Biarritz, imperial and oceanic
Welcome to the Basque Country, a land blessed by the gods of board sports. The Atlantic coastline is lined with bevelled cliffs and unspoilt coves as far as Spain, all spots to delight surfers. Before trying out these famous waves, check into a hotel in the heights of Biarritz, a city which is both sporty and elegant. The most beautiful part of the Regina hotel is hidden inside: you will be impressed at the sight of the Art Deco glass roof which lights up the patio. This recently renovated, luxurious pied-à-terre will charm you with its new 1950s-inspired décor, and its rooms with their understated, elegant comfort.
Later in the morning, you decide to take the air on the famous Grande Plage, in the heart of the city. Make a detour by the Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz's legendary, luxury hotel, to the avenue de l'Impératrice. Opposite you stands an imposing orthodox church. Admire this beautiful building built in a Byzantine style at the end of the 19th century, to provide a place of worship for the many Russian nationals in the city, who were already great admirers of the Basque coast.
Le Régina Biarritz Hotel & Spa
52 avenue de l'Impératrice
+33 (0)5 59 41 33 00
Market flavours and window shopping
At the end of the beach, wind your way through the city's lively streets and enjoy the conviviality of the local markets at Les Halles and the place Sobradiel. Young trendies and older Biarritz residents visit the place daily, with their basket in hand. In its prettily restored grande halle, the abundant Bayonne hams, ewe's milk cheeses and one thousand other regional products will whet your appetite. Outside, connoisseurs are enjoying - in moderation - a glass of txakoli, a white wine produced from green grapes, accompanied by a few oysters placed on barrels. Crowds are flocking towards bar Jean, an establishment which cultivates the “Basque attitude”. Luckily, a table becomes available. Order a plate of chipirons, a type of squid, cooked on the griddle; some piquillos, small peppers from Navarre stuffed with cod and other pintxos - or appetisers. You can then sample some axoa, delicious minced veal flavoured with chillies, peppers and onions.
If you fancy some shopping, do not miss out on a visit to Lartigue 1910, one of the last firms to manufacture typically Basque household linen, from pure cotton fabric woven in its own workshops. You fall for a tea towel in timeless stripes and serviettes in contemporary colours. Further off, the Arostéguy delicatessen tempts you with its spicy creations and seafood preserves. You leave this Ali Baba's cave, which specialises in local produce, with your bag full of tuna ventrèche, piperade basquaise and Antton chocolates. In the rue Gambetta, your gaze is drawn to a shop window. Photo prints in a wide variety of formats show surfers on beaches or braving humongous waves. Open the door of this gallery to discover the most beautiful shots of Sylvain Cazeneuve. This image-hunter who specialises in surf photography has travelled the entire world to bring back some exceptional photos.
5 rue des Halles
+33 (0)5 59 24 80 38
8 avenue Edouard VII
+33 (0)5 59 23 83 02
5 avenue Victor Hugo
+33 (0)5 59 24 00 52
Galerie Sylvain Cazeneuve
8 rue Gambetta
+33 (0)6 03 82 17 75
A surf session and gourmet pleasures
These photos make you long to master the waves yourself. The call of the sea leads you to the famous Côte des Basques beach. Jump into the water for a surfing lesson with Delpero Surf School. You could not wish for any better instructors than the Delpero brothers to show you how to climb onto a surfboard. These world champion longboarders will share with you incredible sensations of freedom in a spot considered to be the birthplace of surfing in Europe. Between waves, lift your gaze to the villa Belza. With its flashy look and neo-medieval style tower, it surveys the waves from its rock at the end of the beach.
After this invigorating sports session, go and warm up in a 17th century ambience in the Miremont tea room, which has stood on the elegant place Bellevue since 1872. Opposite the Atlantic, you gather your strength by savouring a Paris-Biarritz, an irresistible choux pastry filled with Chantilly cream, whipped with Itxassous cherries, garnished with a São Tomé chocolate and spiced with a dash of Espelette pepper. It is also here that you find the best gâteau Basque, the traditional cake specialty of the region.
