Beaches

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

Cascais | Portugal

ELEGANT SEASIDE RESORT WITH MARITIME FLAIR

→ Because it is close to Lisbon, Cascais, that has great beaches and breathtaking cliffs along the shore, is the perfect weekend escape for the people of Lisbon. So we decide to do the same and take a few days to relax by the sea.

After visiting the old town of Cascais, we rent some single-speed beach bikes and ride to Guincho Beach – not so easy with heavy headwinds on the single-speed bike. It is extremely windy on the beach and the waves seem to be huge, but these are apparently best conditions for the local kitesurfers and windsurfers. As it would be impossible to surf, we take a hike through the dunes right behind the beach.

On the next day, we explore the region around Cascais: “Cabo da Roca” – the most western point of Europe – and the impressive “Palacio Nacionla da Pena” in Sintra, which is considered the Castle Neuschwanstein of Portugal.

Highly recommended is a visit to “Casa da Guia Cascais” at the exit of the town toward Guincho Beach. On the quiet premises of this antique villa, you will find a number of small shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants. We have a delicious lunch in a very comfortable atmosphere and great views of the ocean at the restaurant “Grelhas” (the fish soup is just awesome).

We need to move on and, unfortunately, won’t have enough time to see everything such as the famous surf paradise “Ericeira” and the walk to the magnificent beach “Praia da Ursa”. Cascais, we will be back!

→ Check out our next stop: Porto & Douro Valley

→ Check out our next stop: Porto & Douro Valley

West Algarve | Portugal

SAGRES: SUN, BEACH & SURF

→ We reach Sagres in the South of Portugal. With more than 30 fantastic and scenic beaches in close proximity – almost each one is ideal for surfing – making Sagres a real surfers paradise in Europe. Yet the atmosphere is friendly and quiet. Apart from a number of surf shops, bars, cafés and restaurants, there is not much else than sun, beaches and great waves. It’s all about kicking back and relaxing!

Our daily morning-routine is: Espresso and Pastel de Nata at the café of the “Mareta Beach Boutique Hotel” and wave scouting at Sagres’ best surf spots: Mareta, Tonel and Beliche. Even though Sagres is a small, quiet secluded fishermen’s village on the far southwest part of Europe, you can get great food – especially fresh fish that comes straight from the fisher boats in the harbor of Sagres. Our favorite place for fish is the “Restaurante Zavial” directly on the beautiful beach “Zavial”. The owners and siblings Ivo and Neuza (the mom is the chef) are great boogie boarders and have won several international contests (you can see them on amazing photos on the walls of the restaurant).

Some tips for food around Sagres:

  • Pizza Mobile– small pizza place that also offers gluten free pizza in Salema
  • Three Little Birds – a surfer bar that offers great drinks, burgers, sandwiches & snacks
  • Restaurante O Lourenço – small but fine restaurant that offers a great selection of fresh fish and seafood
  • Chiringuito Last Chance – small café with a terrace and great view over Mareta beach that offers coffee, drinks, tapas and snacks

→ Check out our next stop: Lisbon

→ Check out our next stop: Lisbon

Andalusia | Spain

THE WILD SOUTH OF SPAIN

→ Off to Cabo de Gata! Our local friend Frank – a German Spain emigrant and who has a passion for paragliding – gives us the best tips for the south of Spain and we drive to Agua Amarga, a really small coastal village in the middle of a natural reserve. It is pre-season and the atmosphere is authentic and purely relaxing, as every traveler would wish for: the beautiful beaches are nearly empty, the locals very welcoming and lively. Guests eat on the verandas and terraces of the few restaurants in town, kids play football on the local marketplace and the youth of Aqua Amarga celebrates and dances to Flamenco on the streets in front of bars and pubs. And we?…are in the middle of it all, are amazed by the life that we see and enjoy the seemingly unreal moments. We spend a few days to relax and stay in a small apartment of the hotel “Real Villas Agua Amarga”. We enjoy the sun and the Spanish cuisine and take a number of excursions around the natural reserve of Cabo da Gata – among others, we visit the beaches “Cala los Muertos” and “Cala Enmedio” and we can only highly recommend to drive along the mountain and coastal roads to the the small fishermen’s’ villages “Las Negras” and “Isleta del Moro” in the south.

