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Saint Jean de Luz, a wonderful escape

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.

Grand Hotel and Spa, dating back to 1904. Basically right on the beach. Loved it wow!

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.

Street side dining was perfect on this day
One of the to share dishes.
Too many different thing to list all. Every one delicious.

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.

Looking the left from our room
Old fort, basically straight ahead, slightly left from room
Looking right, hotel is on the right. Just after lunch one day
Hard to beat this sunset
Extreme low tide, viewed from our room. Small white dots are people on the rocks. At high tide the stone wall in front is under water.

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.

Six different types of chocolate in this one, plus the chantilly filling over the top
Four types of berries with different cream base
Breakfast everyday really filling with hot dishes to order plus lots of other items. First time seeing honey served like this

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.

While the church itself was not particularly large, balconies had been built around the outside edge to house worshippers.
More gold per square inch on this alter than any other I have seen.

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.

Pretty much the typical building, interesting point, several of the large U.S. Surf companies had shops here.
This wisteria was grand.
Of course we had to buy some, plus return again to bring some back to Bordeaux. Very special.

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.

View from the restaurant, lucky to grab one of the last window seats. Note the steep stairs going down to the city on one side with matching stairs on the other leading to the beach.
Our lunch spot one day
This building was just to the right of our restaurant. Within a few yards the land dipped down over 20+ feet. Really liked this building.
Back in the neighborhood of the hotel, on the inland side of the street, new modern apartment buildings had been built. This is one of the last family homes on that side of the street. While surrounded by the taller buildings, I still has a view to the bay and happy to see a few holdouts to development.
The bay was alway active with sailing school activities, several different surf school classes, and people just exercising along the beach.

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.

Several of the smaller boats were anchored in the bay.
The port dedicated to the fishing fleet was crowded. Note all the large houses around the port. In its heyday, it was the home of corsairs, Fishing boats that doubled as licensed “pirate” ships. Most fortunes were made in this manner. At one time, they had captured so many foreign ships the English called Saint Jean de Luz the “viper’s nest”
One of the many large mansions along the harbor
House occupied by King Louis XIV during his wedding time.

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