Biking the Southwestern Towns of France
Whether it’s the romance of the French countryside, the exquisite taste of the local wine and cuisine, or the excitement of discovering a new place – even if you’ve been there a dozen times – you’re certain to find exactly what you’re looking for in Southwestern France. From pristine beaches to rugged mountain terrain, the contrast in landscapes is almost as intriguing as the friendly folks who call this paradise home, and welcome visitors with open arms. Among the many destinations to visit in this region, there are three towns in particular that embody everything the area has to offer and provide visitors with a truly authentic experience.
Ideally located on the coast of the breathtaking Bay of Biscay, the lovely seaside town of Biarritz offers the perfect combination of luxury and charm. Guests can enjoy hours or days spent lounging on the soft sand, soaking up the warm sun or surfing in the rolling waves. So beautiful is this stretch of coastline that the Empress Eugenie once built a spectacular palace which was visited by royalty for decades and has now been converted to a hotel. When you’ve had enough of the beach there are plenty of other sites and activities to keep you busy in Biarritz. Peruse the fine Asian art on display at the Asiatic Museum or spend some time at the Museum of the Sea, which houses 24 aquariums where everything from sharks to seals make their watery homes. There are also plenty of restaurants to indulge your taste buds and a few casinos where you can try your luck. Although, once you get a glimpse of the magnificent scenery in this town, you’ll already feel like a winner!
The name Bayonne means “the good river”, and this peaceful little town in Southwest France certainly lives up to its namesake. To this day, the town is still very much defined by the River Adour and the smaller River Nive which it feeds. A visit to this lovely village allows for a truly authentic and old-world experience, with charming old buildings lining the narrow streets and a plethora of quaint waterside restaurants where you can stop and experience the tastes of the area. Don’t let this town’s size fool you – Bayonne may be small but it is overflowing with culture and character, right down to the ancestral Euskara language spoken there. Bayonne is home to a number of interesting activities, from bull fighting to jazz festivals, but perhaps the most popular site in the area is the magnificent Cathédrale Ste-Marie Cathedral, which serves as a fascinating example of ancient architecture and exquisite design.
If it’s French charm and breathtaking scenery you’re seeking, look no further than the luxurious seaside resort town of Saint Jean de Luz. What was once known for its fishing has become a popular destination among those seeking the peaceful nature of a French village by the sea. Although the town as it stands today is relatively new, the port of Saint Jean de Luz boasts quite a history, and many of the structures that are found throughout the village date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. This lends a sense of old-world charm to the modern-day locale. One such building, La Maison Louis XIV, was built between 1644 and 1648 and provides a fascinating example of Louis XIII architecture. Likewise, La Maison de l’Infante was constructed during the 1600’s. It boasts a unique pink façade and a spectacular “grand” reception room complete with adorned ceiling beams and a 17th century fireplace. These two buildings, along with the many others that are found throughout the town make Saint Jean de Luz stand out among the other towns in the area.