On our way to our next destination Marbella, we visit our friend Frank and his girlfriend Isabella in Alhaurin El Grande that lies in the mountains and backcountry of Malaga. But before we arrive, we have a tasty lunch – catch of the day, variations of seafood and tapas – in the beach restaurant “La Sardinia” in the beach town La Herradura. Following lunch, we head toward Alhaurin along pretty steep and curvy mountain roads. We pass the beautiful white mountain village Mijas with fantastic views over Malaga, the Mediterranean and Gibraltar in the far south. In the evening, we are welcomed by Frank and Isa in their Finca in the middle of nature on a hill and a great view over the valley just outside of Alhaurin. We have some tee and beer (Jan loves beer) until late into the night and speak about life in Spain, traveling and paragliding.

Ronda

Ronda

Marbella’s charming historic center

The next day we arrive in Marbella and despite the many large hotel complexes built around the city, the old-town is charming. The beach promenade between Puente Romano Beach Club and Marbella Beach Club is definitely worth a visit. We spend some wonderful days in a small AirBnB Apartment in the heart of the really beautiful Marbella old-town. From there we explore the neighborhood and the region such as “Ronda” and “Granada” to see the world famous Alhambra fortress that was built by the Moors.

A couple of nice places for food in Marbella:

  • Restaurant Casa Tua: a small cozy restaurant in the middle of Marbella’s old town with superb Italian cuisine
  • El Estrecho: great traditional tapas bar in the old-town of Marbella, hidden in a small alley, that serves simple traditional but delicious tapas and great local wine
  • Restaurant Paella’s y mas: typical authentic Andalusian kitchen including Paella, seafood and Spanish steaks
  • Rachel´s Organic Eco Love Food at Punta Romano Resort: cute Café that serves healthy food, smoothies and refreshments right at the hotel’s pool
  • Celicioso: comfortable Café and own gluten-free bakery and tasty snacks, salads, smoothies not far from the beach
  • Organic Market & Food: Restaurant & Café with healthy and delicious meals, snacks, smoothies and small items, fruits and vegetables in an integrated organic shop

We leave Marbella with destination Portugal and drive via the most southern point of Spain that lies only miles before Africa (Morocco). The beach “Playa de los Lances Tarifa” is famous for best Kitesurfing conditions – we see hundreds of kitesurfers and are amazed about the pure action in the heavy wind and wild waves. Before heading to Portugal, we spend a couple of days in Conil de la Frontera (Cadiz) and its famous surf beach “El Palmar”.

→ Check out our next stop: West Algarve

→ Check out our next stop: West Algarve

Saint-Tropez | France

GLAMPING” – WE ARE PART OF A TREND

→ We arrive the region of Saint-Tropez in the South of France and stay on one of the nicest camping sites in Europe – “Camp du Domaine” right at the ocean in the small village Bormes-les-Mimosas – 5-star deluxe camping right at the ocean (“Glamping” = glamorous camping). Since it is low season, we are lucky to get a first-row spot right at the beach with a view over a scenic bay. Our first experience sleeping in our VW California in between many hardcore campers is nicer than expected and we even decide to extend our stay at this spotless and cozy campsite.

We take a few days to explore the region and because it is low season, we see everything from its true and authentic side without any mass-tourism – Saint-Tropez is just adorable at this time of year. We walk along the harbor, drink espresso in the traditional and prominent café “Senequier” and gaze at the people walking by and the super expensive Yachts that lie along the harbor. If you are lucky, you may see the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot. We then walk through the beautiful streets and old-town with numerous boutiques. You can find really nice bikinis, men’s swimming shorts and beach towels in my favorite shop “Kiwi”. We allow ourselves some calories and have a super delicious “Tarte Tropizienne” that we enjoy at twilight on a bench on the central marketplace, where old and young locals meet to play Boule.

Jet Set not required

Our next trip takes us to the small but picturesque villages Grimaud and Ramatuelle that lie on small hills surrounded by a scenic landscape just behind Saint-Tropez. The villages are just lovely and we spend hours walking through the small streets with cozy restaurants, cafés and art galleries. On the way back, we take a short stop at the famous Vineyard “Minuty” and buy a few bottles of Rosé for comfortable evenings that lie ahead.

One unforgettable experience is our coastal hike just outside Saint-Tropez from “Plage de L’Escalet” going south-west to “Plage de Gigaro”. The path takes us along the coast through a green and rocky landscape, past white dunes and sandy beaches in small bays – it is just spectacular. After a few hours hiking, we get a well-deserved dinner at “Couleurs Jardin”, a comfortable restaurant right on the beach with superb kitchen.

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona