Looking for some summer holiday inspiration? Author of How To Find Love in the Little Things, Virginie Grimaldi, gives us a dreamy guide to a weekend in the glorious town of Biarritz.
‘Dear English readers
Down in the south-west of France, not far from the Spanish border, there lies a town called Biarritz. It’s my paradise – the place I go to recharge as often as I can. I’d love to take you there. You coming?
Let’s begin at the lighthouse, the gateway to the town. It’s my favourite lookout point, equally beautiful both day and night. Those braver than me climb the 248 steps – my thighs would rather stay on solid ground and sit down on a bench, from which the view is no less gorgeous. Biarritz stretches out in front of you, with its towering cliffs and crashing waves. Can you smell it too, that invigorating saltiness?
With fresh sea air in your lungs, head with me to the Basque Coast which boasts a magnificent panorama. Before our eyes, waves smash against the rocks, sprays of foam carrying on the wind. Surfers ride the waves, framed by the distant Spanish coastline. It’s the idea place to watch the sun go down and paint the sky with shades of orange, pink and mauve.
I know you’d like to stay here for hours, but I’m starting to get hungry, aren’t you? The centre of Biarritz is dotted with traditional little cafes with buzzing terraces, whatever the season. We’ll have an aperitif, and pick at some tapas – oysters or local charcuterie. Bar Jean is a Biarritz institution, but I also like Puig et Daro who wrap up sweet and savoury treats for you to take away and eat on the beach. And after the nibbles, it’s time to get serious: dinner awaits! My favourite restaurant is down a little road – with its plain front, it doesn’t look like much, but, whatever I order, it’s always a party for my taste buds (salt-crusted sea bream, pan-fried razor clams, baby squid, tiramisu…). I’m never disappointed.
Let’s go for a little after-dinner stroll along the Grande Plage, to take advantage of the mild evening and the traditional Biarritz architecture. It’s time for bed. I’ve tried out several hotels in Biarritz: most of them are very good, but the one with the best views, a pool that looks out on to the ocean and the softest sheets that will make you want to stay there for ever, is the Sofitel. We’ll meet up tomorrow morning for breakfast overlooking the ocean. Sweet dreams!
How did you sleep? Have you tried the gâteau Basque? (What do you mean all I think about is food?)
Today I’m taking you to the Halles. This market is the best place to try all the local produce: fish, cured ham, spicy Espelette peppers, axoa, ewe’s milk cheese, mouchous (like macaroons) … And now that we both weigh an extra ten kilos, it’s time to go and lose ourselves down alleys lined with quaint old wooden houses and climb up and down all the hidden staircases in the town. We come out on to a little bay edged with cliffs, with crystal-clear waters. People call it the Polar Bear beach, after the group of diehards who swim there year-round.
A little further up, you can find THE famous Biarritz landmark: the Rocher de la Vierge. Accessible by a footbridge over the water, and topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary, this large rock boasts views of the whole town, the Spanish coast and the Pyrenees. The ocean stretches to infinity – fifty shades of blue – seagulls call, boats cruise on open water – it’s like you’re gazing at the very edge of the world.
I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll stay here now. You go on without me, you’ll find something to keep you busy: surfing, paddle-boarding, exploring the surrounding area (St Jean de Luz, Spain, Bayonne, the Basque country), the Aquarium or the Chocolate Museum, eating an ice-cream with your feet in the sand, heading down to Port Vieux beach – a traditional fishing port – and sinking your feet into cold water…
I hope you enjoyed your trip. And who knows, maybe one day, at a bend in a road or on the crest of a wave, we’ll meet again.’