It's the capital of the old Basque kingdom of Lower Navarre, it's resonant with mighty names - Richard the Lionheart, Sancho the Strong, Roland, Vauban ... and chock-a-block with history, most of which I know next to nothing of, the past is vast and my power to retain this kind of knowledge was always weak and grows weaker.
Even my power to retain knowledge of my own past is fallible and full of holes. I finished up in St Jean once before, thirty years ago, for no particular reason except that was where the road stopped for me. I wanted to get to Spain, but, as we did this time, just stepped over the border for a quick look, then came back, discouraged by lack of time, money and Spanish. (For 50 francs, at that time, I could at least have got a coach to Pamplona for the day, but shied at spending even that much money, though I could probably have afforded it. I was so timid and lame.)
Then, I camped in this field, just outside the town, beside the river Nive. One wouldn't want to now, because it's somewhat overlooked by smart, fairly new houses, but otherwise it looks much the same.
But though I must have walked past this ruined watermill many times, I had no memory of it.
On one building, according to Wiki but which I failed to see, the price of wheat in 1789 was literally engraved in stone above the door. How odd, that it was felt that this was such a certainty; a kind of innocence in matters economic must have gone out of the world, even currencies, never mind prices, cannot be seen as so immutable now. These hand prints on the wall of the church have a greater sense of timelessness, but why and how they're there I can't find out.
There were other curiosities of flora, fauna and human works.
Wall pennywort we have in abundance here too, but I liked the way it lodged in the rocks there.
the pale white-mauve flower, ladies smock, is also widespread,
This was something I was delighted to catch sight of: a dipper feeding its young. I've not seen one of these birds for many years, and parent birds feeding fledgelings is always fun.
These pollarded plane trees with their camouflage bark we saw a lot of; the way they had absorbed these metal posts was most strange.
St Jean-Pied-de-Port, snuggled down under the mountains, a good town to visit.