Meeting Your Trip in St. Jean de Luz — 2016

On this page, you will find information about meeting your trip.  Topics include...


When and Where:

At the St-Jean-de-Luz train station, between 1 and 4p on the trip start date, a Saturday.

2016 note:  for those arriving from Spain, via the morning trains from Madrid or Barcelona, note that there is no suitable connecting train from Irun or Hendaye to St-Jean.


Discussion:
St-Jean is a mid-sized town on the Atlantic coast, on the French side of the border.  If you have time free while waiting for your trip to assemble, carefully visit the town, which has many points of interest (the excellent tourist office can tell you more):  you will not have time to see it on Sunday, when we have a full biking day.  Or, just spend the day on the beach....

Paris and Madrid have the nearest intercontinental airports (about the same travel time, though service is more frequent from Paris).  Bordeaux is the nearest international airport, Biarritz is the nearest airport, with San Sebastian not far behind (either is about 40€ away by taxi).



Getting to the Trip
The following routings are described.  You may follow the link to jump directly to yours, or just scroll down. 

Paris, via daylight or overnight train
Charles de Gaulle Airport
Via Overnight Train from Nice, Arles or Geneva
Bordeaux
Biarritz
San Sebastian Airport
Madrid
Barcelona
Lisbon
Bilbao



From Downtown Paris

Daylight trains depart from the Montparnasse station, a direct metro ride from either of our usual hotels, or from our office (allow 45 minutes).

All tickets are train-specific, which means that you will have a reservation with a specific train number and departure time, a car number, and a seat number.  If you are travelling on a railpass, and do not have a reservation for any reason, you will need to make one at the station before you board the train.  Be sure to show your railpass when you do so, or you will be charged for a full ticket.

The final destination for most direct trains on this line is Irun, and this is what will show on the departure monitor (other trains terminate in Hendaye).  Trains involving a connection may be travelling to any of Tarbes, Toulouse, Bordeaux, or Arcachon.  Café service is available on all trains.

See also “Figuring Out When to Get Off,” below.



From Charles de Gaulle Airport

Though Charles de Gaulle has a TGV station, on this, particular route, it is almost always necessary to go to the city center Montparnasse station to catch your train.  Instructions on travelling from the airport to Montparnasse via the airport train are here.  Allow 75 minutes to make the trip.

On the off chance that you have a train booked directly from the airport, it will depart from a TGV station built into Terminal 2, with entrances between stations 2C and 2E, and between 2D and 2F.  If you land at terminals 1 or 3, you first take a people mover called CDGVAL to terminal 2, to get to the rail station.

All tickets are train-specific, which means that you will have a reservation with a specific train number and departure time, a car number, and a seat number.   If you are travelling on a railpass, and do not have a reservation for any reason, you will need to make one at the station before you board the train.  Be sure to show your railpass when you do so, or you will be charged for a full ticket.

Your first train will take you to either Tours or Bordeaux, and you will connect there for the ongoing train to St-Jean-de-Luz.  See also “Figuring Out When to Get Off,” below.



From Bordeaux

An airport shuttle bus operates from Bordeaux airport to the “St-Jean” SNCF railway station, Bordeaux’s main station, every 20 - 30 minutes.

From there, trains run to St.-Jean-de-Luz about every two hours (some services require that you change trains in Dax, half way along).  Their final destination will be either Hendaye or Irun.

Many trains on this line require reservations.  Consult the information booth or the ticket window to see if the next departure requires a reservation.  If it does, you may make one at the ticket windows.  On other trains, you may board with only an “open” ticket or a railpass (no reservation) and occupy any empty seat.  See also “Figuring Out When to Get Off,” below.




From Biarritz

A taxi to the Biarritz train station, called “la Négresse,” would be cheap (10€, including a tip), since it is not far away.  You could walk it in 20 minutes if you didn’t have baggage.

From Biarritz, trains run to St.-Jean-de-Luz about every two hours, though service is irregular, and there are some long gaps.  Purchase your ticket for this short journey (less than 5€, ask for an “allez-simple pour Hendaye, s’il vous plait,” pronounced “al-lay’ sam-pl poor Ohn-dye’, see voo play”).  Journey time is 10 minutes.  See also “Figuring Out When to Get Off,” below.

You could probably taxi the whole way in 20 minutes or less, and for under 40€.



Figuring Out When to Get Off in St.-Jean-de-Luz, if you arrive from the north

If you are on a thru train from Paris, Nice, Marseille or Geneva, the stations that immediatly precede your arrival in Hendaye are Bayonne and Biarritz, in that order, each about 10 mins. apart, and the last 10 mins. before St-Jean-de-Luz.  When you stop in them, you will know you are getting close.

