So the Basque country Easter surf trip rolls on and this time we hit Biarritz and beyond…
Biarritz is at the heart of the French corner of the Basque country and is a blend of French, Spanish and Basque culture and tradition. Great wine, great food, friendly locals and a real surf culture which has been expanding ever since a couple of Californian surfers first hit Biarritz’s Côte des Basques in 1956. La Côte des Basques itself is a beautiful big bay with the advantage of lots of space to surf, good facilities including showers year round (useful for those living in a van) and nearby cafes, (personal favourite – the outdoors Cent Marches at the top of the stairs overlooking the bay). It is simply a great spot for surfers and non-surfers alike. Having said that, although surfing is good at the reasonably sheltered Cote, particularly for longboarders, don’t miss out on the rest that the Pays Basque has to offer.
Leaving the world famous Hossegor to one side for now, immediately to the north of Biarritz there is the surf town of Anglet. Okay, so it may not be just a surf town but I’ve never been there for anything else! Anglet’s beachbreaks tend to be a bit heavier than the Biarritz beaches and offer a higher chance of spending some time in the green room. Head to La Chambre d’Amour – if anyone knows a better beach name in the world, the drinks are on me – stuff your face with a Basque taloa and find your spot to surf. All the spots are close by, although during the summer months it’s best to get around on a scooter due to difficult parking. One of the best spots is the Plage des Corsaires – the place to check out if everywhere is flat or if you fancy some real quality waves or tube time – although soul surfing this is not as this place gets ultra competitive and crowded when it’s on. Go for the VVF if you fancy something a bit more tranquil in Anglet.
The great thing about spending time surfing around Biarritz is that if the surf goes flat or if you are travelling with your non-surfing partner, then there is still plenty to do. Basque life has a certain joie de vivre and so food and drink is quite important. But there is more than just wine – so what are my top things to do when the surf goes flat in Biarritz/Anglet?
- Visit Bayonne. It is a beautiful little historic town that is often overlooked by surfers as there aren’t any waves on offer. The old part of the town (Petit Bayonne) buzzes with students on a Thursday night and I’d recommend the Cidrerie called ‘Ttipia’ to anyone who wants to sample Basque cuisine – all at one sitting. Start with a Basque omelette, move on to the ‘merlu’ fish, then a great tender ‘cote de boeuf’ and finish with some cheese. Oh, and don’t forget the homemade cider which is unlimited and which you serve yourself from the traditional barrels. It’s only 29 euros for the lot – unbelievable value and a week’s worth of food!
- Visit Guethary and Bidart – these two villages just to the south of Biarritz offer lots of authentic Basque architecture, as well as a great wooden beachside terrace where you can watch the surf. Note of warning – may swarm with tourists in peak summer months as much as anywhere.
- Check out ‘La Cité de l’Océan et du Surf’ just past the Milady beach. A new museum dedicated to surf and the ocean ? Sounds awesome. Trouble is, despite all the money splashed on the project (including over 500,000 euros on the sculpture outside), it is pretty empty on the inside. Nonetheless, La Cité has some cool things and the architecture is definitely cool..
- Finally, if you are really bored, you can move on to the other side of the border and visit San Sebastian – which is where this road trip is heading now!
So don’t forget to check out the next installment as I go deeper into the heart of the Basque country!
Hope to see you again…