Day 15 : Friday 5 May 2000. Irun - La Rochelle.

Well we didn't have quite as bad a night as we thought. Would you believe the two of us even fitted in to the same couchette for two-thirds of the night! Ian did get a stiff neck afterwards, though not sure if that was the couchette or from the previous night. About 20 minutes before we were due to arrive, the conductor came back with our tickets. Ian was already awake, but Laure was still half-asleep and had no desire to get out of the bed!

We got off the train at Irun; we were actually intending to go to Hendaye, but we forgot this when we booked the ticket in Cordoba! In any case we didn't think it was that far between the two towns, and the train (which was going quite slowly at that point) was only due to take 5 minutes to go between them anyway! It took us 5 minutes to find the exit to the station, it was not very well indicated and the station itself comprised of two buildings.

We stopped for breakfast in the centre of the town, mainly to use up the last of our pesetas, and so we could sample the thick chocolate stuff again, this time with croissants. Nearly all the road signs were bilingual; this is the Basque region after all; and we did notice the tendency for Basque words to have a 'k' in them ...

Anyway we followed signposts to "Francia" which we assumed meant France. We walked along what at first was a nice residential road, which then slowly gave way to industry. Then the road forked slightly, we took a side-road to the left that first went past a small railway station that serves the independent Eusko train that runs along the whole length of the North Coast of Spain, to A Coruna, and then on a bridge over a river. There was a small disused brick hut with 'France' written on one side and 'Frontera' on the other, and it didn't look as though it had been used for a long time. Very soon after we reached a building with "SNCF Hendaye" on it so we knew we were in France and that the journey was very nearly over, this thus becoming the second international border we'd ever walked over!

We had 2 hours to waste, we had a short wander but it didn't seem like anything more than a sleepy border town. We bought Eurostar tickets to get home, and waited for the train to Bordeaux. Ian was not impressed with the sanitary facilities on the platforms at Hendaye railway station!

We were quite tired on the train so we didn't do much except rest. In Bordeaux we had lunch (3 pain au chocolates each) and then realised we needed to reserve our train ticket from La Rochelle to Paris! There was quite a long queue; service was done over a issued numbered ticket, and Laure missed her turn because she'd nipped outside to see Ian and check on the time! Typical! But no matter we could do it in La Rochelle.

The train to La Rochelle was full, and it took a long time to find two seats next to each other. We played word-association games on the train, but really we couldn't wait to get to Salles-sur-Mer, for known territory, free food and accommodation!

We arrived in La Rochelle around 4:15pm and stayed until 11am Sunday morning. Laure was pleasantly surprised that her brother and girlfriend came. We all had raclette Friday evening, got our travel photos developed Saturday, and played tarot that evening. Good time.

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