The Somport pass/tunnel, France and Spain!!!

This is a memorable post no matter the date, I am updating an older post in my blog. IT brings back wonderful memories of always from that September 1990 I crossed the mountains with my then girlfriend later dear wife Martine , before the tunnel and now more stronger memories when she is not around anymore. Therefore, let me update text and links for this post for you and if I may even more so for me.  The Somport pass , tunnel always huge and friendly between France and Spain!!

I like to tell you about a wonderful spot that bring lots of good memories to me and my family involved mostly a road warrior experiences. This story started in 1990 and continues today… I like to tell you about the Somport.  A bit of wonderful souvenirs; as back in September 1990, I came down from Meaux in Seine-et-Marne dept 77 east of Paris to Madrid , and Toledo Spain. I came with my girlfriend then and later my dear wife Martine, which life has it our time together was cut short due to the lousy cancer. I wanted to impress her and show my roots right away.

We took off on her VW Golf car (she love her little car a lot) and off we went without GPS just old paper maps. Little did I know that were going to face the mighty Somport just south of Oloron -Sainte-Marie on the road N134, climbing this mountain pass of the Pyrénées mountain mostly on second gear as it was and is very hilly around here lol! The return trip was done by the same Somport mountain pass and all the sights were awesome, and the customs border police at Urdos (see post) was very nice as before the UE this was the customs control border with Spain.

Afterward, there were several repeat visits, and many lifelong memories of good cheers on the road, happy moments for all. We eventually got to the much improved Somport tunnel that is awesome as well and ease of driving par excellence. The memories were just as recently as August 2017. I did not have the will to travel this 2018 to Spain was spare, maybe next year , I will have the strenght to make the journey again with the boys. As for now….only memories.

Let me tell you a bit about the peak or col du Somport.

The Col du Somport is a mountain pass located on the border between Spain and France at 1 632 meters (5,354 ft) above sea level. It was one of the most borrowed passages in the crossing of the Pyrenees, by soldiers, merchants and pilgrims on Via Tolosane from Oloron-Sainte-Marie (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and towards Aragon (Camino Aragones). The Col du Somport is the only passage of the central Pyrenees which is, except for exceptional snow conditions, accessible in any season.

At the beginning of the 5C at the time of the barbaric invasions that ravaged the Western Roman Empire, the Vandals, the Alains and the Suevi, soon followed by the Visigoths, coming from France, used this relatively easy route to enter Spain. The Roman road that leads to it, known as Via Tolosane, was also borrowed by the Muslims at the beginning of the 8C in their failed attempt to conquer France. The Somport peak was the subject of a division between France and Aragon, within the framework of the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), (current borders of Spain and France) incorporating the terms of the Vesiau Treaty (12C).  The pass was fortified in the 16C  by the Habsburgs to protect itself from an invasion of the French, which did not occur until the Spanish War of Independence and the arrival of Napoleon’s general Louis-Gabriel Suchet in 1808. The French left Spain by the same route after the defeat against General Francisco Espoz y Mina in 1814.

And now a bit about the Somport Tunnel!

The Somport Tunnel is a road tunnel linking Spain and France to the west of the Pyrenean chain. It is traversed by the Spanish national road N-330 and the French national Road N-134, elements of the European route E7 Pau-Zaragoza. The N 134 crosses the Pyrenees at the Col du Somport at 1 632 meters above sea level. Opened on February 7, 2003. Since the construction of the tunnel, the peak has a much smaller traffic. Its access to the French side is located in the town of Urdos (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), at the place of the forges of Abel (1 116 meters above sea level) in the Valley of Aspe; The exit to the Spanish side is located south of the town of Canfranc (1 180 meters above sea level). Its path runs along the existing rail tunnel. The Pau-Canfranc railway line was cut off after the collapse of a bridge on its route in 1970, it has now reopen (see post).  Its length is 8 602 meters, of which 5 754 in Spain and 2 848 in France. The border is marked by a logo of Europe painted on the walls of the tunnel. Its width of 9 meters comprises two tracks of 3.50 meters separated by a band of 1 meter, and 2 lateral strips of 0.50 meter. On the Spanish side, it is planned that the A-23 highway arrives to the tunnel, I saw the works in progress as an extention of the Autovia Mudejar (A23) .The last stretch of its construction will be to Jaca connecting with the A21 coming from Pamplona and Canfranc near the Somport Tunnel. Good to know  the stretch between Huesca and France  is one of the highest in Europe going over 1 280 meters of the peak or col de Monrepos (see post on the tunnel).

somport

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

somportAnd a bit on the Port or Puerto of Somport. The Port of Somport. In the surrounding area are the towns of Candanchú, Astún and Le Somport. It is border between the Valley of Aragon, in Spain, and the Valley of Aspe, in France. Also, according to some sources it is considered the boundary between the western Pyrenees and the Central Pyrenees.

Further, there is a 34-kmcross-country ski slope on both sides of the French Spanish border running in the vicinity of the port. Part of the itinerary belongs to the skiable domain of Candanchú in Spain, and the other to the cross-country ski resort of Le Somport, in France. Le Somport webpage: https://www.lesomport.com/index_es.php

A site I use in France to help guide my boys who does some skiing is this Skiinfo or on the snow in Englsih, on Candanchu: https://www.onthesnow.co.uk/aragon/candanchu/ski-resort.html

You can get a bus from Jaca up to Somport but never done as always by car there. There is a train from Zaragoza or Jaca to Canfranc and then hook up with the bus , again never done it just for reference. From France there are buses from Pau. Transports mavaragon  from Jaca webpage: https://www.mavaragon.es/horarios-autobus-jaca-astun/

To get to the Alto de Somport you have to take a bus at the station of Jaca, located on Avenida La Jacetania, S/N on the line jaca Astun on the above link. Even Jaca can be reached by bus from Zaragoza, Huesca and Pamplona with the bus company Avanzabus. 

This is a walk I once thought of doing and not yet, one of this days if health allows me. However, for walkers , this is a must as well.  In Spain, the Camino Francés (The French Way) starts in Roncesvalles, you leave from Navarra, or in Somport if you depart from Aragón. This is the most well-known and traditional steeped route to Santiago de Compostela to the point that it has become a cultural, artistic and sociological landmark . Those coming from Somport through the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca, the French Way passes through such significant towns as Estella, Logroño, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada or Villafranca del Bierzo. The county of El Bierzo opens the gateway to Galicia through the inspiring mountain hamlet of O Cebreiro. From this point, a week of walking though enchanted greenery will lead pilgrims to the Praza do Obradoiro and the attainment of the Compostela Certificate.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here is the area covering Jaca/Somport are:

The Jaca jacobea French way to Santiago in Spanish: https://www.jacajacobea.com/el-camino-frances/

The Jacetania area tourist board in English: https://turismojacetania.com/index.php

The Jacetania area tourist board on the Somport tunnel Spain sidehttps://www.turismojacetania.com/museos.php?Id=21

The Jacetania area tourist board on the Somport tunnel France sidehttps://www.turismojacetania.com/museos.php?Id=22

The National park of the Pyrénées on the Valley of Aspe (Somport area) in French: http://www.pyrenees-parcnational.fr/fr/des-decouvertes/les-vallees-du-parc-national/vallees-et-paysages-remarquables/vallee-daspe

There you go folks, this is nature’s heaven and one of the highlights of my travels always. A nice place up in the Pyrénées of my beloved duo of France and Spain; a solid one two punch for tourism. Hope you enjoy the post as I.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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