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THE FRENCH BASQUE COUNTRY.rtf

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					THE TRAVEL SHOW – FACTSHEET
 1999 BBC. All rights reserved
All efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy and currency of information contained in this
factsheet. Information is correct at time of publication (June 1999). The BBC, however, cannot
accept responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained as a result of information
contained herein. You are advised to re-check all information prior to any travel.



THE FRENCH BASQUE COUNTRY
In Biarritz you can catch a glimpse of the former glory of this once playground of the
rich and royal and gain a convenient gateway to the unique Basque region of
France. It is a holiday that would include wide golden beaches, unique and
culturally rich Basque villages and activities and adventure in the foothills of the
Pyrenees.

Getting There
Ryanair is the only direct flight and the first low cost airline to fly from the UK to
Biarritz. Leaving daily from Stansted Airport at 16:10 with a flight time of
1¾ hours. Prices range from £47 return low season to £95 in high season.

Telephone Ryanair on 0541 569 569

Getting Around
Biarritz airport accommodates all the big name car hire companies from Hertz to
Budget and Avis to Europcar. Juliet hired her car from Hertz where daily rental
costs around £66 and a weeks rental from £145.

Telephone Hertz on 08708 48 48 48

When to Go
Juliet travelled in mid-May when weather is very unpredictable but in high season
temperatures average 25 degrees centigrade. Temperatures obviously drop as you
head up into the Pyrenees.

Visa
No visa required for citizens holding valid passports of member countries of the EU.

Time
The Basque country is 1hr ahead of GMT.

Currency
The French Franc. The exchange rate now is around 9.8 francs to the pound.

Tipping
French law requires that restaurant, café and hotel bills include the service charge
(usually 10-15%) so tipping is neither expected or necessary.


Telephone
Add 00 33 then omit the 0 in the 10-digit number.

Electricity
France runs on 220V at 50Hz. Old type wall sockets, often rated at 600 watts, take
2 round prongs - the new kinds of socket take fatter prongs and have a protruding
earth (ground) prong.

Water
Tap water all over France is safe to drink - always beware of natural sources of
water, a Pyrenean stream may look crystal clear but it’s inadvisable to drink it unless
you are at the source.


Orientation
Found in the South West corner of France, flanked by the Atlantic on its western side
and the Pyrenees and Spain on the southern side. Basque Country belongs to the
"département" of PYRENEES ATLANTIQUES this "département" (administrative
area) belongs to the AQUITAINE REGION.

Language
Basque or Euskara is the language of the region, although most people will speak
French too.

Culture and History
Mystery still surrounds exactly where in the world Basque people originated from.
The Basques have inhabited the South Western corner of France since the 6 th
Century and were converted to Catholicism four centuries later. The Basques held
out against numerous foreign invasions and until the French Revolution held a fair
degree of autonomy.

The 7 provinces of the Pays Basque were divided over the centuries between
France and Spain, yet no one seems to have paid much attention to the divide.
Unlike their Spanish counterparts the French Basques, although proudly Basque,
seem largely content to be French, “French chic overlaying Basque culture” (Sunday
Times). There is no equivalent to the Spanish Basque Nationalist Organisation,
ETA, and the old sympathy which allowed refuge to Spanish Basques wanted on
terrorist charges has waned.


BIARRITZ
Once just a fishing village, this Atlantic Ocean resort became one of the first
international seaside resorts when Napoleon III built a palace for his Empress
Eugenie in the mid 19th Century. Place Clemenceau is the town’s main square and
its popular cafés are just a stone’s throw from the Port des Pêcheurs and its
waterfront seafood restaurants. There are three broad sandy beaches, four good
golf courses and the volatile Atlantic waves make Biarritz a surfers’ paradise.

The palace Napoleon built for Eugenie was turned into the luxurious Hôtel du Palais
at the end of the last century and has entertained the rich and famous ever since.
From Queen Victoria to Frank Sinatra, they’ve all stayed there. Double rooms in low
season range from around £150 to £240 per night and in high season from £200 to
£290 per night.
Hotel Du Palais - 00 33 5 59 41 64 00

If the budget doesn’t stretch this far then double rooms in 2 star hotels in Biarritz can
be found for around £25 per night. June to September is usually busy so it is
advisable to book early.


