This year we have decided to explore a bit more of France. For our Easter break we hopped on a train from Paris and five-and-a-half hours later we arrived in the Bayonne in the heart of the French Basque country. The French Basque country has it all, beaches, mountains, amazing food and with Spain is just an hour away, it’s two holidays in one! Looking for ideas for your next holiday? Why not check out South West France? Here are seven inspirational ideas for you when visiting the French Basque country.
7 inspirational ideas for you when visiting the French Basque country
1. Lose yourself on beautiful beaches when visiting the French Basque country
In the French Basque country, we were really spoilt for choice when it came to beaches. Miles of golden sand line the Bay of Biscay. We squeezed in three beaches during our short stay, Anglet, Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. All were superb.
It was April and we didn’t have to fight for a spot on the sand. But I can imagine, at the height of summer, you have to navigate through a sea of sunbathing bodies to find a patch of sand!
2. Take an amble through stunning villages and towns when visiting the French Basque country
I just love to take a wander through a village, town or a city when I am travelling. I enjoy roaming the streets, admiring buildings, pressing my nose up against shop windows, sipping a coffee while watching the world go by.
There are plenty of beautiful towns and villages in the French Basque country to do this.
- St Jean Pied de Port sits at the bottom of the Pyrenees. It is a charming village. We took a walk along the ramparts which gave us a good tour of the village. St Jean Pied de Port is the last stop in France for walkers on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
- Bayonne is the capital of the French Basque country and is a really beautiful town. The old town is littered with half-timbered buildings painted in bright colours. It gives Bayonne a really unique feel. There seems to be a high concentration of chocolate shops. Not unusual in France I hear you say. Bayonne is where the story of chocolate began in France. The chocolate making skills were introduced to France by Portuguese Sephardic jews fleeing the 17th-century inquisition.
- St Jean de Luz is a chic, little coastal town attached to the fabulous La Grande Plage. We had a quick stroll through the town, and pretty little streets are filled with cute chi-chi shops.
- And for a bit more glitz, there is Biarritz. In its heydey, Biarritz was a holiday hot spot for Europen Royalty. Napolean III and his Spanish wife Eugenie kicked off the trend. Biarritz is a little tired, the Belle Epoque buildings hint to the city’s days of former glory.
3. The French Basque country is a surfer’s paradise
If you love surfing, want to learn to surf, the French Basque country is the place to be. On every beach we went to there were surfers riding the waves, surfing lessons on the beaches and surf schools lined the coast. The rugged coastline along the Bay of Biscay and the force of the Atlantic ocean make this coastline a surfer’s paradise.
4. Eat your way to foodie heaven
Food and France are a match made in heaven. One could simply live off the bread, wine and cheese.
The French Basque country has some wonderful food, and you can taste the Spanish influence in the cooking. Check out my post on how I literally ate my way through the French Basque country.
Bayonne is famed for its ham and chocolate. Cherry trees at the foothills of the Pyrenees yield a delightful black cherry jam, and the Piment d’Esplette, a chilli pepper is a speciality of the region and the French Basque sheeps’ cheese is to die for!
5. The panoramic views will take your breath away
One of the highlights of this trip and the kids’ favourite outing was La Rhune.
La Rhune is the name of a mountain, and the petit train will take you on a 35-minute picturesque ride to its summit. If you prefer, you can walk to the top, it takes around two-and-half-hours.
At the top, our eyes feasted on a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view. It was breathtaking. In the distance we could see the Pyrenees and turn around, we could see the coast.
If you are planning to come to the French Basque country, you must take the petit train to the top of La Rhune. Book your tickets in advance, this little train to the summit of the La Rhune is really popular!
6. And, Spain was only an hour away
From where we were staying, just outside Bayonne, Spain was an hour’s drive away. We had to do it.
We love Spain and we loved San Sebastian, it is hard not to fall in love with San Sebastian.
San Sebastian has everything: A picture postcard beach, an old town lined with cobbled streets, restaurants bursting with pintxos screaming “Eat me!”
We spent the day in San Sebastian: Soaking up the sun on the beach; watching the kids dig holes in the sand; took a wander through the streets and worked off our pintxo feast with a walk up Monte Urghull.
7. Hang on Basque country? Wasn’t there a spot of bother there?
Founded in 1959, ETA is the organisation that had been fighting a campaign for a Basque homeland. The Basque country is the area that reaches across from North East Spain to South West France. On Saturday 8 April 2017 the organisation had taken a major step towards peace by handing over its weapons to France. We arrived in Bayonne on that Saturday and saw the final celebrations of ‘Disarmament Day’.
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