Food and Travel (UK) - - City Breaks -

Surfer chic vibes, ex­em­plary French Basque cui­sine and art deco al­lure make a sum­mer so­journ to this southerly sea­side city es­sen­tial, says James Wil­liams

Why go? A pop­u­lar re­sort since the days of Napoleon III, this cor­ner of south-west France has long drawn vis­i­tors to its heal­ing wa­ters. High-tech spas may have sup­planted a dip in the At­lantic for some, but this is still a place to re­lax and enjoy the odd thrill. Biar­ritz is where surf­ing first ar­rived in Europe and thousands still flock to ride the waves. Oth­ers sim­ply throw dice in the fa­mous casino. On 15 August, the city plays host to one of France’s most spec­tac­u­lar fire­work dis­plays on Grande Plage.

What to do Start where the ac­tion is on the long, breezy prom­e­nade, tak­ing a lazy stroll down to the Casino casi­nos­bar­ with its gl­itzy Twen­ties fa­cade. Stretch­ing as far as the eye can see is the wide, sandy Grande Plage. Take your pick from the iconic stripy tents for hire or un­furl your towel at one of the other five beaches. Con­tinue south past the old fish­ing port, Port des Pêcheurs, to the art deco Aquar­ium de Biar­ritz aquar­i­umbiar­ where you can mar­vel at the seven species of shark and gather round for the seal feed­ing dis­plays. Op­po­site, walk along a rocky spur to the Rocher de la Vierge, with sweep­ing views be­neath a statue of the Vir­gin Mary. Drop down to the fam­ily-friendly cove of Plage Port Vieux or round the head­land to La Côte des Basques, the city’s best spot for rid­ing waves. Book a les­son at a surf school or watch oth­ers bat­tle the rollers in one of the city’s surf tour­na­ments. Nearby, drop in to the stun­ning Cité de l’Océan cit­ede­lo­ for a vir­tual re­al­ity surf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with ki­netic sen­sors read­ing your bal­ance as you cut your way through the dizzy­ing Bel­harra wave or the per­fect tube of Mun­daka. Back in town, sat­isfy your senses at Les Halles mar­ket halles-biar­ and sam­ple Bay­onne ham, bright-red Espelette pep­pers and the lo­cal oys­ters.

Where to stay Hô­tel du Palais ho­ was built as a villa for Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie upon the dunes of the Grande Plage. It’s a glam­orous ad­dress, with a great location and ex­cel­lent restau­rant. An en­dur­ing sym­bol of the town’s hey­day, this land­mark has a sculpted pool and el­e­gant rooms. A stone’s

Travel in­for­ma­tion

Cur­rency is the euro. Biar­ritz is one hour ahead of GMT. Flight time from Lon­don is 2 hours. The cost to carbon off­set is £2.21. For more de­tails visit cli­mate­

Get­ting there

Bri­tish Air­ways flies direct from Lon­don Heathrow to Biar­ritz Pays Basque Air­port on a daily ba­sis. easy­Jet also flies to Biar­ritz from Gatwick and Lu­ton. easy­

AV­ER­AGE DAILY TEM­PER­A­TURES AND RAIN­FALL throw from Les Halles, Hô­tel de Sil­hou­ette ho­tel-sil­hou­ette-biar­ritz. com has a handy cen­tral location and is full of ec­cen­tric touches. The 17th-cen­tury build­ing is an ode to mod­ern com­fort and de­sign, from the sound­proofed rooms with flat-screen TVs and Bose dock­ing sta­tions to the laid-back gar­den with quirky sheep sculp­tures. Villa Koegui ho­tel-vil­lakoegui-biar­ of­fers a good­value night’s sleep with a con­tem­po­rary de­sign and the feel of a up­mar­ket fam­ily home. Break­fast is served in a pretty, leafy gar­den or on a long com­mu­nal din­ing ta­ble.

Where to eat and drink Let your­self get lost in Les Halles and you’ll never go hun­gry. The French Basque culi­nary in­flu­ence is strong here so be sure to grab a seat at one of the many bars sell­ing lo­cal tapas, known as pin­txos, with cold beers to wash down meats, cheeses and seafood. For more fa­mil­iar French din­ing, Le Bistrot des Halles bistrot­de­shalles­biar­ has a cosy set­ting with wooden ta­bles and vin­tage ad­verts on the walls. Don’t miss clas­sic dishes such as tourne­dos de Sain­tJac­ques – the su­perb scal­lops, beau­ti­fully ten­der and golden. Along the Port des Pêcheurs, some of the lit­tle fish­er­men’s huts, known as cram­pottes, are a fun place to head for a quick drink. Try Cram­potte 30 for a glass of rosé and some tapas in the shadow of Sainte-Eugénie church. For more re­fined sips, L’Art­noa lart­ has a reg­u­larly re­vised se­lec­tion of 30 wines by the glass ac­com­pa­nied by char­cu­terie boards. For one of the top ta­bles in town, head to Miche­lin-starred L’Im­per­ti­nent l-im­per­ti­nent. fr and tuck into a tast­ing menu that brings to­gether fresh pro­duce in­clud­ing lo­cally sourced hake with oys­ters and ap­ple cream, and dishes that are creative with­out over­do­ing the foams and purées. Time run­ning out? Take a walk to the 19th-cen­tury light­house that still casts its bea­con to­day, si­t­u­ated at Pointe Saint-Martin. After a climb up 248 steps there are great views across city.

Trip tip Pick up re­gional del­i­ca­cies and ar­ti­san pre­serves at the old­est épicerie (gro­cery store) in Biar­ritz, Arostéguy, Re­sources

Biar­ritz Tourisme is the of­fi­cial city tourist board and has a use­ful web­site full of help­ful in­for­ma­tion. tourisme.biar­

Fur­ther read­ing

A Brief His­tory of Surf­ing by Matt War­shaw (Chron­i­cle Books, £16.99). War­shaw tracks the sport’s arc from the dis­cov­ery of Hawaii to to­day’s beach cul­ture.

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