We generally get off to an early start, on the first train. Departure is from the Col de Saint-Ignace, near the village of Sare, one of the most beautiful villages in France and where we enjoy ending the day out with the traditional dish of piperade.
We are always well equipped: we like to walk down by foot and you need to bear in mind that the weather can change fast here, it's a (small) mountain after all. I can remember several walks here where the mist came down in a matter of minutes...
Best to book in advance via internet to be sure of a place during high season. Arrive early in order to park
It takes 2h30 to walk up, whereas going up by train only takes 35 minutes! The open carriages - beautifully restored old ones - and the commentary mean you'll make the most of the typical green and rolling Basque Country scenery.
We saw pottocks, ponies that live in the semi-wild (you can even stroke them sometimes!) and birds of prey in majestic flight. And we totally enjoyed the view, that widens out little by little, giving a glimpse of what it will be like at the top. Naturally, a ray of sunshine on the day is ideal!
The panoramic view at the top is also exceptional: it stretches 360° across the Basque Piedmont hills dotted with colourful timber-framed houses, the peaks of the Pyrenees, the Basque Coast and the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. I also love the long, pale stretch of the Landes beaches, visible for miles.
To help you identify all the places you can see, the location has an augmented-reality viewing table, an absolute must for those like myself who love maps and need to get their bearings. It's breathtaking. You're on top of the world!
You'll find plenty of space to walk around at the top, including with apps for my favourite geeks: hunt for mythological figures of the Basque Country with the "Following the Legends" game and guided tourist tour via QR codes.
A picnic in front of this view is a memorable moment, alternatively you can visit one of the ventas (pronounced "bèntasse"), the renowned Spanish border boutiques with their outdoor terraces for a bite to eat. Then it's time to go back, by foot if everyone is able, or of course by train again.
I saw that there are now yoga sessions at the top and sunset evenings. Can't wait to go back and enjoy this impressive setting again and again!