If you changed trains somewhere en route, or are coming locally from Bordeaux or Biarritz, there is a tiny station called Guétharey, after Biarritz and just before St-Jean-de-Luz.  Some local trains stop here.  Thru long-distance trains never do.

Should you miss St-Jean-de-Luz, for some bizarre, jet-lag-related reason, don’t worry:  you can’t go far.  The end of the line, just 10 minutes away, is Hendaye.  Just catch the next train (or a taxi — 30€) back.

If you are arriving from the south, St-Jean is 10 minutes after leaving Hendaye, the first stop for most trains, though some locals make an intermediate stop.



From San Sebastian Airport to Hendaye, on the French Border

If you land at the tiny San Sebastian airport, actually located in the town of Fuenterabbia, you may prefer to just take a taxi.  The ride is not a long one, and will cost ± 50€.

There is a bus that works, too:  catch it from the far side of the street that passes in front of the (tiny) airport terminal.  It will let you off in the center of Irun (about 10 minutes), opposite the tiny “Colon” station (ask the driver).  From there, catch the every-30-minute train to Hendaye, and in Hendaye a train or bus to St.-Jean.  Bus costs a euro, train costs another, second train (or bus) costs 5...

See also “Getting to St.-Jean from Hendaye,” below.



From Madrid to Hendaye, on the French Border

An every-half-hour train runs from the terminal 4 of the airport (called Barajas) to Chamartin Train Station, taking 11 minutes to complete the trip.  This is not the metro, but rather a real train, identified as “RENFE” or as “Cercanias.”  Pay attention to your progress:  Chamartin is not the final stop for the train.  The ride is free if you have a connecting main line train ticket; otherwise, buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines (circa 3€). 

If you have time before your train, you may leave your luggage in a locker (outside the front of the station, in a separate office), and go off to explore.  The area around the station is not of particular interest:  this will involve a metro trip to get to a more interesting part of town.

Your train to “Hendaya” can be located by consulting the long distance (“Largo Recorrido”) departure (“salida”) board.  Refer to the train number on your reservation. 

For travel from Hendaye to St-Jean, see “Getting to St.-Jean from Hendaye,” below.



From Barcelona to Hendaye, on the French Border

From the Airport to “Sants” Station.
Barcelona airport is served by an airport train, which operates directly to the “Sants” railroad station every thirty minutes (currently — in 2014 - at 8" and 38" past every hour).  A covered walkway leads to the trains from the national terminal (terminal 2), but assuming you land at the international terminal (terminal 1) you first have to walk the over to terminal 2 (or catch a green shuttle bus out front to get there).  Follow train pictograms, or signs for “RENFE” (Spanish Railways).

Buy your ticket to Sants station (station is “estación” in Spanish).  Automatic ticket machines only speak Spanish (or Catalan) and only take euros, but you can probably figure them out.  Trip time from the airport to the city center is 20 minutes or so.  Pay careful attention to the train’s progress, since it does not end its run at the Sants station, and so you could miss your stop.  Watch carefully whenever you go underground (the Sants station is underground).

Train from Barcelona to Irun.
Look on the departure board labeled “Salidas, Larga Recorrida.”  This means “Long Distance Departures.”  Irun is the last stop for all trains that go to the French border.  Your train will be identified with its departure time, and the word “Irun.” 

Irun over the border to Hendaye.
In Irun, you will need to take a taxi, or a connecting train, over the border to the town on the French side, Hendaye.  The cost is no more than 10€ by taxi, and the trip takes 5-minutes.   But, if you have arrived via the morning train from Barcelona, arriving in Irun at 1:30p (13h30), there is a good connection on to the French side of the border (Hendaye) at 13h50, arriving there just 5 minutes later.  This train is sometimes not posted on departure monitors, as it is only open to passengers coming from further afield, and not to those boarding in Irun:  look for the train arriving from Madrid at 13h48, get on, and sit anywhere.  After two minutes, it will chug over the border to Hendaye.  Your Barcelona > Irun ticket is valid for this train:  you do not need any additional ticket.

One note:   if several of you are on the same train, you may prefer to taxi from Irun all the way to St-Jean-de-Luz.   The trip time is about 20 minutes, and the fare should be about 50€, including a 10% tip (you can discuss this with the driver before getting in the car, to be sure).  This may be preferable to the two additional vehicles still facing you, especially if you are travelling on jet lag day:  it saves 60 - 90 minutes on the balance of the trip.

Otherwise, for travel from Hendaye on to St-Jean, see “Getting to St.-Jean from Hendaye,” below.



From Lisbon to Hendaye, on the French Border

Hints on Travelling from the Lisbon Airport to the Town Center or Santa Apolonia Train Station.
One word:  Aerobus.  Line 1.  Runs every 20 minutes.  Details are on this web site, but it stops within 100 m of your hotel, if your hotel is our hotel.  Cost is 3.50€, and your Aerobus ticket serves as a transit pass for the rest of the day on any surface vehicles (not the metro) that you choose to ride.

This is actually useful if you are going to Santa Apolonia Station, as the Aerobus does not go all the way there.  To get to Santa Apolonia Station, get off at the “Rossio” stop, and catch bus number 759 from the same bus stop (stop E on Praça Rossio), to Santa Apolonia.  The final destination for this bus is “Oriente," so that is what will be written on the destination panel.  No ticket required:  your Aerobus ticket works.  But you must press it to the little validation machine, and get the approving green light.

If you are staying a night or more at the Hotel Tejo, it is 3 blocks from the Praça Rossio, where you get off the Aerobus.  To walk there:

  • Cross the praça to the far right corner, in front of the vaguely lavender Hotel Internacional.  
  • Cross the street (Rua da BETESGA) to put yourself on the sidewalk that fronts that hotel.
  • Follow Rua da BETESGA a short block to another, equally large praça, the Praça Figueira.
  • Go straight across Praça Figueira, along its right side.   Street car tracks now appear in the street on your left.

The Hotel Tejo is one short block out the far side of the Praça Figueira, in the Rua dos CONDES de MONSANTO, on the left.  The street car track curves left here, to wrap around the building.

Lisbon’s airport is not far out of town:  a taxi into the city would probably cost in the 20€ range.

Train From Lisbon to Hendaye.
Your train is the “Sud Express,” departing for Paris.  It actually terminates in Hendaye, where you want to get off, and Paris passengers change trains there, but the departure board usually says “Paris” and not “Hendaye.”  For travel from Hendaye to St-Jean, see “Getting to St.-Jean from Hendaye,” below.




From Bilbao to Hendaye, on the French Border

Both buses and trains run from Bilbao to the French border town of Hendaye.  The buses are faster by about 45 minutes.  But they operate to an irregular schedule, and they require that you reserve seats.  You can do this on a walk-up basis, if there is space, but if you are travelling on a Friday the bus can actually sell out.  As far as we know, you cannot reserve from abroad, or by internet.  Nor do we know how to find the schedule, though you can almost certainly hunt it down on the web.  We hate buses.

Trains, operated by the Basque Railways (euskotren, www.euskotren.es) operate hourly from the Atxuri station, scheduled to depart on the hour.  You take a first train to Donostia (San Sebastian in Basque, about two and a half hours).  Connect there for a second train to Hendaia (Hendaye in Basque), departing just a few minutes later.  This is a 30-minute trip.  The train always has space, you buy your ticket at the station without formality, and the tickets are cheap (circa 10 euros for the whole business).

For travel from Hendaye to St-Jean, see “Getting to St.-Jean from Hendaye,” below.

Travelling from Hendaye, on the French Border, to St-Jean-de-Luz

Both buses and trains run from Hendaye, on the French border, to St.-Jean-de-Luz.  The train is fast (only 10 minutes), but weekend service is sparce:  there is no service between roughly 12n and 5p.  Meanwhile, the important trains from Spain arrive at 2p:  a long wait. 

Buses operated by the local transit authority depart on an irregular schedule from a stop in front of the station... (you want the stop on the near side of the street).  The one connecting from the Spanish train arrivals at ±2p departs at 2:53p (14h53) in the current timetable, and arrives at the St-Jean rail station half an hour later. But check this against the timetable posted at the stop: at this writing the autumn sch

Or, a taxi would probably cost in the neighborhood of 40€




What to do With Your Time in St-Jean-de-Luz

St.-Jean is the most “Basque” of the bigger French Basque towns.   It offers a beautiful fishing port (historically France’s biggest tuna port, though that is now a rare fish) and a lovely town center.  

St.-Jean had a moment in the sun in the 17th Century:   the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which defined the boarder between France and Spain as the spine of the mountains, and helped end centuries of fighting, was sealed here by the marriage of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Austria, Princess of Castille, in 1659.   The wedding was held in St-Jean, presumably because everyone could get there.  Louis was lodged in the “Maison Lohobiague,” now the “Maison Louis XIV.”   You can visit this elegant stone house on the town’s central square, constructed by a Basque boat builder, and inhabited by his widow at the time of the wedding.  The beautiful marble table was a gift from the king to his hostess.  Do you think he fit it in his paniers?

There is also a beautiful beach...

And our favorite beach is in Ciboure, on the other side of the river, about 2 k away.  An easy bike ride... your first route sheet awaits you!


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