Saint Jean de Luz has been on our travel list for a while now, but due to the Covid travel restrictions, we were not able to visit till now. A relatively small town with a great history, proved to be just the right four day escape. Arrival at the train station is similar to most small stations with the “always present steep stairs and tunnel to get to the desired side of the tracks and the taxis. We traveled with just one suitcase, thus I was able to manage with little trouble. FYI in larger stations like Bordeaux, most offer a ramp as well as stairs and in Paris every station we have used ( 5 of 7 to date) the tracks are all on the same level as the main station.
Our hotel of choice the Grand Hotel was the perfect choice. They arranged to have a taxi meet us for the five minute ride. The bellman/concierge met us with a huge smile and greeting, inside the front desk people were even more gracious. We knew we were arriving early so checked our bag and headed out.
Our street was lined with several restaurants and being off the center of town, they appeared to be catering to locals not tourists. Our choice being in Basque Country was to go with the Grand Grille Basque. Again, luck, but it was great. Two different plates of tapas and other assorted offerings, from Lamb stew, octopus, frilled sardines, shrimp, various cold meats plus plus plus.
Back at the hotel after a short stroll around part of the city center, we found our room to have a fantastic view. It was only in San Sebastian that we had a view over the bay like this. First day was sunny, second heavy rain and the last two really beautiful fall weather again.
Dinner the first night was in the hotel per plan. Highly rated by Michlin. Grilled Sardine appetizer, turbo or pork main dish, and the desserts were visually wonderful No photos of main meal, too many people dining nearby.
The second day was really storming, so we pretty much stayed close to the hotel. Did a nice tapas lunch in the bar, enjoyed some really great local wines, and stayed dry.
The next two days found us wandering around the town. The Basilic St. Jean the Baptist is a really interesting church. The alter one of the most ornate I have seen, plus the center of the church was surrounded by different levels of balconies to accommodate the people at one time. King LouisXIV was married here to the the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa, thus ending a long war between the two countries. The Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed in this town.
Dowtown is pretty much similar to many French towns. Shops on the street level with apartments and homes on the upper levels. Many of the buildings were a white stucco finish with half timbers facades, almost all were painted a shade of red. At one corner we saw a wisteria plant that had to be hundreds of years old. It covered the complete side of the building and the main trunk several feet in diameter. A very special shop was the Maison Adams. Dating from 1660 specializing in the gateau basque.
One section of the town along the beach was remarkably lower than the rest of the town. Thus over the years, during winter storms it was quite often flooded and many homes damaged. Under Napoleon when the outer seawall was constructed to protect the harbor, the seawall at the back side of the beach was also constructed. At it highest point above the homes it is possibly 20 + feet high. We enjoyed a great seafood lunch at an historic restaurant with wonderful views over the bay.
Saint Jean de Luz has always been associate with the ocean and the fishing industry. Today, it is the home of hundreds of pleasure craft, several surfing areas, and a still robust fishing industry.