12 meters high waves … black rocks … rugby and campari & grapefruit juice

#1 – on my gems list – Biarritz, France 

Biarritz and I met in September 1977 – and it was love at first sight. Have returned 8 times in total through the years – most during my years in UK and Ireland, with low cost airlines with Biarritz as one of their destinations. More difficult to get there with scheduled flights – have to change in Paris.

Biarritz is really the place I would have love to retire in, wish that I bought something in 1977 – today a closet cost close to 1 million Euros. If I win enough money – will I go and knock on a very special penthouse apartment and ask how much they want for it.

First time I arrived in an Audi with my German finance, Hans Joachim. Don’t remember why we chosen Biarritz for a longer stop over (5 nights) on our drive around France holiday. Both of us are big lovers of France, but not Paris. Will come to that another time.

Now to a little of this stunning town nearly on the Spanish border by the very much alive – Atlantic ocean. Build on sand and black rocks. Biarritz was born in 1170 as Bearriz – and Biarritz in 1249. But didn’t become really renowned until 1854 when Napoleon built a beautiful palace just on the for his Empress Eugenie – now a luxury hotel and apartments, The Hôtel du Palais. Loads of European royalty and film stars has had Biarritz as their playground through the years.

Once a whaling village – today there lives about 30.000 people and of course a lot more during summer month. A surfer’s paradise and there is loads of them – a good thing because it keeps the prices down on restaurants and bars. Officially surfing came to Biarritz in 1957. It’s a very upmarket and elegant town – with and for rich and famous, but not expensive. Le Casino Barriere is right on the Grand Plage.

19th November 1996 – during a heavy storm – did “Franz Hals” a freighter vessel with 154 passangers and crew stranded on the Grand Plage only meters away from Hôtel du Palais – it took 25 days to get the vessel of the beach.  Atlantic Ocean is a powerful ocean.

Biarritz has 4 beaches – the Grand Plage in the middle of the town centre, very popular with a nice promenade along with cafes to sit and watch the surfers and well-dressed French families on their Sunday promenade (the whole families match) – the more sheltered one, (excellent if you have kids) Port Vieux, Côte des Basques – surfers and surfer schools and the Miramar Beach where no surfers allowed and strong currents – all beaches are provided with life guards – if you don’t follow the flagged warning system they use – they sort you out very quickly.

The most amazing thing about Biarritz is the high waves – that happens once a month when it’s full moon. Don’t really know what causes those massive waves. The whole seafront of the town is soaking wet and all beaches disappear – no swimming is allowed and no surfing. Has nothing to do with ebb or tide. It can be little brezzy and sunny – still it happens. People come from all around the area to enjoy the “show” – they know excatly when it’s going to happen. So difficult to explain … have to be seen.

Biarritz are also famous for their rugby team, best in France most of the years – their horse racing track; l’Hippodrome des Fleur. Golf is a big sport too with some big tournaments.

Small notes about Biarritz;
1. Grand Plage buildings have a 1920’s architecture.
2. The Hôtel du Palais – has a salt water pool that’s worth visiting on a wooden deck hanging above the beach.
3. The town has been famous for it’s Thalassotherapy SPA’s for nearly 30 years .Athletes from all over the world comes for treatments.
4. It’s full of Hortensia – striking view in all their shades of blue, white, pink and purple.
5. “Le Rocher De La Vierge” (Virgin on the Rocks) is the most visit place in Biarritz – The statue of Madonna, set up to keep local fishermen safe, is over a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, of tower fames.
6. La Villa Belza – the story tells that once built by Stravinsky in the late 1890 for his mistress – it just sit there on the rock. Have both been a hotel and apartments through the year. Magnificent view. Been scenery for a couple of movies.

Biarritz are now building something called, CITE DE L’OCEAN ET DU SURF  – exhibition area, auditorium, restaurant, cafeteria and offices – designed by Steven Holl. An amazing building, it looks like a massive wave – a museum intends to raise awareness of oceanic issues and explore educational and scientific aspects of the surf and sea and their role upon our leisure, science, and ecology – will open this summer.

Two museum to visit in the meantime;
Musee de la Mer – aquarium
Plateau Atalaye
Biarritz  Musee de la Mer

Planète Musée du Chocolat – chocolate museum
14 Avenue Beau Rivage
Biarritz Planète Musée du Chocolat

Shopping – for fresh fish & seafood, vegetables, cheese and meat it’s Les Halles – well worth a visit  even if not buying any fresh products. 5 min walk from Place Clemenceau, main square – where also Magasins Galerie Lafayette is. There is loads of beautiful small fashion shops, beautiful handbags and shoes, perfumes, jewellery- very chic and upmarket, there are some exclusive shops that sells the big designer names like Chanel, Dior & Armani – and there is the most beautiful bridal shop Gloria Mariage, so if I ever will get married I will buy my dress in Biarritz – doubt very much that will happen!!!  … but there is also a monthly street market – the whole town centre and you can buy anything, loads of Spanish people comes and sell their goods, like very nice under wears. Can say exactly what day of the month it’s. Can’t find the information anywhere on the net.

