I admire and love both sides however I must say that I am quite biased in which side of Basque Country I would prefer to wine and dine in. Not only have I been to more French Basque towns, restaurants and bars than Spanish but my family has proud and strong French Basque roots.
The Basque Country is located in the western pyrenees spanning across the south western border of France and northern western border of Spain along the Atlantic coast. It is also one of my favourite places to visit especially Le Pays Basque (the French Northern Basque Country in the Aquitaine region of France). Le Pays Basque is where I have spent many summers as a child and I have many fond memories of my father’s family house in the quaint and beautiful town of Castets. My sister and I were given the opportunity or possibly forced into spending our summers at the local summer camp to learn French; many years later I can proudly say that those strenuous and never-ending French summer camps have enabled us to easily find our way to any toilet in any public space in France. Merci maman et papa!
Nowadays I aim to make it an annual summer trip. Of course this is highly dependent on whether I have the available funds to make it across the pond or how many pairs of shoes I had decided to purchase the year before! The region is known for cities like Bordeaux (wine country), Bilbao (home to the infamous Guggenheim museum) and Bayonne (Fete du Bayonne). However my last few stays have been in St Jean de Luz and Biarritz with special visits to Castets and Dax with an ever so often Tapas night out across the border in San Sebastian. So I will take you through each of these special towns that I know quite well and give you a taste on why you ought to make it an annual summer visit and even give me your opinion on why the Spanish side is perhaps better?
St Jean de Luz
This charming and picturesque sea-side town is approximately a half an hour drive from Biarritz and pretty near to the Spanish border. The past few summers spent in St Jean de Luz were perfect for a relaxing family vacation with the town’s wide sandy beaches, striking traditional Basque architecture (white façades marked by dark accents) and my favourite, its chic shopping areas. The shopping side of town is where you can find the best and most affordable Espadrilles and leather flats in the World! I have too many pairs, it is ridiculous. You can also buy some fashionable beach towels, whose style originated form Northern Africa. St Jean de Luz is also known as fishing port hence there is where we partook in a once in a lifetime event, “La Fete du Thon” i.e. the Tuna festival. The streets were filled with Basque music and dancing and best of all, tons of hot tuna steaks to go around.
Biarritz is a popular and luxurious seaside town and has become a prime destination for surfers from around the globe. This town hosts the annual Roxy pro event; a tournament that is a part of the ASP Women’s World Tour. Must see sights include La Grande Plage, Hotel du Palais and Sainte-Eugeine. One of my picks for restaurants is “le Surfing”; some of the best ceviche I have ever devoured. You can either tan all day on the beach (like the average frenchie) or buy some delicious ice-cream and chill near the beach (like the average me) or even take a stroll along the stunning coastline. This city has quite a lot to offer with its yummy restaurants, vibrant nightlife and surf based culture.
San Sebastian or Donostia
Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!
Oh how I do love the Tapas from San Sebastian. San Sebastian is known to have the most Michelin stars per square foot in the world. Its tapas called pintxos, which were originally from Andalucía, became perfected in San Sebastian. You can go any night of the week or weekend to the bars of the Old Quarter of the city and have a great and memorable experience with friends, family or a random you met on the streets of this classic Basque Spanish city. Make sure get a spot at these bustling bars, grab some pintxos and order as much sangria as your heart desires. The town has mile long beaches for any enticed surfer surround by beautiful and historic renaissance architecture and occupied with stylish outfits walking past you in every direction. The people, oh the people are very much fashionistas and absolutely gorgeous! No wonder this place is a fashion surfing haven.
Great food, Great Wine and Absolutely Great Shopping! This what you will find in the Basque Country!