Basque country is a territory of tradition, history and Basque culture located between France and Spain. It sits in the western extremity of the chain of Pyrénée Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. In France, it occupies a part of the country called the, « department » of the Atlantic Pyrénées, around Biarritz. You will think you’re in a completely different country than France because the Basque people have their own language. It’s a really beautiful area to visit when you come to France, because you can manage at the same time, to go to the beach or to the mountain, with wonderful landscapes to see everywhere. I will suggest some really nice places to visit for their attractiveness, their scenery or their food.
When you are on the ocean side, you should go to three nice towns : Bayonne, Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz.
Bayonne is an old town with picturesque houses in the city center, a great castle, and the cathedral. Don’t forget to taste the most famous cured ham in France, Jambon de Bayonne « the one from Bayonne ». You will also discover two famous sports : Basque pelota and rugby.
Biarritz is the best spot in France for surfing but you will also find some really good places for thalassotherapy and golf. Take time to walk on the sea front up to the rock of the virgin, and in the pedestrian street for some shopping. Make a stop at « La Maison du Chocolat » (Chocolate’s house) (www.lamaisonduchocolat.fr) and buy their fantastic chocolate’s bunch. You will also want to visit the wonderful chocolate museum (www.planetemuseeduchocolat.com). At evening time, have fun in the casino, or in front of the ocean, where you can see the waves exploding on the rocks at your feet. To sleep, you should try the luxury « Hotel du Palais » (www.hotel-du-palais.com), which was the vacation house of Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III.
Saint Jean de Luz is a really nice harbor with a fantastic historic city center. You should visit Saint Jean Baptiste church where the wedding of King Louis XIV was held, and the house of the king. You should also have a walk along the port. I suggest eating in a « cidreria », a traditional Basque restaurant where the food is cooked in a huge chimney and you can taste some good cider. I invite you to visit the restaurant Arroenia in Urrugne (www.arroenia.com). You can also reserve an apartment in the hotel « La Réserve » (www.hotel-lareserve.com), in front of the ocean. I have already tried it for you and it’s a nice place to stay with a lot of activities for all the family.
When you are on the mountain side, you should visit the cute little village of Espelette and taste their famous hot pepper. Close to Espelette, you should make a stop in Saint Jean Pied de Port, a medieval city with a fantastic view of the landscape from the citadel. If you like to hike in the mountains (but not too long a hike, like me !!), I suggest you visit the Kakuetta gorges (www.sainte-engrace.com/tourisme-pays-basque.html), one of the greatest in Europe with a fantastic waterfall, in a cooler time (even if the weather is extremely hot out of the gorges). To end the day, I suggest you drive up to Barcus, a little mountain flowery village, where you can visit the colorful little church, listen to some Basque songs and dances, and taste the mountain cheese « Ossau Iraty » and book a bedroom with a spa bath in the charming hotel « Chilo » (www.hotel-chilo.com). Their restaurant serves authentic food and the vegetables are really fresh because it comes from the farm of my friends Joël and Claire who live in Barcus too. Their job is to grow vegetables and flowers.