up and down hill, the e-bike motor and brakes are getting a good workout.

Arrive in St Jean and happen upon the necessary boulangerie. A sandwich and raspberry tarte later I'm ready to go and have another velodyssee sign confusion moment. Which to go from the square, I've got a one in two chance of getting it wrong. At that point a couple of oldies pull up on their bicycles. The old bloke is wearing an RNLI cap. Honestly. He darts into the public toilets. So I assume they are English and ask his wife if she knows which way is south? She's very put out I think she's English, as she's not, but lowers herself to tell me the way in Franglais. Well he shouldn't wear that cap.

Was planning to ride straight out of St Jean but in minutes I'm in an even better part of the centre and suddenly a space has appeared in my stomach requiring to be filled. An ice-cream place with tables fits the bill. I find myself in the queue with an elderly English group and she asks me about my trip. Turns out her deceased husband was a cyclist so I think she wants to mother me. She gives me a high five for my exploits and a bon courage. Blimey. Two elderly women in one day, one turned her nose up, the other I think would have taken me home, cooked me a big dinner and done my washing.

I'm now on the final leg to Hendaye.

The road is even hillier and more stunning and wow, the Pyrenees come into view. This bit of road must be the most stunning in terms of natural wonder of the trip so far. I'm on a really steep hill and the track is separated from the road by quite a high crash barrier. As I round a bend there's a workers truck parked, completely blocking the track and the barrier means I can't go around it. There's three guys working from the truck on the hedges. I come to a stop. They've just helped some other elderly cyclists lift their bikes over the barrier so they can get past. They're expecting me to lift my bike to do the same. I can see they don't realise I've got 3 tons of baggage on mine. I'm thinking of cycling back down the hill to get around the barrier as I'm pretty sure I'm going to do some damage to either me or the bike, or both, if I try and lift it over. At this point the oldest, fattest of the three workers obviously feels he needs to impress his mates, steps forward and grabs my bike to lift it over. He gets it almost to the point of being clear and then realises it's got 3 tons of luggage on it and it's a lot heavier than he imagined. He's past the point of no return, his face is turning red and funny noises are coming out of his mouth. I realise we are microseconds away from a disaster and my pathetic assistance is just enough to get the wheels over and the bike is safe. There's now steam coming out of his ears and we exchange nods. He gets why I was going to cycle back down the hill. He won't be helping anyone else today.

3km to go and the rain properly starts. I was starting to think I needed a pee and the sight of all the rain heightened the need, so an immediate stop was required, and combined it with donning wet weather gear. Cycled into Hendaye in the rain. Hendaye on a sunny day is amazing. It's one of the great memories from the sail down. A marina with the Pyrenees in the background. Today is grey and wet, so not quite so special. I find the hotel and get sorted.

I've just come back from the biggest gourmet 3 course meal, during which there was a biblical downpour that flooded the restaurant floor. Might need to cut back a little on my food intake.

Tomorrow I just have a 10 minute ferry boat ride across the river to Hondarribia, Spain.

So the journey through France was quite a bit more than the 1000km I was estimating.

Distance today 76 km.

Total so far 1266km


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