While international jet-setters and mainstream celebrities chill by the French Riviera and enjoy the legendary Cannes nightlife parties, another more confidential southern scene is attracting refined wanderers. Look West — we are talking about the Pays Basque. With a wonderful variety of landscapes and an upbeat surfing scene, let us introduce you to the ultimate guide to the best holidays in France.
DAY 1 – Bordeaux and Pessac
If you are coming to the Pays Basque from abroad, you will probably land at the Bordeaux-Merignac airport. A divine excuse to go downtown and stay overnight at the Mama Shelter (19 Rue Poquelin Molière, 33000 Bordeaux, France), a hip boutique hotel chain founded in Paris seven years ago by world renowned designer Philip Stark. Located just a stone’s throw away from the 11th century Saint-André de Bordeaux Cathedral, it will take you half an hour to discover the old city in its entirety.
From there, a quick 20-minute tram tour along the Garonne river, towards the north of Bordeaux brings you the Iboat (Bassin à Flot n°1 Quai Armand Lalande), a real former ferry boat turned into a party boat, sitting by the city’s harbor. Famous for its cross-genre events and its apéro-boat -an exhibition or an indie movie screening followed by a happy hour-, the I-Boat is the place to meet (and make) friends whether you are in the mood to relax or to dance ’til dawn.
The next day, rent a car to head to a secret architecture paradise, the Maison Frugès in Pessac (Maison Frugès – Le Corbusier, 4 Rue le Corbusier, 33600 Pessac, France). Only twenty minutes away from the city center, this 70 -unit housing development was designed by the famous architect Le Corbusier in 1924, as an experimental town for low-income workers. Its striking colorful facades were inspired by Le Corbusier’s travels, a not to the globetrotter’s passion for India and South Africa. This ‘show-house city’ is also visited by architecture students and urbanism lovers because it introduced the ‘roof-terrace’ concept to modern western architecture.
DAY 2 – Seignosse and Guéthary
After this urban stroll, time to hit the road and the beach. Head South for a ‘Sleep and Surf’ experience at Surfer’s Villa (46 avenue du penon 40510 Seignosse), the most famous surfing spot in the Pays Basque offering a bed and breakfast stay in the Hossegor area. With a hippie backpacker spirit (with wifi), this surf club offers spring and summer camps for beginner adults and intense trainings for advanced visitors. You are advised to book in advance as it is a very popular.
Surfing is an intense workout, so you’ll want to wind down and switch over to intellectual stimulation. A visit to the lovely, peaceful city of Guéthary might be just the thing. Sweet hometown of the famous writer Frédéric Beigbeder, it is the setting that served as the inspiration for many of his novels.
To get a full taste of the Basque joie-de-vivre, stop by the Briketenia (142 Rue de l’Église, 64210 Guéthary), a former post office turned into a sumptuous hotel with a breathtaking view on the ocean and the Pyrynenees mountains. The one-Michelin star restaurant will delight gourmets, from local farm made foie-gras to delicate locally fished langoustines (which, if you’ve never had them, are a miracle shellfish somewhere between lobster and shrimp).
DAY 3 – Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz
Enjoy your last evening in the Pays Basque by swinging on Docteur Muller’s dancefloor (5 Rue Gardères, 64200 Biarritz), in Biarritz, a ten minutes drive from Briketenia, where famous Parisian actors on vacation like to gather at night. Located in a wooden chalet, it is a cosy place where wild parties happen. Just make sure that before you loose yourself on the dancefloor, you stop by the Kaïku (17 Rue de la République, 64500 Saint-Jean-de-Luz), for a glass of wine. Open until 10pm, this haunt offers the finest Bordeaux bottles of the region. You are in France, after all.