September 19, 2012


Yesterday's beautiful view from the terrace was, this morning, nonexistent, the world lost in clouds, and Meteo France predicted rain all day. That forecast determined my route: follow the valley road to Arette, in the Béarn, instead of climbing up and over the steep Col Suscousse and Col de Soudet.

Everyone I meet here who cycles, and follows the Tour de France, says that these climbs are much harder than their more famous relatives in the Hautes Pyrenees. Not harder because are higher, but because they are more irregular, with frequent steep 12 or 14 or 16 percent sections, alternating with lower, 6 or 8 percent grades, difficult to find or maintain a rhythm when riding. When I mentioned that the first 6 km or so of the Cols d'Iraty were steep for me, the owner of yesterday's hotel (a cyclist) pointed out that those 11% averages (over a km)  were composed of sections both steeper and lesser so.

So today I turned on my bright rear blinker, and my front blinking headlamp, and started off. My rule of thumb is that if cars put their lights on, so do I.

The lion faucet is located on the main road leaving town, the photo taken yesterday. I love these public drinking fountains here, they are so civilized. They are sometimes probably left from the days when households took pitchers to town fountains to get drinking water, but whatever their origin, they provide a great public service.

It turned out that the biggest challenge today was seeing where I was going through glasses covered in rain and steam. Today there are no pictures of distant hills. Funny how much the fields can make a landscape feel familiar. Most of the corn in France (the seed first brought by Basque sailors) is grown in this part of the country, and a corn field feels like ... the Berkshires. In a way that a field of peppers, this one near Espelette, or wine grapes, never does.

The two farm buildings are included in photos for their roofs; my memory is that these were associated with a cheese making operation. Occasionally I see large buildings with roofs like these two covered in solar cells; last year there were more further to the east, where the climate is sunnier and drier. They are good to see.

Today's hotel, Hotel de l'Ours is in Arette, where the last two images were taken. I arrived early, having changed my route, and the owner kindly showed me to my room and later made me a delicious sandwich. She tells me that cyclists frequently stay here because there is so much good riding and climbing in the area. In fact, there are two other American cyclists here now, whom I may meet later.


  1. All that mist and dampness - we could do with that here! Looks like you're having a great cycling holiday.

    1. Hi Steph,
      Good to hear from you! I don't know if you've been reading, but I thought of you and mentioned your site when I got a good photo of a French slug ... it reminded me of your garden! I apologize for not adding the link, but it is impossible when I'm traveling. Will do it as soon as I return.


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