with tips for cycling & hiking
As we wandered around the bay we came across a fete with tables set out,music playing and dancing- simple stuff, good food and wine and what the French are so good at doing and more amazing was after being a little nosy and basically just wanting to enjoy the music and dancing we were invited to join in.
The fishing port area is particularly attractive before you enter the main town with its many restaurants, bars and bakeries with the Gateau Basque prominent as a reminder that this is the Pays Basque area .
You continue walking up to the cliffs on the far side with good views over the bay.. Even in September the town was still buzzing being circled by the approaching thunderstorms but these remaining out to sea until we had returned to the campsite.
There is a ferry which crosses the bay but we missed it by minutes so a not unpleasant walk ensued but in reality it is only a couple miles around the bay and it is very picturesque.
In the opposite direction you can walk to Hendaye on the Sentier Littoral which stretches 16 miles from Bidart to the north of St Jean de Luz to Hendaye on the Spanish border. We were well positioned roughly equidistant and the attractive walk into Hendaye follows the cliff tops- the area designated the Corniche Basque and though in sections you are following the road there are sufficient parts of it where you deviate off.
The walk will take you about 2.5 hours but the good news is that we included lunch in our trip, at the first restaurant on the beach - a simple meal of a mixed fish salad starter and grilled fish main for the princely sum of 12 euros with a balcony view overlooking a beach to die for.
To make this town more accessible by walking we decided to move a few miles up the road to Yelloh Village Ilbarritz.
As you can guess from the name this is a large commercial site and it was not on the top of my list. You could not fault the facilities and it is well laid out with 2 superb swimming pools, restaurant takeaway etc but there was a certain lack of attention to detail regarding the upkeep of the sanitary block, one toilet remained uncleaned all day and there was an absence of soap in the dispensers.
Perhaps I had a downer from the start as it took me over 30 minutes to book in. The main reason for this I think, was that I had to tell reception what pitch I wanted and the ones she said were free were not, primarily because I had arrived before their 12.00 changeover, this seemed to cause confusion and also bearing in mind that normally in off peak in most sites, they just leave you to drive down and find a pitch.
On the plus side this site is ideally positioned for visiting Biarittz, about 3 miles away, and despite contrary advice and a shock of horror when we said that we wanted to walk, it is possible at low tide to walk all the way along the beaches and esplanades into the town. (There is a bus service)
This takes you into the old atmospheric port area with its fish restaurants and where you will see old guys sitting around chatting and smoking their gauloises, as they have probably been doing for centuries.
You continue to follow around until you come to the chic beach area and its casino and the celebrated Hotel du Palais.
Climb up from the beach at the far end to the lighthouse for views over the town and across the estuary to Bayonne.
Biarittz has always had a reputation for a stylish resort popularised by Napoleon 111 with his palace now the upmarket Hotel du Palais and much loved by British Royalty Queen Victoria and Edward VII; the Spanish royalty as well patronised the resort. Today tourism is a prime activity.
Next to Biarritz is the equally stylish resort of St Jean de Luz with its superb beaches and sheltered bay and like Biarittz its original wealth was dependent on the sea, with whaling a prominent activity. Today like Biarittz tourism is the key activity and the town is a haven for retirees though there is still a very active fishing industry. Outside of the hustle and bustle of the main summer tourist period this area is delightful, traffic does tend to clog it up in the peak periods. Moreover the surrounding coastal area, particularly towards Hendaye has been spared commercial development.
Regarding the exploration of this area in relation to the La Vélodyssée we cheated as we walked rather than cycling.
Our first stopover was at Camping Juantcho at Socoa, overlooking St Jean de Luz, a two star site with older facilities and terraced pitches with a designated area for motor homes and motor home service facilities. We loved this site.
A ten minute walk from the back of the site into the village Ciboure with its Carrefour and bakers was ideal and was ideally positioned to walk around the bay into St Jean de Luz.