We set off from Biarritz, our base, to visit St Jean de Luz and the French side of the Basque Country. St Jean de Luz is a sleepy coastal town in a protected harbor. It does not have the waves of Biarritz, but enjoys lovely views and a fabulous hotel – the 100 year-old, 5-star Grand Hotel with its award-winning Thalasso spa. We had lunch there with Fréderique – their wonderful sales manager – and toured the rooms.
The hotel is tastefully decorated and many rooms feature antiques. The Ocean view rooms are our favorites. The spa is tastefully done and does not have the “medicalized” feeling of many Thalasso institutions in France – it is clearly catering to a very high-end clientele.
The restaurant is phenomenal – its chef has a Michelin star – and the terrace features great views of the beach. The lunchtime menu (appetizer – main course – dessert) is only 39 EUR – highly recommended. This is one of the hotels we feature on our Basque Country breaks.
After lunch, we headed inland – to see several Basque villages. Sare – reputed to be one of the most beautiful in France.
Espelette – famous for its hanging pimentos, liqueurs (one appropriately named “gratte-cul” or scratchy-bottom in English) and lovely chocolates.
The highlight was the fabulous fortified village of Saint Jean Pied de Port – which was razed to the ground in 1177 by Richard the Lionheart and now lies along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. It has lovely canals and an extraordinary old town.
We had tastings at several cheese factories along the way.
Dario donned a Basque Beret and became a tourist attraction. One elderly grandmother in a similar beret took a special liking to him – she spoke to him in Basque dialect and kept waving at him. It was a fun day!
We love Basque country – the French side is especially clean, people are friendly and the area is unique and very scenic. Highly recommended!