SARE
Sare is a particularly well preserved Basque village with its central cluster of 17th and
18th century houses set around an ornate church - at 15km inland it is near enough
for outings to the beach yet far enough to feel ensconced in village life. Juliet
stayed at The Hotel Arraya, a picturesque converted 16th century nobleman’s
residence in the main square. It is owned and run by the friendly Fagoaga family
and filled with antique furniture and white canopied beds. Rooms have balconies
facing the arcaded square or the tranquil garden at the back. Double rooms cost
around £55 in low season and £60 in high season.

Hotel Arraya     - Tel: 00 33 5 59 542 046

AINHOA
Another showpiece village, the main road here forms the end of the GR10. The
street is filled with authentic red beamed Basque houses and shops which beautifully
display the local produce of hams, Fois Gras and wine. It has a bulky towered church
with an extravagantly Baroque altarpiece.

BAYONNE
The Capital of Pays Basque and only a 15 minute drive from Biarritz, the historic,
fortified city is home not only to the Bayonet but famed throughout France for great
delicacies: Bayonne ham, marzipan and chocolate. The latter was brought as a
secret by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition over 500 years ago and is still
manufactured in the St Espirit district. Darantz is one of the town’s most famous
and lavishly presented chocolate shops.


ADVENTURE ACTIVITIES
SURFING
Biarritz has been a draw for Australians, American and British surfers for the last 25
years, many have settled there. It is the most important European section of the
world professional tour with 3 of the 12 World Championship Tour (WCT) events
taking place here. These events are:

Lacanau Pro                 17th -23rd August
Hossegor Rip Curl Pro       24th -30th August
Billabong Pro               2 - 12th September
You can take surfing lessons or just hire the gear from a number of outlets including
Sport Ecume Rainbow surfshop on Anglet beach. A 5 day package including hire of
wet suit and board plus 4 hours of lessons per day will cost around £150 and hiring
just the wet suit and surfboard alone will cost between £15 and £20 per day.

Sport Ecume Rainbow Surf Shop - Tel: 00 33 5 59 03 20 04


PYRENEEN WALKS

The GR 10 is a walking path stretching all the way from Perpignon on the
Mediterranean coast to Biarritz on the Atlantic coast.

Around 90% of people buy maps, drive to the start of a walk and do the trekking
without any guidance, guides can cost around £15 per hour. You can trek from one
to many days, staying at B&Bs and Gites along the way. You must pre-book the
accommodation and you must book in plenty of time in high season. If you fancy
doing it for yourself the recommended maps are French sign blue (1:25,000) series
which have local footpaths and Grandes Randonnées - the main network of
national footpaths marked on them.

Juliet took a guided walk with English company - Pyrenees Adventure, the
accommodation is an old 18th Century converted farmhouse and their minibus takes
you to the departure point for all their walks (av. 30 minutes). A 7-day holiday costs
from £495 excluding flight/train.

Rick Hall at Pyrenees Adventures Ltd - Tel / Fax: 01433 621 498

QUADBIKING

Juliet went Quadbiking with French company - Challenge Evenement and its owner
Jean Marc Dupont spoke relatively good English. Prices range from around £20 for
an hour and a half, £50 for half a day and £90 for a full day. They are based 4km
from Sare and will pick up small parties and return you to your hotel in the company
minibus.

Jean Marc at Challenge Evenement - Tel: 00 33 5 59 54 42 86



HORSE RIDING

You can explore the lush Pyreneen hills on horseback if Quadbiking isn’t to your
taste. Juliet rode with Le Centre Equestre Ohaldea which is based only 1km from
Sare. They have 10 horses and riding costs from around £7 per hour to £28 for the
day.

Emmanuel Fagoaga at Ohaldea Riding School - Tel: 00 33 5 59 54 28 94
RECOMMENDED READING:

Lonely Planet Guide to France by Steve Fallon, Daniel Robinson, Teresa Fisher and
Nicola Williams
Rough Guide to France by Katie Baillie and Tim Salmon

				
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