Tag Archives: France

Last day in Biarritz

Monday 14 August 2023 – There’s nothing like not having a choice to direct one’s thinking, and we found that now having a greater understanding of the hotel’s limitations enabled us to arrange things so we had a more comfortable night and a less jaundiced view of the accommodation. (The night was cooler, which helped a lot.) Actually, within what’s possible in such a sharply delinited space, it’s about as good as it could be, and it’s certainly in a very convenient location.

Today was our last full day in Biarritz, and we had only explored the area north of the hotel in our time here so far. So we went for a walk. in the other direction. Obviously.

There were still plenty of people about, but the town and beach were nowhere near as crowded as yesterday.

We made our way past the stone bridge, which was very uncrowded;

not surprising, given that it was closed for maintenance. The road carries on past a pair of good views back over the Port des Pêcheurs

and one enters a network of paths round the headland, leading to the aquarium and the Rock of the Virgin Mary.

The rock owes its name to the statue of the Virgin Mary looking out to sea from the top of the rock; you can just about make out the statue in the photo above. The statue was erected in 1865. Legend has it that fishermen from the port of Biarritz were caught in a “terrible storm” (is there any other sort?) while out at sea hunting whales. A divine light guided them back to port and the survivors erected a statue of the Virgin Mary in gratitude.

Napoleon III decided to cut a tunnel through the rock and had a bridge built to make it accessible from the seafront. The first wooden bridge did not withstand the onslaught of the sea, so, in 1887, Gustave Eiffel was instructed to design a metal bridge, which still stands today.

Sadly, as we discovered,

it was closed today, whilst men used hammers and other serious tools on it.

Looking over the beach of the old port, now called La Petite Plage, is a very pleasant view, with a striking building on the right, more of which later. Importantly, though, Jane spotted something of significance just below that building – a Bar, which we decided It Was Time For.

Walking round the cove gives a good view over it from above the central building,

and the bar, the Eden Rock Café, gives a nice view over the beach as well.

There are steps down to the water from the café, and it seems that if you decide to climb over the gate and go down them and start drowning in the huge waves, someone with a helicopter will come and rescue you, which is decent of them.

After refreshing ourselves, we carried on round the coast, past that striking building.

It shows one How The Other Half Live.  If it were mine, I’d call it a castle, but no, it’s a Villa, the Villa Belza.  Just along the road there’s a bend where watching the surfers is clearly something of a spectator sport.

The waves here weren’t as dramatic as we saw in front of the town itself yesterday, but there was clearly some fun to be had

even if the inevitable end of it was to crash ignominiously into the water. You have to admire the persistence, stamina and skill of these people even as you question their sanity. At least on skis one can coast to a dignified halt outside a bar.

We walked along the front a little, and then found a path up the cliff, which offered a variety of view back over the Villa Belza, of which this is my favourite.

Then we headed inland towards the centre of the town, where there was a market area called the Halles de Biarritz, which Jane thought would be worth nosing around.

The central halls were surrounded by market stalls on the adjacent roads,

and – ooh look! There’s a tapas bar! There, on the right!

This place runs a surprisingly large number of outside tables from just this small interior and they do a fine tapas selection, which we discovered through sampling.

We then headed back to the hotel, through the streets,

past the (modest but pleasant) Jardin Publique,

more fine buildings

and the very handsome façade of the old railway terminus,

now just the frontage for an event space.

As we’d been walking around, I noticed that there were some cute little buslets in operation.

and I even managed to get a shot of one being taught how to navigate by its mother.

And so we arrived back at the hotel, via a couple more pleasant street scenes.

It’s been a pleasure walking around such a handsome town.

After something of a siesta at the hotel, we went out again, as Jane had discovered that there was an evening market at the Port de Pêcheurs. We partook of refreshment en route, once again at the excellent Dodin bar at the back of the casino, where we once again saw the cabaret of the lifeguard station being put to bed.

The night market was a reasonably small affair within the carparking area of the port.

It didn’t have anything to offer that we were interested in, and once again, the queue for Casa Juan Pedro was at Café Opera levels.

That place must be extraordinary to attract the queues it does. Sadly, we will never find out why.

There was a bit of cabaret going on at one corner of the market, and it turned out to be a troupe of three guys wowing the crowds with some acrobatics.  We missed them at the market, but when we climbed up to the Place Saint Eugénie, there they were again. They were quite impressive, so I grabbed some video {and gave them a small contribution in return).

Our return to the hotel involved buying an ice cream and watching the sunset, alongside a load of other people.  The sunset was quite nice, as these things go

but went completely unnoticed by the bunch of beachcombers on the beach below, hopefully scanning for any valuables that might have been dropped by tourists during the day.

The final act of the day was rather lovely – a candlelit parade with some very good singing passed the hotel, marking the Assumption.

Tomorrow, we leave Biarritz for St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Well, I hope we do; we’re rather dependent upon the driver organised by WalkTheCamino being able to find the hotel. Check back on these pages in a day or so and you’ll find out whether we made it OK.  For now, It’s Time For The Bed, I Think.

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

Puttin’ on Biarritz

Saturday 12 August 2023 – The Adventure Begins!

There are several adventurous aspects to our peregrination, not the least of which is that I don’t have a laptop with me for editing the photos, as I thought the potential for losing it as we traverse Spain was unacceptably high. So, I have an Android tablet for the writing and Snapseed for editing the photos. Let’s see how the images come out.

Getting The Right Tea was another.

The mileage we have to achieve is, of course, the main one. You’ll have to wait to see how we cope with that.

