20 Sept 2013

Postcard from the Pays Basque | Six spots to visit

I'm back to tell you more about the Pays Basque, and for this second and final post, I'm sharing with you the six places I liked the most during the holiday, as well as some more photos of the region. Hope you enjoy!

La Rhune
On our first day in the Pays Basque, we hiked up a mountain. A small mountain, alright, but still. We don't hike in the family, ever. Turns out it was really fun (at least for me, less so for my very much afraid of heights brother and my "oh my God this was a terrible idea" mother), and I felt incredibly proud when reaching the top! Just remember to bring a bottle of water PER PERSON (right mum?) and wear good shoes.
For non-crazy people, there is an old train going up and down the mountain. From the top, you can see all of the valley, with the Pyrenees on one side and the sea on the other... well, that's if it's sunny. By the time we got to the top, it was so foggy you could barely see 5 metres ahead of you! A must-do in the area.


Spa Makila
This holiday was originally my parents and brother's golf holiday, and I decided to tag along on the promise of beach afternoons while they golfed... and a Spa day! One of the golf they picked had a Spa so I got to do a hammam/sauna/jacuzzi session (possibly the best 45 minutes of my life) followed by an an hour and a half long face and body massage + treatment (definitely the best 45+ minutes of my life.) If you're ever in the area, I'd definitely recommend it. The place is lovely with a great view on the golf courses from the jacuzzi, and the treatment left my skin at its very best. I don't know if it's related or not, but for the first time in my life, I came home after a holiday with a tan...

Saint-Jean-de-Luz botanical gardens
After walking around the market and the town centre = doing the typical touristey things in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, we opted for something a bit different. We headed for the botanical gardens, which turned out to be a fantastic choice! The gardens are beautiful, peaceful and quiet, full of plants unknown to the public... and it has a beautiful view upon the ocean. A refreshing oasis away from the busyness of summer holidays!


La Plancha d'Ilbarritz
I mentioned this restaurant already in the previous blog post because it was AMAZING. We chose this place on a recommendation from our host at the guest house and the whole family agreed it was like, the best decision ever. The restaurant is by the seaside, directly overlooking the bay, making it super popular to tourists and locals alike. No reservations, so v busy, but there is a nice outdoors bar with cocktails (A+ frozen margarita!) to help you wait. And then you feast. Plancha grilling is obviously this place's speciality, so you'll get to try piquillos (small peppers), chipirons (baby squid), chorizo, rib steaks and all kinds of fish grilled a la plancha. I'll say this again: best fish EVER. It had garlic crisps, man, garlic crisps! Stereotypically French maybe, but what can I say, I do love garlic.

La Plancha d'Ilbarritz, Bidart

Another fantastic restaurant, this one being the best we found to try typical local recipes and products in a traditional setting; plus, it was in Espelette, a town nationally famous as it is where they grow the Espelette pepper. The staff was über friendly, the menu had no end, but mostly the dishes were flavoursome and generous, and I felt that this was the place we visited the most representative of the Pays Basque. Not high end cuisine, but hearty and moreish!


Biarritz fireworks
Finally, I have to mention the "Nuit Féérique" fireworks in Biarritz. August 15 is a national holiday in France and most towns traditionally celebrate with fireworks of some sort. Biarritz's have the reputation to be exceptional, and they were! If you ever have the opportunity to see them, definitely go and get stunned by the beautiful spectacle of the fireworks blowing up on both side of the bay and illuminating the Grande Plage. Splendid!

Aaaan this concludes my postcard from the Pays Basque! I hope you enjoyed this little trip in South-Western France and that I made you think about planning a trip to see its beautiful sights. I'm now back in London, and after a summer of travelling... I just want to leave again! 

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