Since we still can – because we’re not restricted by the unfairly short summer school holiday just yet – we have a holiday in every September.
We decided to visit the Basque country this time as British Airways flies to Biarritz. We were looking for mainly self catering options like a holiday house rental, because Bobcat was only 15 months old so we couldn’t really eat out every night with him. I think I’ve never heard about Pierre & Vacances before and I actually never thought I’d stay in such a place. Serviced holiday apartments basically. We booked this one: Pierre et Vacances Residence Le Domaine de Bordaberry and it was a pleasant surprise, just like the whole holiday. The hotel is well positioned, with coastal view, a short drive to Biarritz, to San Sebastian and to the mountains. It was well maintained, clean and well equipped (good kitchen, coffee machine, microwave, hob and fridge), but I thought there could have been more space. Our apartment was advertised for 4-5 people, but it would be really uncomfortable for that many people. Just a small double bed in a tiny bedroom, we have to set up Bobcat’s travel cot in the living area. For 2 adults and a toddler it’s good enough though. We enjoyed some nice evenings sitting on the good size balcony. The weird thing was only (for me at least), that you have to clean the place after yourself upon departure. Great pool area, and lovely gardens. Mini pool for small children and a little playground with sand. The staff was very attentive and friendly. Plenty of parking space. Bus stop right outside of the property (we rented a car though). It was a lot cheaper in September as in summer season, I think I would not stay here for the summer rates. WiFi was a bit expensive.
We thought we are going to combine some beach-time (mummy’s idea of holiday), some mountain climbing and steam trains (daddy’s idea of holiday) and some kicking a ball around, having a pizza then falling asleep in the car (Bobcat’s idea of holiday).
Being on the Atlantic coast of France meant that it wasn’t very warm and we had a rainy afternoon or two, but we actually managed to get some sunny beach time on the stretchy beach of Bayonne and Hendaye, it wasn’t rammed of tourists and Bobcat had a great time in standing in the shallow water waiting for the waves to toss his ball into them. The beaches around here all have a natural bay form, so they are very protected. They are all sandy running alongside long and picturesque promenades. Really lovely coastal town is San Jean de Luz, relatively small, with fishing heritage and coast guarding. It’s cute old town worth an afternoon walk with all the basque architecture represented.
Biarritz was a different story, it is indeed very posh, you can catch beautiful art nouveau and luxurious art deco elements on the casino’s building, the public swimming pool and just generally the sensation of being on the Southern-France Riviera. Great surfing at this time of the year. The chocolate museum is worth a visit. The old town has many wonderful cafes and patisseries, a paradise for macaroon and chocolate bon-bon lovers.
Also drove down to Bilbao on a rainy day and being there for first time, I wasn’t really impressed. Apart from the Guggenheim, there’s not much interesting to see. The parks are lovely, but I had the impression, that there’s only one thing to do here on a Saturday: shopping.
The absolute favourite town was San Sebastian, I’d really like to go back. I just prefer the Spanish way of things, really 🙂 It’s got a lively, long promenade, wonderful old town and harbour area. We actually ended up driving over here for a couple of lunches and dinners because the variety of restaurants and Spanish tapas bars just a lot better than any other French town’s on the other side of the border. Very family friendly too, kids are running wild on the playgrounds and the beach, staying up late. Food is generally very kid-friendly too. The seaside is stunning! Donostia (its historic basque name) is packed with galleries, art shops, cinemas, museums and generally any art lover would be very pleased to wonder around the town.
For Bobcat’s and daddy’s holiday fun we took Le Train de la Rhune which really is an exhilarating experience on a clear and sunny day. Better to be there early and take the first or the second train, it’s extremely popular, there can be a long waiting in the queue. Try to pre-book tickets. Once on the train, you won’t question why. Never in my life I experienced such magnificent views, you’ll literally feel that this is the view why people climb serious mountains. You’ll see all the mountains on one side and the seaside deep down, 900m lower on the other side. There’s no words for it, it’s a must see. The train ride itself is very enjoyable too, mini wild ponies (pottoks) and mountain goats to spot apart from the breathtaking view.
We will be definitely back around here, great holiday with small children, lots to see and do.