Anyway, our departure from the UK started smoothly enough, with a comfortable, if traffic-beset taxi ride from leafy Surrey to, erm, Essexy Essex (to avoid a stressful morning journey to catch the flight, we’re staying overight at the Stansted airport Radisson Blu). It seemed that The Only Way To Essex was anticlockwise round the M25, and since we were doing that on a Friday afternoon there was quite a bit of congestion. But our driver, who was of southern Asian extraction and who identified himself to us under the unintuitive name of Timmy, was very engaging and we had  discussions about faiths (starting from us talking about the Camino as being originally a pilgrimage route) and various aspects of his health, where I feel we were able to make some practical suggestions. The 90-minute journey actually took three hours, but we weren’t in a rush so that didn’t matter.

The hotel has a very splendid atrium with the bar in the middle being called the “Wine Tower” for, it would seem, a good reason.

Sadly, its attendant cabaret – someone being hoisted acrobatically up to retrieve wine bottles – is no longer in action.  Jane and I have seen a similar tower elsewhere, but we can’t remember exactly where. We do agree, though, that it was likely somewhere more exotic than Essex. The hotel itself is a slightly odd mixture of modern and faded – the room, for example, featured both USB and and LAN sockets, and I haven’t used an RJ45 ethernet cable in a hotel for decades. But it was comfortable and provided the necessary food and drink, with a decent breakfast.

If one lives west of London, as we do, there has to be a compelling reason to fly from Stansted. Ours was a desire to spend a couple of pre-Camino relaxing days in Biarritz, which is a name redolent of French decadence (the finest kind) and a location reasonably close to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which will be the starting point of our peregrination. And if the question is “how does one fly from London to Biarritz?”, the answer is “by Ryanair from Stansted”. It’s a liberal interpretation of London’s location, but, on the basis that it was the only option, we decided to go for it. If Stansted is good enough for Harry Kane, it’s good enough for us.

Having never experienced the airport, our transit through Stansted was sufficient to confirm our opinion of what it would be like, which is thoroughly functional – effecive but with few concessions to ambience. It’s perfectly clean and safe but everywhere you look in the departures area there are queues; I think Stansted is the place where queues go to die. The middle third of the terminal, the Ryanair bit, was a striking exemplar of the genus. One had a choice of two queues, both of which were huge.  We chose the one for the self-scan bag drop, which wound round several kilometres within the building, but, to be fair, it moved swiftly and it took barely 20 minutes for us to check our bags in.

Security threatened to be a big queue, but we’d paid for Fast Track, so it wasn’t actually too bad. Finally, with a single bound, we were free and headed off through the duty free area, which, according to my Garmin device, stretched over a quarter of a mile, until we could finally sit down with a Glass Of Something. Sadly, this respite was cut short by the Ryanair app on Jane’s phone telling us that we really needed to head to gate 47 in order to board the flight. Once comfortably established there, we were told that, actually, sorry, haha, they meant Gate 45, so we all moved there in order to stand in another queue before they let us into the jetway, where there was another queue

before we filed along the jetway to another queue on the tarmac

whilst we waited for them to let us on to the aircraft. All in all it was a bit trying, but we departed only about 30 minutes late, and timing wasn’t critical, so we just let it happen. When we arrived, it was a delight to discover that our bags had made exactly the same journey as we had. But possibly with rather less queuing.

Our hotel, Le Petit Hôtel, distinguished itself by being rejected as a reasonable destination by the first taxi driver in the line outside the airport, Perhaps he was just objecting to the fact that we were strangers, I don’t know. The last laugh is on him, because he’s clearly the foreigner. Fortunately, the second in line felt able to take our business and dropped us off as near to the hotel as he could.

Which is not outside it, but quite close.

The hotel is exactly as described on the tin, i.e. small. Actually, it’s more of a bed-and-breakfast. However, it looks comfortable enough and it is very well situated for the centre of this particular ville; our room looks out over the old casino building.

So, having arrived in Biarritz, what to do? Go for a walk. Obviously.

With apologies to Irving Berlin (if you don’t know the original song, then skip lightly over the italics section):

Have you seen the great to-do
Up near Londres Avenue?
On that foreign thoroughfare
Just arrived by RyanAir

“Hi, there, we’re pilgrim heroes,
Just need to get some Euros.
Then seek gins with lime
For a wonderful time.”

If you’re blue, and you don’t know where to go to
Why don’t you laugh at these two Brits
Doin’ Biarritz?

Come with me and read about their long journey
Walking to Spain;  these two nitwits
Start in Biarritz.

I find it amusing that the film in which this song was featured was called “Idiot’s Delight”. It starred Clark Gable, so of course I identify strongly with it.


We went out to explore Biarritz, and a delightful place it is, too. It has faded from the glory of its pomp as a place where posh people go, but it’s easy to see why it retains some of its magic. Somehow it manages to get away with the tacky beach vibe (multi-coloured tat in the beachside shops)

alongside dignified – expensive – cocktail bars on the prom

and a wide selection of eateries all over the place, One of them was just about to open and was clearly The Place To Be.

(This reminded me of the queue outside Cafe Opera in Stockholm, in the bad old days of the 1980s when it was the most popular queue in the city.)

We sampled a creperie and a cocktail bar whilst taking a look at the bits of the town near us.

It’s clearly an interesting place and we’re looking forward to exploring it in more detail over the next couple of days before we go down to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to start our walking.

But now it’s late at night and I’ve been struggling with the hotel’s WiFi to write this, so I’m headed for bed after a long, but absorbing day.  Please come back soon and I hope I will have more for you about this interesting old town.