The cool things to do in the Basque area of the world go on and on.  Yesterday, I spent the day in the French Basque Country, and it is so beautiful.  To kind of sum up the area in a few words. The Biarritz beach hosted the World Surfing Games, and is filming location for Game Of Thrones, while just a few miles inland, the hilly town of Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle, with its cross-timbered houses, and manicured gardens, was a stop on the Tour-de-France.

 

Getting There

It’s easy to drive up from the Spanish Basque Country. The trip is maybe 45 minutes by car from San Sebastian to Biarritz, and since it is the European Union, there is no border crossing. You just get to a toll-gate and pay 1 Euro and go. When you think about it, there can’t be too many places like this in the world. That is where nations are so friendly and trusting of one another that they don’t even have border checkpoints. It’s even more amazing when you think that the language, and everything changes once you cross to the other side. Even the highway guardrails are different. And yet, no border checkpoint. The border is like an invisible line, that makes you wonder why you even need a line at all.  But I digress.

Biarritz

The town of Biarritz has an upscale element to it.  There are fancy boutiques selling designer handbags, people walking fancy breeds of dogs, and parents with their kids dressed up as proper little gentlemen and ladies wearing appropriate seashore attire. But there are also, reasonably priced places, fun and unique walking and shopping streets, and a ton of young surfers cruising around with surfboards strapped to their Vespas just out there enjoying the waves. And man does this place have some beautiful waves. I’ve actually only surfed a couple times before, so I don’t really know.  But I think it helps to have nice, long-breaking, laminar waves, not too choppy, plenty of room to ride them so you’re not bumping into people.  And from what I could tell this place has it in spades.

Eating and People Watching

Looking for a fun place to eat a seafood meal, we got lucky and found this great rooftop seafood restaurant.  Les Baigneuses de Biarritz, is set up on a hill overlooking a quiet beach cove.  The fish was so fresh and nicely cooked, and we got an inexpensive bottle of white wine to enjoy it with, while we looked over the side at the blue water and waves, as well as at the various dog walkers and their dogs, including one 200 pound Mastiff dog that was peeing on all of the street poles.

Saint-Pée-Sur-Nivelle

Moving on from Biarritz, we got in the car and drove to the town of Saint-Pée-Sur-Nivelle. It’s just a few miles down the road. Driving through that countryside, I marveled at how all along the country roads, all these houses and gardens, and towns are so carefully tended to. It’s like there, the act of just existing and living, is an art worth practicing to perfection. Rather than be in a hurry on to the next great thing, it is just the slow-paced acts of eating, and gardening, and strolling that are worthy of attention and care. The result are all of the little things, done to perfection. The narrow roads are lined with beautiful Poplar trees, and the town center of Saint-Pée-Sur-Nivelle is spotless, with nice roads, and painted with a consistent color of red. I was saying to myself, how this looked like a scene from the Tour de France.  And indeed it turns out, that yes, in fact, last year it was! It’s almost like, maybe the towns all have a contest to see which is the prettiest, and the reward is a stop on the Tour de France but that’s just a wild guess.

Tour de France

On that subject, what a nice sports event it is, the Tour de France, where for a few days each year, these beautiful little towns take turns becoming the center of the world. Having now passed through one such town I can say that the streets are not very wide, and it’s really amazing how that single lane road hosts one of the greatest races in the world.