ORTHEZ – OSSERAIN-RIVAREYTE
Erase all the bars one by one
Taking care not to touch a feather of the bird
Then paint a picture of the tree
Choosing the loveliest branches
For the bird……..
After a nice breakfast with the other four pilgrims, I left the town and was intrigued by the beauty of the countryside. In the distance, the Pyreneans were already visible. The area was hilly with little villages and many vibrant blooming flowers.
In the village l’Hôtipal d’Orion, a statue of a pilgrim is walking toward the 13th century church Sainte-Marie-de Madeleine. Once, this was an important place for the medieval pilgrim. Remains of a pilgrim’s hospital founded in 1114 can still be seen. When I walked into the church, cool air was welcoming me. Little mushrooms growing in between the cracks of the stone floor obviously loved it too.
In the shade of the forest beside a creek, I rested for a long time. Hundreds of fluorescent blue dragonflies were restlessly flying above the water. One even landed on my arm. This was a very special place to be.
At 5 pm I arrived in the town Sauveterre–de-Béarn, a medieval town situated on a hill. The name Sauveterre means refuge.
In the clear and clean water of the river Gave d’Oloron, people were swimming. It was so refreshing to see clean water and I wished that I had had more time to stay there too.
A city wall with many medieval buildings inside surrounds the town. The most fascinating structure is a stone bridge ending in the middle of the river. The 12th century bridge was once continued by a wooden structure. This bridge is connected with a legend. It is said that in 1170, Queen Sancie of Béarn was submitted to the judgment of God. She was thrown into the river with hands and feet tied because she was accused of having murdered her newly born deformed son. She survived and was declared innocent. Therefore, the bridge is called Ponte de Legende.
The city is a tourist destination and did not provide accommodation for pilgrims. The tourist office recommended staying in the village 2 miles west from the city, in the village Osserain-Rivareyte. I happily agreed, because the owner of the refuge, Pascal, promised to pick me up from the tourist office after an hour. I could do sightseeing without a back bag.
The refuge I stayed in was a house directly beside the cemetery and behind a place where the popular Basque ball game Pelota was played. Two teams of girls played against each other, each hitting the little ball with great force against the wall. Originally, the people played it with bare hands. Now they use wooden rackets. The village people enjoyed watching it.
Pascal is a retired stonemason. He and his father and grandfather made nearly all of the tombstones at the cemetery. For the past eight years, he told me, he invites pilgrims to stay in his house, where he lives alone. He is a great cook and we had a full menu – vegetable soup, chicken with sauce and noodles, chocolate cake with fruit salad, cheese and red wine from Rioja. As an aperitif, he served white Muskateller. It was such a treat!