SAINT-JEAN-DE-LUZ AT A GLANCE
Stay the night at… Hôtel Odalys Erromardie and the adjoining Résidence Iratzia (doubles from €69, odalys-vacances. com), which offers standard hotel rooms and self-catering apartments respectively on the outskirts of town. It is five minutes from a beach and the coastal path, where you can stroll through the Jardin Botanique on the way into town and avoid the traffic. The hotel has a heated outdoor swimming pool from April to October, tennis courts and a restaurant. Stop for lunch at… the bustling Le Majestic café-bar (tel: (Fr) 5 59 26 01 36) on Place Louis XIV and grab the best seats overlooking the square. The food is excellent value, while the service is quick and efficient.
WHAT TO SEE
Maison Louis XIV, near the harbour, (open Apr-nov, admission €6.50, maisonlouis-xiv.fr) occupies part of the Maison Lohobiague, which was built in the 1640s by Joannis de Lohobiague, a wealthy ship merchant and mayor of the town. It is still owned and lived in by members of the same family. The house charts significant moments in the history of Saint-jeande-luz and France, including the royal marriage. The Sun King and members of the court stayed here for 40 days in the lead-up to the wedding.
Église Saint-jean-baptiste, the largest Basque church in France, dates from the 14th century. Extension work began in the late 1640s to accommodate the growing population: wooden balconies were added for the menfolk and a lavish Baroque altarpiece installed. A model boat hangs from the rafters in tribute to the town’s fishermen, although it is also thought to act as a barometer.
The Maison Adam pâtisserie and
confiserie in Rue de la République (maisonadam.fr) was founded in 1660 and offers a taste of the Basque country inside and out. Its speciality is the almond macaron, made to the same recipe created for Louis XIV’S wedding. The exterior is adorned with red and black espelette peppers, just as you might see them, for real, hanging out to dry in the town after which they are named.
GETTING THERE: The ferry ports of Bilbao and Santander are a 1hr 30min and 3hr 30 min drive respectively (tel: 0330 159 7000, brittanyferries.co.uk); The airport at Biarritz is a 25min drive; The town is an 8hr train journey from London via Paris. TOURIST INFORMATION: Saint-jean-de-luz tourist office, tel: (Fr) 5 59 26 03 16, saint-jean-de-luz.com; Pays Basque tourism, terreetcotebasques.com; Département: Pyrénées-atlantiques (64).