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1 – Eugenie empress’s obelisk

On September 30, 1859, Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III, decided she wanted to tackle the summit of La Rhune accompanied by some of her court, not on foot, but on mule-back. The court ladies sat on the mules in pairs, on double-saddles known as “cacolets” which required them to maintain a very delicate balance.

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They paused at the “Plateau of 3 Fountains” where they enjoyed a small picnic composed of various country dishes provided by the Saratars (inhabitants of Sare). The Empress enjoyed slices of Xingarra (ham), an omelette with sweet peppers and a Basque cake sprinkled with almonds. According to the story, she then danced a vigorous fandango with the son of the mayor of Vera de Bidassoa.

The last few metres to the summit were traversed by foot and they arrived just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset! Unlike the ascent, the descent was a veritable ordeal for the ladies as it was complete on foot, on mule-back and even on improvised stretchers fabricated by the guides. They finally arrived, late in the evening, at the Villa de Biarritz.

In 1860, a white, sandstone obelisk, 5m in height, was erected and topped with a bronze eagle to commemorate the ascension of Empress Eugénie de Montijo.

In 1940, the bronze eagle disappeared. It is said that the Germans removed it when they were scavenging various metals but whatever the cause, it was eventually replaced with a stone eagle on September 30, 1993.