The Atlantic Pyrenees extend eastward from the Atlantic to the col du Pourtalet, and encompass Bearn and the mountainous part of the Basque Country. The Pyrenees ‘s landscape goes from rolling green foothills in the west to jagged limestone peaks to glacier-studded granite massifs in the Hautes Pyrenees.
Sare. Eight miles southeast of St-Jean-de-Luz. This gemlike village is built around a large fronton where a permanent Pelota game rages on a regular basis around the clock. Not surprisingly the town hall offers a permanent exhibition on Pelote Basque. ( open July & August, daily 9-1 & 2-6:30). Lots of tiny chapels sprinkle around Sare were built as ex-votos by seamen who survived Atlantic storms.
Where to eat & stay.
There is a little inn , Baratxartea a I/2 mile from the center of Sare. It is a family run hotel & restaurant located in 16th-century townhouse complete with colombiers ( pigeon roosts), and are truly surrounded by some of the finest rural Basque architecture in Labourd. Quartier Ihalar, 64310. Phone # 05-59-47-50-84
The Basque village of Ainhoa is officially registered by the national tourist ministry as the prettiest in France. Today the streets are lined up with 16th to 18th-century houses graced with whitewashed walls. The Romanesque church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption has a traditional Basque interior. Explore the streets of Ainhoa‘s dotted with artisanal ateliers & art galleries.
Where to eat & stay.
Ithurria. this is a registered historic monument, once a staging post on the fabled medieval pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela. If you need a stopover on the way deeper into the mountains, the Ithuria – set in a 17th- century building surrounded by a garden – will definitely give you a very nice atmosphere. The rustic dining room is a true gemstone here, with fare to match, combining inland game and fresh seafood from the Basque coast in a very creative way. Rue Principale, 64250. Phone # 05-59-29-92-11. http://www.ithurria.com. The guest rooms are modern, comfortable and tastefully decorated.
Oppoca. ii a 17th-century relay on Ainhoa’s main square. Rooms are small but adequate and the owners are very friendly, always ready to share their knowledge about the locals. The restaurant serves Basque specialties. Place du Fronton, 64250. Phone # 05-59-29-90-72
St Jean-Pied-de-Port. A fortified town on the Nive river got its name from its position at the foot of the mountain pass of Roncevaux. The bustling town center, a major stop for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostola seems like a very busy metropolitan town center even in the winter time.
Where to eat & stay.
Chez Arbiliaga Tucked inside the citadel ramparts, this lively bistro is a very good choice for lunch and dinner. The food is what the Basque do best simple cooking of excellent quality. A great place to try. 8 Rue de L’Eglise. Phone # 05-59-37-06-44
Central Hotel is a family run hotel and you get the best quality for price in town. The owners are multilingual and speak Basque, French, English,Spanish & some German so communications are not a problem. The cuisine is truly superb , try the lamb and magret de canard ( duck breast). 1 Place Charles de Gaulle 64220. Phone # 05-59-37-00-22
Pau. Birthplace of king Henry IV, Pau was discovered in 1815 by British officers returning from the peninsula. War in Spain and it soon became a prominent winter resort town. Fifty years later English-speaking inhabitants made up one third of Pau’s population, many believing in the medicinal benefits of mountain air.
If you spend time in Pau, stop at the Musee National du Chateau de Pau. Rue du Chateau. Phone # 05-59-82-38-00 http://www.musee-chateau-pau.fr/ and another place to visit is Le Musee des Beaux Arts and you can feast on works by El Greco, Degas and Rodin. Rue Mathieu-Lalanne. Phone # 05-59-27-33-02 http://www.musee.ville-pau.fr . Also while in Pau, enjoy some of life’s little sweet pleasures with a visit to the Confiserie Francois Miot. 48 rue Joffre. http://www.feerie-gourmande.com. At the gate of Pau, in the village of Uzos, Miot has his own Musee des Arts Sucres.
Where to eat & stay
Hotel de Gramont. Five minutes from the Chateau de Gramont, is a very convenient and cozy place to visit Pau. 3 Place de Gramont, 64000. Phone # 05-59-27-84- 04
Gousse d’Ail. Located in the oldest part of Pau, this lovely hideaway is tucked under the stairway at the end of the street. They serve traditional Bearn cooking and International cuisine. Their duck breast cooked over coals is wonderful!. 12 rue des Hedas. Phone # 05-59-27-31-55
Eugenie-Les-Bains. As we know by now Empress Eugenie popuralized Eugenie–Les-Bains at the end of the 19th-century, and in return the villagers renamed the town after her. Michel and Christine Guerard bought the village back to life in 1973 by putting together one of France‘s most fashionable thermal retreats, which became the birthplace of nouvelle cuisine, thanks to the talent of chef Michel. Now, there are two restaurants, two hotels, a cooking school and a spa. The 13 therapeutic treatments address everything from weigh loss to rheumatism. Two springs are certified by the ministry of health; L’imperatrice and Christine -Marie, whose (102 F) waters come from nearly 1,300 feet below the surface.
Where to eat & stay
La Ferme aux Grives. With four superb rooms, Michel Guerard‘s re-created old coaching inn, set at one end of their Pres d’Eugenie fiefdom, is meant to be more rustic alternative to their main flagship restaurant.Nature’s bounty is the theme. A banquet table is laid out with vegetables and breads, darkened beams cast romantic shadows, and hunting paintings cover the walls. 40320 Eugenie-Les-Bains. Phone # 05-58-05-05-06
Les Pres d’Eugenie. La cuisine minceur– the slimmer’s dream- collides with the lusty fare of the Landes region ( Langoustines garnished with Foie gras and mesclun greens). The complex includes an excellent spa, dance studio, two pools and a 9- hole golf course and theme weeks are devoted to cooking, perfumes, wines or gardening. 40320 Eugenie-Les-Bains. Phone # 05-58-05-06-07 http://www.michelguerard.com
La maison Rose. A low-cost, low calorie alternative to Les Pres-d’Eugenie, Michel and Christine Guerard’s newest hotel beckons with a simple spa approach. Set in a renovated 18th-century farmhouse adorned with rustic antiques and Pays-Basque handicrafts. This a very serious spa, complete with slimming cures and the most stylish relaxation room in France. No room service, everyone eats in the main dining room. The kitchen’s touch remains an inventive benediction to local produce. 40320 Eugenie-Les-Bains. Phone # 05-58-05-06-07.http://www.michelguerard.com
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