Biarritz: The Pearl of France’s Basque Country

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

There are places that are semi-legendary in your mind.  And when you visit them, they live up to that vision.  And sometimes they don’t.  Biarritz, France is not a place I knew a lot about but I did have an impression that it was for the rich and famous.  Its location, in the southwestern corner of France abutting Spain (just 22 miles from the border!) facing the Bay of Biscay, seems ideal with warmer climate and perhaps not the throngs of partying tourists that the Mediterranean coasts can attract.  It sits in the Basque region of France and is home to 20-30-odd thousand residents.

So, as we went from San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, France this past September, we decided to stop along the way.  It was not a long drive but we wanted an easygoing day.  As I looked at the map, I realized there were several neat towns along the coast and inland (like Bayonne).  As I talked to my Mom, she shared how she, when she was a girl, would read a novel with her best friend that took place partly in Biarritz and how they always daydreamed about Biarritz.  That settled it for me:  Biarritz would be our stop!

Our visit was short.  A walk around the shopping district after a meandering drive into town. Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

Saint-Eugenie Church

 

Biarritz’ place on the coast certainly offers beautiful vistas and spots to take in the views – or get on a boat and see the city from the water (which I wish we could have done!).Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

And then, we just picked a place on the beach (the ‘Grande Plage’ – or great beach) to have lunch -not because it had the look of a great establishment, but simply because of the view out and the fact that we would sit in open air enjoying the great weather that day.

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

We ate at a cafe off to the right

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

The Grande Plage (big beach) of Biarritz

Biarritz most distinctive or massively impressive structure is the Hotel du Palais (of which, unfortunately, I took the picture split by a lighting pole…) built in the mid-1800s by the wife of Napoleon III.

Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

Hotel du Palais – and the pole in the middle of the photo

So, I can’t share much about Biarritz, its history or all the ins-and-outs of what to do and see.  But, if like my Mom, you have wondered what Biarritz looks like, I hope this post checks that off your list!

Biarritz, France, Hotel, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

With my beautiful mom and sister!!

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

My sister!!!

Biarritz, France, casino, Grand Plage, playa, beach,, travel, photo, francia, euskadi

The teenager in the Biarritz of her dreams! It was about my mom that day!!

Summer Vacation Is Almost Here!

map, Iceland, Reykjavik, Akureyri, travel

This summer, I finally get to take a real vacation, not just a couple of days of here or there.  Actually, I get to take TWO real vacations!  The two vacations came about differently and it was certainly hard to plan them as I did not control when one of them took place and the other had to be coordinated with other people’s schedule.

The great cold and outworldly:  Iceland

The first vacation will be to Iceland, my first time visiting this unique land sitting astride an incredibly active piece of Earth (who remembers the volcano-whose-name-cannot-be-said-because-it-is-too-hard?).  Friends of mine were planning to go and invited me to come along with them and their two young daughters.  One of the parents has an Icelandic ancestor and has been doing research so part of the trip will be to visit the rural areas of her ancestors.  This is likely unlike what the normal tourist goes to do in Iceland and that is precisely what I think makes it a great opportunity for me to travel.  Of course, we will try to hit the major unique features of the island that make a visit there so neat (waterfalls, volcanoes, hot springs, fjords).

Upon landing, we plan to hit the Blue Lagoon hoping it will help some with jetlag (we have a 6-hr layover in JFK… remember, with two young girls aged 4 and 7…).  We will then spend some days anchored in Reykjavik but hopefully doing the Golden Circle and perhaps a day trip to the south part of the island.

After those three days we will drive clockwise on the ring road to the town of Akureyri.  We have rented a house across the “bay” from it with spectacular views.  We already see ourselves in the hot tub with a bottle of wine soaking in the late Icelandic summer day…  We will use this as a base to explore the northern part of the island and the area where my friend’s ancestors lived in.map, Iceland, Reykjavik, Akureyri, travel

Trekking with a purpose:  the Camino de Santiago and Morocco

Right after returning from Iceland, I will go on the second vacation of my summer.  This one is a special one as I will be doing 7 days of the Camino de Santiago with Trekking for Kids in order to help street and at-risk children in Morocco (I went with this organization to hike in Romania and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro).

