BIARRITZ, France, March 31 – April 2 – For decades starting mid-1800s Biarritz was the leading European ‘playground’ of the rich, famous, and powerful. Biarritz history stretches at least six hundred years prior – back into the early 1200s – when the little settlement on the small beachy bay was an extremely profitable whaling station. We are into the country of Basque people, a population that overlies both southwest France and nearby northwest Spain. The Basque are a well known culture, filled with pride, seeking autonomy, and ensconced in this area for approx 30,000 years. The Basque lived rather uniquely as one continuous population in this delightful rich farming and good fishing area of Western Europe. Why move? The Basque people were renowned for honesty, hard work, and thrift.
Our delightful palace home here, Hotel Du Palais, is from where we easily explore and discover this scenic and historic Atlantic coastal region. Overlooking Biarritz “grand plage” (big beach), our palace hotel has grand views of the ever-rolling, surging surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Formerly, this was the site of the palace home for Napoleon III and Eugenie. Being of Spanish royalty, upon her marriage to French Emperor Napoleon III, Eugenie desired a home close to Spain and on the coast. The small seaside town of Biarritz was chosen … Just inside France, close to Spain … and so the little town’s history changed forever. Napoleon and Eugenie loved this place and entertained royally here. The “who’s who” of European aristocracy and political notability all came to stay at Biarritz. The town was now ‘on the map’ and flourished. Years later, Biarritz continued to host the world’s “who’s who” from all walks of life including Hollywood.
On our day together, in two small groups with our local guides, we walk the seaside walkway of Biarritz. Passing many historic buildings, including the Art Deco Casino on the beach, as well as through the small historic fisherman village and old fishing boats port. Dodging rain showers all the way, we boarded our coaches to visit the historic working Lighthouse. Continuing through the seaside village of Anglet (famous for its seaside golf course) we drove to nearby historic Roman town of Bayonne. In Bayonne we enjoyed strolling through the walled ‘old town’. We were entertained privately by a local Basque Men’s Choir, Erobi Kanta, in their pub-like clubhouse where we enjoyed local Basque foods and wines. We walked over to the ‘Cheval Blanc’ (white horse), the town’s one-star Michelin restaurant. Delicious dining as usual! Later, we strolled through the historic town, passing the old fortress (now part of the town’s University) and visiting the Bayonne Cathedral as well as the town’s famed chocolate stores.
Our second day, as usual, a ‘choose your day’ comprising for our guests of various activities … a privately guided tour to nearby Spain’s historic seaside town of San Sebastián, where our guests enjoy walking through the border town of Saint Jean de Luz and heading over the river into San Sebastián strolling through the ‘old town’ sampling various delicious traditional tapas bars/restaurants. Another option was for guests to travel further through Spain, crossing through the coastal Pyrenees to the port town of Bilbao, nowadays home of the famed Guggenheim Museum … this visit includes a private curator museum tour and an excellent lunch in the museum’s private fine dining room. And, a third option for our guests, a local cooking class in Biarritz with a renowned local chef … visiting the local market to buy fresh ingredients and preparing a delicious meal with complimenting local area wines.
As always with our Lakani world jet journey … all good things come toward an end. Our first celebration of returning home safely, a lavish farewell party together on our final night. Starting with a sunny cocktail reception & delicious hors d’oeuvres outside on the ocean view terrace of our Hotel Du Palais, we gathered for a festive evening. Later we head into the hotel’s magnificent Imperial Ballroom for a ‘gastronomic’ dinner. It’s a lively dinner and a time to share stories and good memories of our many adventures together. We have been a good traveling group together. It’s a time to celebrate new friends, and to dance. As well, it’s a time to look forward to getting back home.
Our trusty ‘sky bird’ whisks us homeward across the Atlantic. There are absolutely no flights from Biarritz to USA, so we are a rather unusual phenomenon for the Biarritz airport. Two of our group who live in Holland leave us at the airport. The farewells have begun and we continue our journey back to USA. Our crew greet us in traditional Basque berets. Lots of photos. On board, coffees and cocktails and canapés are served, a farewell Caviar and Champagne service, as well a scrumptious “Captain’s luncheon” of roasted veal tenderloin and grilled fresh fillets of Corvina. A birthday party on board too. On our way home, we’re still having fun and feasting all the way!
Together, we have circumnavigated the globe … WOW! This was not ‘around the world in 80 days’, this was just 25 days. We traveled in such ease, comfort and efficiency. We relished our being such a small group in such unusual places. Our eyes have been opened, wide opened, to some of our world’s best cultural connections and world heritage experiences. We have been interested, intrigued, engaged and entertained. At times we have been humbled. We have learned so much. We are among the luckiest and most fortunate. Blessed Beings. I think we all acknowledge this aspect of our good fortune. And we are happy to be getting home safely … to our families and friends. Happy Homecoming and we hope to see you on our next adventure around the world!
Check out our photos from our final stop in Biarritz. Click any photo to enlarge.