National Geographic : 1956 Mar
324 Treed! Amateur Bullfighters Risk Horned Death in Bayonne, France Each August townsmen set fighting bulls free to roam the streets. Young daredevils prove their courage by exposing themselves as moving targets. Basques especially delight in this dangerous sport. In a few days' time I stood on the Franco Spanish frontier at Iron, near the Atlantic coast. I had traveled through the Basque Pyrenees, where the mountains are lower and the landscape less turbulent, to San Sebastian, the most beautiful watering place in the north of Spain. Now the Spanish police were wav ing me over the international bridge, at the far end of which I could see the French gen darmes in their short blue coats and visored caps. Author Enters a Greener France The country I entered was soft, gentle, and green. I realized how brown Spain is and again remembered the engineer who envied France her Pyrenean rainfall. The contrast is startling. The heights of the western Pyrenees, which rose everywhere, were no where hard or savage, but gentle, softly curved, and undulating. How different, too, were the common scenes of life, the people and their homes, from those in Spain. The cream-washed towns and villages through which I passed, each one with its pelota court, stood among kitchen gardens. Slow, swaying oxcarts came along the road piled with bracken from the hills, the oxen wearing caps of tasseled sheepskin. Be side each cart paced a grave, impassive Basque crowned by that insignia of Basquedom, a black beret.* Shepherds in the hills, each with an umbrella slung across his back and an alert sheep dog at his feet, stood leaning on their sticks. Another remarkable difference between the French and Spanish Pyrenees is the pres ence of the tourist. For years the Route des Pyrenees has offered easy access to the ex quisite valleys and the mountains. Motor coaches run everywhere, and there are daily trips to all main points of interest. In the most remote fastnesses of the French Pyre nees you are likely to come upon visitors sit ting beneath the striped awning of a little res taurant or under gay-colored beach umbrellas. I stayed the night at St. Jean Pied de Port, a little town which, as the name implies, sits at the foot of the famous pass of Roncesvalles (page 326). I found an inn that might have sheltered the Three Musketeers, and there I ate trout caught that morning in the Nive. The next day took me through Mauleon, * See "Life in the Land of the Basques," by John E. H. Nolan, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Feb ruary, 1954.