Stage 20: July 28, 2018

Ainhoa

Beautiful Pay Basque

ainhoa_grave-basque

Ainhoa is listed among the most beautiful villages in France, but this is also the heart of Basque country and as such, has a slightly more unique feel. In fact, this town used to be part of the Basque feudal province of Labourd and even now comprises the cross-border area of Xareta. Let’s not forget that in Ainhoa, Spain is only one kilometer to the south. Ainhoa and the surrounding countryside is a fantastic place to discover Basque culture. In Ainhoa particularly, we see Basque architectural influences around town. Even though many of the villages original structures burned during the Thirty-Years War, it was rebuilt with the same traditions in mind – large lintel stones over doorways (usually adorned with a saying) and strong aesthetically hatched vertical and horizontal wood timber that is painted red with detailing on the horizontal frames. A perfect white wash plaster on the rest of the building serves to highlight these forms even more. The town originated as a model town to serve pilgrims on the Camino de Compostela. For those with the stamina, hike two kilometers up the Col de la Trois Croix for Ainhoa’s most spectacular spot. Here, overlooking the town from 300 meters above is the Chapelle Notre-Dame-d’Aubépine. This is the spot where legend says Mary appeared to a young shepherd. A small chapel was constructed and three crosses mark the spot where traditional Basque graves, circular or officially called “discoid stelae” offer a beautiful vista over the surrounding lands. These elements and the architecture of Ainhoa itself make this a great top along the Tour de France.

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