On your return to the Regina, the glamorous atmosphere of the café N, in the centre of the patio, entices you to try a house cocktail. A romantic dinner facing the Biarritz lighthouse awaits you next at Iqori, the hotel's gourmet restaurant. Antoine Chuard pampers you with his Manex pork ventrèche (local pork raised without GMOs) cooked with ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice mix, and complemented by a preserved lemon panisse. Another excellent restaurant, and a must for a visit when you are in Biarritz, is Les Rosiers, where you can enjoy the specialities of the Basque Country, in the intimate setting of a restful town house. The Michelin starred chef Andrée Rosier, accompanied by her husband, is delighted to serve you her speciality: calf's sweetbreads cooked in a myriad of different ways depending on the season.
Delpero surf school
Côte des Basques Beach
+33 (0)6 03 35 90 51
Place Georges Clémenceau
+33 (0)5 59 24 01 38
52 avenue de l'Impératrice
+33 (0)5 59 41 33 09
32 avenue Beau Soleil
+33 (0)5 59 23 13 68
The timeless charm of Guéthary
After a restful night, lulled by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, you make your way to Guéthary, the most charming village on the Basque coast. From Cénitz hill, you can take in the superb view of the Bay of Biscay, then stroll along the sloping tree-lined backstreets to houses perched above the old whaling port. Enjoy a caffeine-fuelled break in the café of Le Madrid hotel, where regulars and pleasure sailors congregate from morning to evening. The picturesque setting of Guéthary provides inspiration for artists. In the centre of a superb park decorated with sculptures, the Villa Saraleguinea is home to the city's museum of modern art. On the ground floor of this imposing, neo-Basque residence, you move among sculptures, ceramics and drawings from the donation by sculptor Georges Cléments de Swiecinski. You go down to the seafront and walk along the promenade. After passing by the little wooden beach huts, you spy several surfers: welcome to Parlementia. This spot, famous throughout the world, and often compared to Hawaii for the quality of its waves, is one of the most popular with the locals. If you are an expert, why not try out these exceptional breakers.
Café of Le Madrid Hotel
563 avenue du Général de Gaulle
+33 (0)5 59 26 52 12
165 avenue du général de Gaulle
+33 (0)5 59 54 86 37
Enduring traditions in the hills of the Basque Country
It is time to explore the Basque country inland. After 15 minutes on the road from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, lunch at the Lizarragga farm seems in order. Facing a magnificent view of the Larrun mountain, the chef Stéphane Poulin offers you his own twist on market-cuisine. You will be blown away by a plate of line-caught hake from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, served with petits pois, carrots, clams and a coconut-lemon grass broth.
At the wheel of your vehicle, you pass through farmland, with a patchwork of undulating pastures, studded with hazelnut trees and gorse, and interspersed with little villages. Espelette is one of them. In its pedestrianised streets, you admire the peppers hanging on long ropes drying on the fronts of the pretty red and green shuttered houses. Many shops sell this local treasure which has made the village famous all over the world. Take a stroll towards the tranquil district of Saint Etienne church, crossed by a stream, before visiting the BiPiA cannery. A guide will show you the laboratory where the famous Espelette pepper is processed. After a recipe demonstration, you move on to a tasting of the house products. Beguiled by their taste, you fill your basket with pepper powder, a chutney and an organic spicy sauce.
Continue your stroll along the Nive River, which flows from Bayonne to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, to a little corner of paradise nestled in an amphitheatre of mountains: here you are at Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry. Houses with rounded doors and deep balconies, a charming red sandstone church and a Roman buttressed bridge spanning the river, where fly fishers are fishing for trout, make up a picture postcard view.
Life is good in this pretty village surrounded by vineyards and pastureland. The Arcé hotel, installed in a traditional house typical of the region, by the water, is discreetly elegant. The perfect compromise between tradition and modernity, this charming family establishment is a great place to relax, in its verdant setting in the heart of the Basque Country.
550 chemin Lissaraga
+33 (0)5 59 47 03 76
619 Haltsuko Bieda RD 650
+33 (0)5 59 93 21 86
Arcé hotel and restaurant
+33 (0)5 59 37 40 14