An historical gem nestling in the forests
About an hour from Pau, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is not to be missed from your itinerary in the Basque country. The village is proud of its “Plus Beaux Villages de France label. St Jean-Pied-de-Port is a must for its history, beauty and its very special welcome developed over many centuries of pilgrims on their way to Compostella.
Situated between the Basque country and the Spanish border on their mountain side, it has its own special place at the very entrance (or Port) of the “Col de Roncevaux” . It was founded in the 12th century Over the centuries it has been a commercial crossroads and highly strategically placed as far as the Navarre kingdom was concerned.
The village has only 1500 inhabitants but it accommodates tens of thousands of pilgrims, especially in the spring and autumn, This tradition of welcoming visitors gives a very special peaceful. Its verdant countryside provides a backdrop to some remarkable architecture: the Notre Dame church (which is the most important gothic building in the French Basque country (classified as part of the Worldwide Heritage by UNESCO), the citadel and fortification and the Bishops’ prison. These wonders of our inheritance stand side-by-side with traditional Basque houses.
A daily way of life
In the streets you can uncover small treasures in the craft shops. Fishing is to be had in the river Nive which flows through the village where the famous marbled trout is to be found, a local speciality. In the restaurants you can taste the delights of Basque gastronomy: piperades, chipirons,eels, ewe’s curd and black cherry jam with Irouléguy wines. Push on a little higher up the mountainside through the forests to Roncevaux following in the footsteps of Charlemagne’s soldiers and enjoy the memory of Roland. Roncevaux is surrounded by the dense Iraty forest on its Spanish side. It will feel good to breathe in this pure fresh air full of memory and so energising.