Have to recommend “Para Gabia” on 18 rue Mazagran – is a very special shop … espadrilles in the rainbows all colors and many styles – customised with ribbons and laces while you wait. Prices starts from €10

I have stayed on hotels and in vacations apartments – all with ocean view of course. Doesn’t really matter where you stay – the beach is only a couple of minutes away. There is walking distance to everything in town.
Last time I was there was over my 60th birthday (now 3 years ago) and we rent a fantastic little apartment on top of rock with view for miles over the mountains and ocean. Become very good friend with the owner. A nice lady by name Valerie – that really took good care of us .. picked us up at the airport and showed us where to shop groceries, she even drove us there. Can call us sisters in our illness, we both where diagnosed with cancer only months apart. Have checked the website where she had her apartment and it’s removed.

Where to put down the head ???? Will recommend one hotel and a holiday rental website.

Florida Hotel
3 Place Sainte-Eugénie
64200 Biarritz, France
Phone; 05 59 24 01 76
Hotel Flordia, Biarritz
3-star; 48 rooms & 11 suites
Seaview rooms; €140-230 /$187-308/£118-195
A gem to hotel – small and friendly with an excellent location with walking distance to everything.
Great food and outdoor seating. Breakfast is like all French breakfast – not much to write home about. Always went next door to a brasserie and had my “café au lait et baguette au jambo et formage” every morning. Try to get a sea view room high up so you get the view of the lighthouse.

Home and Away rentals, is the website I would go for – has everything from loft to luxury villas and easy to use. Make sure you rent a property with terrace or balcony with ocean view – because it’s priceless and the sound from the ocean will rock you to sleep.

Eating, load of places – will recommend the ones that is a must for me every time I go back.
1. Chez Albert – 1 Class Seafood restaurant that has been busy since 1977. The owner Albert was killed about 18 years ago riding his motor bike. His finance has been running the place since, situated in the little fishing harbor in the town center – necessary booking. English spoken.
Chez Albert
allée Port des Pêcheurs – 64200 Biarritz
Phone: (05) 59 24 43 84
Chez Albert
2. Le Clos Basque – a very small restaurant during the cold months – in the summer they expand with having a beautiful terrace. Runned by husband and wife. Lovely food in relaxed atmosphere – booking necessary and speak very little to – no English. Modern French cuisine.
Le Clos Basque
12 r. L.-Barthou F
64200 Biarritz
Phone (05) 59 24 24 96
3. La Roulle – restaurant of Hotel Marbella, big dining room plus a massive terraces, witch is packed in the summer. Really good food, nice service and not pricey. Fish and seafood, do great lamb too. Just to turn up. By the old beach – Port Vieux. Everybody speaks English.
La Roulle
HOTEL MARBELLA
11 rue du Port Vieux
64200 BIARRITZ
Phone, (05) 59 24 04 06
La Roulle
4. Le Café de Paris – lovely food in art décor brasserie style – in the middle of town center in a small luxury hotel with the same name – all rooms with seaview. Great ocean view – little pricey. Modern cuisine and everybody speaks English. During summer months they have outdoor dining with ocean view.
Le Café de Paris
5, place Bellevue
64200 Biarritz
Tel.: (05) 59 24 19 53
Le Café de Paris

What to visit nearby Biarritz;
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, trashed in 1177 by Richard Lionhearted troupes – up in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques – famous to being one of the stops along “Routes of Santiago de Compostela” in France also the scenery in the movie “The Walk” with Martin Sheen, 2011 – took the train from Bayonne the first time. Fantastic train ride up through the forests, along River Nive up into the mountains. Very picturesque. Took the bus from Biarritz to Bayonne, 30 min journey.
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (only in French)

Bayonne – with it’s old towns – great shopping and a very special tearoom;
“Mokofin”
27 rue Thiers
64100 Bayonne

St Jean de Luz – small fishing town with the best grilled sardines in the world.
Great small shops, great beach, very pretty and loads of tourists. Bus from Biarritz about 40minutes

San Sebastian, Spain – we went by car (90 min). Very pretty with everything a sea resort should have. Exclusive shops, cafes and restaurant’s. Beaches in the middle of the city, lays in a bay – very busy and mad traffic. Once a dump, but have got a fantastic facelift.

Bilbao, Spain – (1hr40min with car) not a very pretty or friendly city … but it has The Guggenheim Museum – only reason why we went there. Fantastic building inside and out .. but exhibitions was a real disappointment

Have been in Biarritz in February over Valentine and it was +22C and we – have been there in January with grey evil looking ocean and sky, very windy – but still pleasant. My favourite month is September, warm and nice … sun tan weather and all French tourists gone. Biarritz are never too hot or too cold.

1977 I got my first Campari with grapefruit juice in Biarritz and that’s what I drink every day before and after dinner with sea view  – when I’m down there, very seldom anywhere else.

All this is Biarritz for me – it gives me loads of pleasure and I never feel any guilt.

Photos provided by;  jeffdivinesur.com / weather-forecast.com /dailymail.co.uk / hotel-du-palais.com /ricardomiguel.po / fond-ecran-image.com /  panoramio.com / bonjourparis.com / anjawiroth.com / flickr.com / bbc.co.uk /  lefigaro.fr / tripadvisor.se /  thalasso-line.com / blomsterpassion.se / oglobo.globo.com / myfranceamoi.travel / stevenholl.com /  panoramio.com / mrjet.se / profimedia.si / fringeclub.blogspot.com