Assumption about Biarritz

Sun 13 August 2023 – My belief that our hotel room looked comfortable enough turned out to be erroneous. Our room is tiny – just barely larger than the bed, which itself is a standard double size rather than anything more luxurious. Furthermore, the convenience of our location near to the town centre brought with it a pitfall. Our room looked out over a busy square

which meant that, the town being busy, there was a lot of noise. Closing the windows mitigated the noise but meant the room became rather warm.

The town really was very busy – this is the square just below our window, seen from another angle –

and I thought that the crowds were simply due to it being the weekend. It turns out that we had unwittingly booked to stay here on the most crowded weekend of the year, the local equivalent of the UK’s August Bank Holiday. The reason for the popularity is the Assumption Day holiday, which falls on August 15th. This year, that’s a Tuesday, so everyone – everyone – in France is taking a long weekend, and all of them appear to have chosen Biarritz as their holiday destination.

This being the day before my birthday, one would have thought that at some stage in the last 70 years, I might have twigged that a major religious event was celebrated the day before. In my defence, it’s a Catholic celebration and I’m not Catholic in any way except, perhaps for my taste in gin.

The practical upshot was that last night was not a comfortable one for either of us. The only positive we can take from it is that it is at least preparing us for what we might encounter during the Camino. One hopes we’ll have more comfortable accommodation, but I think that we now know what the lowest common denominator is.

We survived. Obviously.

Breakfast was, I guess, pretty standard for the type of hotel we’re in – yoghurt, some fruit, croissants, cereals, tea or coffee. The hotel even had a single Twinings Earl Grey tea bag, showing that the proprietor is not entirely without soul. We took pity and used our own, just in case some future Brit comes a-brewing.

Then we went for a walk. Obviously.

We have two full days here, and are centrally based, so we decided today should be dedicated to pottering up the coast and tomorrow in the other direction. Walking north along the prom gives one a chance to understand the very colourful beach umbrellas that are erected by the side of the prom.

These are actually sort of “half tents” draped from umbrellas.

and you can see from the picture above that the preparedness of the tourists to part with €15 for shade and shelter was somewhat limited. Presumably there was someone who was in charge of renting these out but we never saw anyone in action demanding money with menaces.

Strolling the prom, tiddly on pom pom, takes one alongside the Grand Plage and then the Miramar Plage. Looking over the surrounding scenery and providing the dividing line between the two plages is the Grand Palace Hotel, which is a monster.

It was originally the palace built by Napoleon III for Empress Eugénie in 1855, because that was the sort of thing that emperors did in those days, and is now a hotel that is so exclusive that its website doesn’t encourage you (or even, it would appear, allow you) to book a room.

The objective of our wandering was the lighthouse, the tall white, sticky-uppy thing which can be seen in the distance from the town. It’s a pleasant walk to get there, past several vantage points giving nice views of the town and its surroundings,

as well as handsome beachside buildings.

When one gets to the destination of this walk (the phare* end, ho, ho),

there is (a) a bar and (b) more to see by way of decent view.

We took advantage of both of these options before wending our way gently back towards town. En route is “the Empress’s Viewpoint”

which gives you, surprise, surprise, a decent view back over the town (but nothing you haven’t already seen, to be honest). There are very many handsome villas, some of them historic,

It really is a very handsome town.

Arrival back to the town enabled us to take a quick visit to the hotel to drop off and pick up stuff (it was whilst chatting to the proprietor, Jerome, that we found out about the Assumption bit) and we decided to take a further look around the fisherman’s port area. After we’d had a couple of drinks back at Dodin, the very pleasant bar on the front, obvs.

Heading the other way from town takes one to the Port des Pêcheurs, the fishermen’s port. This is adjacent to the Grand Plage and delineated by a very picturesque stone bridge, which leads to a viewpoint back over the town.

It used to be a working fishing port, but is now the site of several eateries.

It would have been rude just to pass them all by, so we stopped for a late lunch at Le Corsaire. The area has some attractive corners as well.

The port is loomed over by the massive church of Saint Eugénie,

which was sadly closed for refurbishment. A shame; if the interior matches the exterior, it should be a seriously impressive place to visit.

After our visit to the port, it was time to get back to the hotel to review the day and plan the morrow. The Old Port lies beyond the Port des Pêcheurs and promises to be a rewarding place to wander around so that seems to be Plan A for our final full day in Biarritz. I hope you’d like to come back and see how we got on.



* Google the French for “lighthouse” if you are puzzled by this

4 thoughts on “Assumption about Biarritz

  1. Kate Burridge

    What gorgeous photos! I know more about Assumption Day than you will never want to know! As the kids say here, Biarritz is banging! (A great place to me, except tiny hotel rooms!).

      1. Peter Rae

        Enjoyed your Biarritz tales. I spent about two weeks there 61 years ago. I was supposed to stay for a month with my best friend from down the road in Dublin and his French family but got so homesick that my parents got me on an early flight home. I remember the beach, though, and the tuna fishermen, and the way the surfers mixed with the swimmers. My friend’s mum was hit in the face by a stray board, which cut a hole in her cheek… Lots of stitches. Not so happy days! Enjoy yourselves!


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