The trip will begin by going to Morocco and spending a few days at the center that we will fundraise for (each trekker raises money that will go 100% to the projects we will fund at the center).  I have never been to Morocco and though I will not be officially “touristing,” I like that I will experience some of Morocco in such a unique way.  We will then fly to Madrid and train it to León from which we will begin our trek in the Camino.  I have wanted to do the Camino ever since a friend did it many years ago (though I am not sure I would want to do the route starting at the Pyrenees). So this trek is perfect as it will be about 7 days’ worth of walking.  A good bit of that walking will be in the area of Galicia where some of my ancestors come from so walking through it will be special in that way for me.

I have been to Santiago de Compostela before but look forward to the experience of arriving there by foot, as many have done since the Middle Ages, and getting my “Compostela.”

——————————————————————————————————

I am very much looking forward to my vacations, long overdue.  One thing I will say before I conclude here is to urge you to consider doing a trek with Trekking for Kids – it will be a unique experience as the fact that many trekkers (like me) keep returning for other treks!  Check out the upcoming treks to Kilimanjaro, Jordan, and Patagonia here.

At Punta Cana and Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic

Chavon River, La Romana, Dominican Republic

My family does enjoy the beach more so one of the options when we travel together and are not hitting a cruise (a great way for us to travel together) is to go to a nice resort.  A few years back, we chose to go to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where we stayed at a Riu resort.  We lived for many years next door in Puerto Rico and were quite familiar with the Dom. Rep. since there were many Dominicans in P.R. and you heard about it often enough in TV.  But I had never gone.

Now, I am not known to be the type to lay at a beach for hours on end, days on end.  I like my time in the beach to be an hour or two, most of that in the shade of some tree (or umbrella) enjoying the breezes and sounds of the sea – a most relaxing activity.  Couple that with a beverage and it is perfect.  Then I get bored.  Sure, a dip in the water or two helps.  And then I move on.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana is on the eastern coast of the Dom. Rep. – almost exactly on the easternmost tip of the Hispaniola, pointing towards Puerto Rico.  There are many resorts in the area at all price levels.  The beaches are Caribbean prime.  Why go further from North America with places like this at its doorstep!  The resort had a great beach and great pools – areas we enjoyed on a daily basis even if sometimes I just hung out under the shade napping or reading a book.  Of course, food is part of the enjoyment of a good vacation and we ate pretty well.Riu resort, Punta Cana, pool, Dominican Republic, Caribbean, travel resort, Punta Cana, pool, Dominican Republic, Caribbean, travel, beachThe room was very spacious and very nicely done – that’s all REAL wood, not pressed wood…

Rio resort, bedroom, kid playing video game, hotel, Dominican Republic, Riu resort, Punta Cana, Caribbean, travel

My nephew enjoying the resort room while playing his beloved video games!

Altos de Chavón, La Romana

But, the itch to explore is never down-and-out with me so we did plan for a day of seeing the countryside and visiting a couple of places we had heard about before.  One, the basilica of Altagracia in Higüey, was on our way out to La Romana so it was an easy stop to admire this massive church.  At La Romana, we visited Altos de Chavón, a charming recreation of any-town Middle Age Europe, complete with an amphitheater that has been used by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Duran Duran, and Julio Iglesias.

Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, La Romana, travel,

Beautiful medieval European architecture with tropical foliage!

Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, La Romana, travel, skinny cat

The skinniest cat I have seen. It was tough being a medieval cat!

Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, La Romana, travel, , door

Charming details around the town

Altos de Chavon, Dominican Republic, La Romana, travel, amphitheater

The amphitheater – would love to see a show here

We all enjoyed walking around, exploring the town, looking at the shops and, why not, even a burro ride!

Altos de Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic, girl on a burro

My niece enjoying a ride around the town

On the way out we crossed the Chavon River which offered incredible views!Chavon River, La Romana, Dominican Republic Chavon River, La Romana, Dominican RepublicLeaving this corner of paradise was hard to do but this view was a nice departing gift!

fly over, Punta Cana, resorts, sea, beaches, Dominican Republic

View of Punta Cana resorts from the plane

Have you been to the Dominican Republic?  What are your favorite spots there?

 

%d bloggers like this: