Today (December 18) was our last day for a road trip in Aquitaine. We entered the A63 going south toward Bayonne and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of un buchon, kindly announced by a truck with an illuminated sign on top saying “Buchon. Soyez vigilant.” (Traffic jam. Be careful.) We needed the sign before we paid our toll and entered the péage, not after. Nonetheless, we took our place sandwiched between trucks and other cars lining the road—all at a complete stop. People got out of their cars to smoke, walk the dog, talk on the telephone. Emergency vehicles zipped along the shoulder as we tuned into 107.7 FM to hear the latest buchon news. The announcer reported an accident and thanked us for our patience.
One thing the French are good at is waiting patiently behind a vehicle that is stopped. We have many times been stopped behind a truck making a delivery on a street with only one lane. There’s nothing to do but wait, and frankly, it never takes all that long. Two lanes finally opened and we passed on through as if nothing had happened.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of Basque country. It’s not far from the big city of Bayonne, the formerly-glitzy vacation spot of Biarritz, or St. Sebastian in Spain. The countryside is quiet and pastoral, green and breathtakingly beautiful. The hills are dotted with Basque homes, sheep, Pottock horses, and vineyards.
We drove to a view offered at Pilota Plaza. The route was extremely remote, and we often wondered if we were traveling on someone's private driveway. But we kept on through green hills and bad roads. The view was as promised. We stood in the almost silence listening to geese migrating, sheep and cow bells echoing through the valleys gazing into the smokey distance at the snow-covered Pyrenees and La Rhune.
Frankly, le buchon is but a distant memory.