Atlantik

Biarritz | France

CHARMING OCEAN-RESORT AND SURF HOT-SPOT

→ Whoever thinks Biarritz is a place for old ladies with little dogs is wrong…

…because this elegant seaside resort, that is located on the rough Atlantic Ocean, has been a hot-spot for surfing since the 60’s and offers great surfing conditions all year round. We quickly decide, this is the right place to be.

Having felt ill for a while, we check in at the hotel „La Regina“ to relax and recover for a few days. This beautiful and really impressive hotel in belle-époque style, that was built in 1907, takes you back in time and makes it seem that you are set at the beginning of the last century. The hotel is located a bit outside of the city center, elevated behind a stretch of cliffs and near the city’s lighthouse. Every day we enjoy the incredible view over the bay and watch the waves come in. This is the perfect spot to start the day, either for a walk to town or to the nearby beaches. In the early evenings, we enjoy some drinks at the impressive james-bond-like hotel bar and watch exciting European Cup football games.

Bar @ Sofitel MGallery Biarritz, FranceBar @ Sofitel MGallery Biarritz, France

A walk through Biarritz

We walk along the beach promenade toward the city center – the ocean and waves always in sight. We arrive at the city beach “Grande Plage” where the people of Biarritz and tourists sunbathe, beginners try their luck at the surf schools and locals show their skills in the roaring waves. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere while catching some sun during a light ocean breeze. We walk through old town of Biarritz past impressive mansions from the turn of the 20th century in typical Basque style architecture with colorful shutters – painted in azure blue, green, dark red. Every now and then we see local surfers walk through the middle of the town dressed in wetsuits and their surfboard under their arms – a big advantage to have a city with a perfect surf beach right in front of your doorstep. Once a fishermen’s village, Biarritz became the summer residence of empress Eugénie in the year 1854 and has since flourished to be a cozy but energetic ocean-resort with its unique French flair.

Grand Plage Biarritz, France

Grande Plage Biarritz, France

It is really worth a visit to the local market hall “Les Halles” in the center of the city. Every morning until early afternoon, a number of stands sell typical French and regional Basque food specialties, but also regional ceramics and clothes can be found. Once done with shopping at the market, we sit at one of the many bars, brasseries and restaurants around the market hall to get a typical Basque lunch and local wine, while observing the scene.

We continue to walk along the beach promenade and pass the small fishermen’s harbor with small local seafood restaurants that serve fresh catches of the day and, of course, oysters from the region. We reach the “Rocher de la Vièrge”, a cliff in the middle of the ocean surrounded by water, and enjoy the stunning panoramic view of Biarritz and the French and nearby Spanish coast. We end our tour at the wind protected beach “Plage du Port View” – also know as “Arena” – and simply enjoy the wonderful view over the beach and ocean.

Our tips in Biarritz:

  • Oyster-Restaurant „La Cabane á Huitre“ – Best restaurant for fresh oysters
  • Café & Brasserie „La Coupole“ – Great fresh oysters, drinks and local meals in the middle of Biarritz
  • Healthy Snack Bar „Beach Garden“ – Near the city beach “Grande Plage”. Try the delicious Gazpacho!
  • Seafood Restaurant „Chez Albert“ – Great seafood in the old fishermen’s harbor of Biarritz
  • Beach Bar „Etxola Bibi“ – On top of an elevation by the beach „Cote des Basques“ with an amazing view over the coast
  • Ceviche Bar & Restaurant „Saline Ceviche Bar“ – Very delicious fresh Ceviche in many variations
  • Organic Supermarket “L’Eau Vive”
  • Surf Shop „Rip Curl Bidart“ – a surf shop that has everything you need and carries a nice selection of pro boards
  • A real insider tip is to watch the sunsets on the cliffs right behind the lighthouse at the north end of Biarritz. Although the path to get there is closed off, the locals just climb over the barriers and so do we…enjoying a “bottle” of local red wine with an incredible sunset in front of us
  • Find our favorite beaches at the bottom of the page…

After a short surf session at the Grande Page, we have a healthy snack at the nearby snack bar “Beach Garden”. They offer fresh salads, sandwiches, bagels and a very delicious Gazpacho. This place is a great alternative if you have missed lunch, as most places don’t really serve good food (apart from French fries) after 14:30 or before 19:00 in the evenings.

