Nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwest France is the Basque town of St. Jean Pied De Port. In fact, its name literally means “Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass.” It’s an ancient town, and the traditional start of the French Way or Camino Francés of the Camino de Santiago. The French Way travels 800 kilometres, or 500 miles, to Santiago de Compostela in the west of Spain. Other routes from points in France join the French Way in St. Jean Pied de Port, most notably, the one from Le Puy which travels 740 kilometers. The Caminos through France are far less utilized than the Camino Francés.
Before I began my journey on the Camino de Santiago, I had a wonderful afternoon and evening in St. Jean Pied de Port. If you read A Walk In Biarritz France, Part One, I discussed how I arrived to St. Jean, and included links to the schedule for the train that departed the station in Bayonne. I left my last post, The Cathedral, Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne, Bayonne, France, at the train station, just before I boarded a bus to St. Jean. Pied de Port At that time, the train tracks were undergoing maintenance so the bus was the only choice. The trip from Bayonne was picturesque through valleys, villages, deciduous forests, and farmland. The train ride will take you about 1hr 20min.
The city gate, Porte St-Jacques, is the beginning of the Camino Francés, and leads to the Rue de la Citadelle through the old town. In 1998 these gates were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.