A big day – our last full day of walking in France. Hard to believe that the Spanish border is only 20km away, and that we’ll cross it tomorrow. It’s not every day that you walk into a different country, especially one that you’ve never been to before.

The notes in my journal from St-Jean are hopeful and eager: “I’m very happy to be here, and I’m definitely ready to climb the Pyrenees and launch into Spain.”

We met an elderly French couple at the gîte in Ostabat last night, walking the Camino together to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. They must have been at least 75 years old. They had first walked the Camino on their 50th anniversary – it was a gift from their many children, who each promised to join the couple for a week with their respective families, grandchildren, etc. Anyway, they were now on their second Camino, having enjoyed the first one so much, and were walking a different route this time.

I was speaking to Marc, the husband, before dinner and it emerged that Ori and I would be getting married in a few months (our use of the Camino as marriage preparation was a running joke). He offered us three rules for a long, successful marriage, saying they’d worked for him:
  1. Love each other unconditionally.
  2. Make your life together a project that you both work on constantly.
  3. Always seek your partner’s happiness.
Below: Another beautiful sunrise in Basque country.

Below: A misty morning in Ostabat.

Below: The Camino passes through a tunnel made of foliage.

Below: When I think back to Basque country, this is exactly what I picture: big houses with bright orange roofs, misty hills, and the smoke from chimneys rising straight up.

Below: The French refer to “cattle grids” as passages canadiens. The red-and-white “X” on the pole is how the GR65 tells you you’re heading the “wrong way.”

Below: The transhumance continues. When you see this coming your way, you just have to get off the road and wait! We saw two flocks today, one herded by tractor and the other by bicycle.

Below: More Basque words and names.

Below: Looking down the main street in old St-Jean.

Below: Sure enough, Manu and Steven were waiting for us. We celebrated our collective progress to date with afternoon beers.

Below: The Nive River passes through St-Jean.

Below: The view over town (more big houses, orange roofs, hills) from the Vauban citadel atop St-Jean.

Below: At dinner with our friends in St-Jean. It was here that we noticed a marked decline in food quality and wine quantity that generally continued throughout Spain. Suddenly, we were small pilgrim fish in a big Camino pond, instead of the other way around.

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