Arena Plage Biarritz, France

Arena Plage Biarritz, France

Back to good health and full of energy, we take our VW California to spend a few day on the 5-Star campsite “Le Pavillion Royal” between Biarritz and the town Bidart. We are lucky to get one of the best spots on the site with an amazing view over the coastal landscape and ocean. The campsite is very well maintained, clean and has direct access to a very long beach stretch that is also a top spot for surfing. We spend some days to discover the nearby surf beaches and visit the beautiful little town “Saint-Jean-de-Luz”, where we have some incredible typical Basque seafood food for dinner. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to visit the world heritage city San Sebastian in nearby Spain, as we need to move on and head north toward the city Nantes.

On our way north, we stop at the famous and the largest European sand dune “Dune du Pilat”, which measures 118 meters in height and is 2.7km long. We underestimate the hike up the dune, but get rewarded by the stunning panoramic view over the ocean and the bay of Arcachon.  We watch the sailboats cruising along the horizon and the many paragliders that pass through the air only meters away from us – the dunes offer perfect thermic conditions and people from all over Europe come to enjoy hang-time at this awesome place.

→ Check out our next stop:  Nantes | France

Nantes | France

A CITY IN CULTURAL CHANGE

→ Creative, innovative, versatile, dynamic, young, modern…this wonderful city along the Loire-Delta – only 60km from the Atlantic Ocean – surprises in many ways. Actually, the future of Nantes did not look good at all with the fall of the shipyard industry in the 80’s and the consequent regional economic crisis and high unemployment rate. But Nantes managed the cultural change and these days many students, creative people and artists from all over the world call Nantes their home. We actually learn from a local, that Nantes and Bordeaux are the two current cities where young French people want to be.

In the early evening, we arrive at our Hotel “Oceana” in the middle of the city center at “Place Graslin”, where public cars are restricted. We don’t waste time and go straight to discover the city and walk through the lively streets with small restaurants, cafes, boutiques and bars. Very close to the hotel is the shopping mall “Pommeraye-Passage”, an architectural masterpiece from the 19th century, with beautifully decorated galleries over three floors – it counts as one of the nicest shopping malls in Europe, which we can now certainly confirm. Later in the evening we decide to have dinner right around the corner of the hotel at the restaurant “My Resto”; and we can only recommend this place for good fusion food.

Open air art

We start the next day with a typical French breakfast – Croissants, Pain au Chocolate and Coffee – at the traditional brasserie and restaurant “La Cigale”. This elegant art-nouverau-style brasserie from 1895, with beautiful wooden and ceramic art covering the walls and ceilings, is a landmark of the city and a place that everyone should visit. We start to explore Nantes with a visit to the city district “Bouffay” and the imposing city castle “Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne” from the 15th and 18th century. The historic museum gives a good impression of the beginnings of the city all the way until today’s metropolitan city and its uncomfortable past around slavery, the driver of the economic wealth in the 18th century.

The lovely park “Jardin des Plantes” is very close to the castle and is one of the 4 biggest botanic gardens in France. With 10.000 exotic and domestic plants and many little surprises like giggling mushrooms in a bed of flowers or an oversized park bench, make this city park a small gem and a must see for all visitors.

Art installation "Nymphe", Nantes France

Art installation “Nymphe”, Nantes France

A short visit to the former cookie factory LU “Le Lieu Unique”, which today offers plenty of space for the creative, art exhibitions and shows, a book store, bar and restaurant and even an oriental Hammam. My personal highlight: after nightfall, projectors show the image of young woman – “Nymphe” or “Sirene” – on the surface of the water in the adjacent canals…purely ingenious, fascinating and somehow magical.

“Le Grand Éléphant” – The trademark of Nantes

Most of the following day we spend in the city district “Ile de Nantes”, the old harbor and industrial area of Nantes that has developed into a dynamic, cultural and creative center of the city. A number of bars, cafes and exhibition areas have established along the quayside. A large recreational area was created for the young and the old to spend their day and the large old cranes remind of the shipbuilding days. We explore the rather large area with bicycles, which can be rented at automated stations at many places around the whole city. A real highlight is the encounter of a huge mechanical elephant that slowly walks around the area, escorted by an excited audience on its side. Many other mechanical wooden and metal sculptures, that were created with the inspiration of the novels by Jules Verne, can be seen at the museum “Machines de L’Ile” and at the fascinating carousel “Carrousel des Mondes Marins” is certainly worth a visit. People can actually ride or fly on some of the machines including the elephant. I have the pleasure of riding on a giant ant and Jan joins the fun on a huge spider.

After two amazing days in such an inspiring and exciting city, we must continue our journey. But we will return, as we have not nearly had enough of this great place.

→ Check out our next stop: Corsica & Sardinia