Palaces, Pilgrims, and Paprika
The French Basque Country in the extreme southwest of France has a cult following not only because of its extraordinary sounding language and the delicious paprika spice “Piment d'Espelette”. It also comes up trumps in the numerous small towns and villages with buildings, alleys, and squares steeped in history that look as if they are straight from a painting. Edelweiss shows you the most beautiful views around Biarritz.
Colossus From the Past
Bayonne (Baiona) is a mere quarter of an hour away from Biarritz. You don't have to look far to find the city's very special gem: The 70-metre-high towers of the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie de Bayonne overlook all other buildings and show you the way, as they did for pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Built in the 13th and 14th centuries by hand, using only the simplest of tools, the church still holds priceless treasures from the past. A special eye-catcher: The colourful windows with Renaissance paintings.
Very close to Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Donibane Lohizune) is the Château d’Urtubie. This little chateau, with its round towers and domed roofs, rust-red shutters and ivy-covered walls, is considered by visitors to be a must-see place when discovering the Basque Country. Little secret tip: Stay at the chateau hotel. Anyone who spends a night in the 4-poster solid wood bed overlooking the park is guaranteed to feel like a prince or princess the next morning.
To the attentive visitor, Espelette (Ezpeleta) - about 30 minutes from Biarritz - reveals a fascinating sight no later than September: The facades and balconies of the distinctive red-and-white half-timbered cottages are then decorated with paprika garlands. Intrigued about what this extravagant decoration is all about? The village is famous for the cultivation of paprika, also known as Piment d'Espelette. Traditionally, it is used to give a Basque chicken dish a proper kick. In principle, however: season to taste!
The garden of Villa Arnaga is reminiscent of Versailles with its futuristic straightness, geometrically shaped shrubs and trees, and bubbling fountains. Even though the villa and park in the village of Cambo-les-Bains (Kanbo), 30 kilometres southeast of Biarritz, with its 6,000 inhabitants, have a very different history from the main residence of the French kings, they can certainly compete with the grand palace in terms of beauty and elegance. The French writer Edmond Rostand built a villa and garden at the beginning of the 20th century and demonstrated exquisite taste not only outdoors: In the house's 19 rooms, you can stroll from one picturesque mural to the next on the finest parquet flooring.
Small Village With Loads of Charm
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donibane Garazi) is only an hour’s drive from Biarritz and is the last French station of the Way of St. James pilgrim route Via Podiensis. In the small village with just over 1,500 inhabitants, you will not only meet many interesting people, but also enjoy many picturesque postcard motifs. No wonder it was named one of the most beautiful villages in France a few years ago. Follow the Rue de la Citadelle, whose pinkish-grey and reddish-white houses have stood the test of time since the 16th century. Once you’ve made it to the top of the citadel, you’ll be rewarded with the best view of this idyllic village.
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