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St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a fortified town on the Nive River, got its name from its position at the foot (pied) of the mountain pass (port) of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles). The pass was the setting for La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), the anonymous 11th-century epic poem considered the true beginning of French literature. The bustling town center, a major stop for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela, seems, after a tour through the Soule, like a frenzied metropolitan center—even in winter. In summer, especially around the time of Pamplona's San Fermin blowout (the running of the bulls, July 7–14), the place is filled to the gills and is somewhere between exciting and unbearable.
St-Jean-Pied-de-Port at a Glance
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