Henri, from Wissembourg, guides us through the French South-West.
For some years now, my partner and I have decided not to spend holidays abroad before having visited France.
After the Cote d’Azur, Brittany, Normandy, Corsica, not to mention the Charente Maritime where my companion is from, we decided to do this year the Southwest and more particularly the Basque Country and a part of the Pyrenees, rather than the west side.
To go to the South-West, we flew to Bordeaux and by car we crossed the forests of the Landes to arrive in Cibourg at the end of the day.
At first glance, it must be said that the weather rather spoiled us. We left in the rain and we come back in the rain and meanwhile, we have experienced 10 days of great sun shine. Which is an important element for the holidays.
Cibourg is a small village very typical of the South-West, with magnificent residences on a hillside, contiguous to the very tourist town of Saint Jean de Luz.
We had booked a bed and breakfast in a beautiful Basque house, we were not disappointed with the trip, quite the contrary. By the way, this autumn, we happened to come across a TV show about a bed and breakfast and it turns out that the room we had reserved was voted “Most Beautiful Bed and Breakfast in France” and I can assure you, compared to its competitors, it was not the most expensive, far from it.
Saint Jean de Luz, called the city of Corsairs in the seventeenth/eighteenth century is a really typical Basque city with its fishing port, the house of Louis XIV, its market and its beaches without forgetting its folklore and of course Basque pelota.
Right next to it is Biarritz and its seafront with its beautiful beaches and surfers, its mythical casino, the palace of Empress Eugenie, wife of Bonaparte III, where the G7 was held last August.
Located at the gateway to Spain, the charming seaside resort of Hendaye unveils a harmonious waterfront lined with many neo-Basque villas dating from the early twentieth century. And its huge sandy beach, three kilometres long, is the neo-Moorish Casino Cruise overlooking the famous rocks of the Twin Mountains and the cliffs of the Basque corniche.
A short hop to Spain and here we are in San Sebastian with its highlights, especially the old town and its tapas bars, museums, Mount Igeldo and Mount Urgulle and the bay of La Concha.
Back in France, we went up to La Rhune with its legendary cogwheel train. Located at 900 meters altitude, you have a breathtaking panorama of the ocean and the Pyrenees.
The penultimate step before leaving the Basque country was the village of Espelette: Located in the heart of the Basque mountains, Espelette is both close to Spain and the Basque coast. In addition to its tourist appeal, Espelette is also proud of its architectural and natural heritage, as well as important personalities (cardinal, bishop, Basque pelota player …) who were born in the village.
Today, it is famous pepper for its peppers.
The last stage in the Basque Country: Saint Jean Pied de Port, located between the Basque coast and the Spanish border, is one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is a famous stage on one of the main pilgrimage routes to Saint-Jacques -from Compostela. There is the Notre-Dame church, the most important Gothic building in the French Basque Country, the Saint-Jacques gate, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the citadel and the fortifications, whose design prefigures the techniques used by Vauban, the enigmatic prison known as “Bishops.”
After the Basque Country, it was the Pyrenees, actually a small part, and it is the observatory of the Pic du Midi which attracted us first. A magical and majestic place at the top of the Pyrenees, the peak of the South of Bigorre culminates at 2,877 m altitude. This place has a double vocation: tourist (the view on the Pyrenees chain is incomparable) and scientific (it is a privileged place for astronomical research since the end of the 19th century).
Another must in the Pyrenees: Cauterets which is a town located in the Hautes-Pyrenees, Occitan region. It is both a spa and a winter sports resort. Surrounded by high mountains of the Pyrenees, the town of Cauterets snakes in the narrow valley of the Gave de Cauterets, a mountain stream The village gives access to many hiking trails that serve natural tourist sites, such as the Péguère, the lake Gaube, the Petit Vignemale, the bridge of Spain, in a village on the side of mountains crossed by a waterfall or the small massif of La Fruitière.
Ultimately, the high-altitude walks in the Pyrenees, around the lakes, is breathtaking literally and figuratively.
And finally, we ended our trip to the South West by visiting Lourdes, which is a place of Catholic pilgrimage since the apparitions in 1858. Lourdes welcomes each year 6 million pilgrims or visitors from around the world according to the General Secretariat of the sanctuary, of which about 60,000 are sick and disabled. It is the fourth place of Catholic pilgrimage in attendance after the Vatican, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.