Things to do whilst staying at Maison Uhalborda
Information for Maison Uhalborda
There are a number of very good beaches within easy drive of
the house. We particularly like
Ilbarritz nord. Just south of Biarritz
on the A63, take exit no. 4, then go in the direction of Bidart – St Jean de
Luz, then at the roundabout after the Intermarche, go right towards
Biarritz. The beach is about a mile or
so on your left, signposted. It is a
nice enclosed beach with a lovely café/restaurant (which is not all that cheap,
but is a good place to enjoy a beer whilst watching the waves). Most beaches tend to have quite big waves
(depending on the weather).
If you want
somewhere where the sea is a little
calmer, you can try Capbreton, where there is a protected area, but this is
quite a built up resort town, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, then
head for places like Ondres and Hossegor.
All of these places have their share of seaside cafes and so on, but the
actual beaches are very nice. Obviously,
always swim where there is a life guard as the sea is full of currents and rips
and they will mark out where it is safe. Tarnos plage is the nearest beach in the Landes.
Places to visit
Bayonne: This is
Biarritz’s less starry neighbour, but it is a lovely old town, quite typically
Basque and full of character. There is
an old church and city walls and a chance to see some Basque architecture. Famous for chocolate and marzipan, so some
good places to get cakes and sweet things.
Also, good shopping here.
Biarritz is the place to go to see the beautiful people! Plus there are surfing competitions and if
you look hard, some decent places to eat that aren’t too pricey. We tend to avoid it a bit in the summer as it
does get very busy, much more so than Bayonne.
St Jean Pied de Port:
the walled city is worth a look as is a walk up to the Citadel, if it is
not too hot. Quite touristy, but you
still get lots of groups of hikers/pilgrims walking the Compostelle.
St Jean de Luz - I mention it because it is a very pretty
old town but it gets absolutely packed in the summer, so if you want to go,
then go early. If you do decide to go,
it’s better to take the motorway down and get off at the last minute, rather
than the road that runs along the coast.
Vineyards: The local
brew is Irouleguy, and whilst we have never done it, I think you can visit the
local vineyards up at Irouleguy and have a look round. This is a pretty good brew – quite
substantial, to go with the local food!
Festivals – summer is festival season in the pays basque, so
keep your eyes open for local festivals.
Caves – there are caves in Isturitz and Oxocelhaya, east of
St Palais. We’ve never visited them, but
they are supposed to be worth a look and might make a good activity if it
Ainhoa – beautiful little village, very typically Basque.
Pau – we’ve never been but it supposed to be lovely, and
July and August is festival time there with open air concerts and jazz.
There is a company that will deliver bicycles to the house,
if you enjoy cycling.
2 good restaurants in St Palais, both in the town
square. Le Trinquet has recently been
overhauled and is now a pretty smart restaurant serving very good food. Cheaper is the hotel next door – Hotel de la
Paix which does good value fixed price menus and is also very good. There are also cafes in the town including a
very authentically Basque place (can’t remember the name though!), a pizza
The great attraction of Sauveterre-de-Bearn is its cliff-top setting high above the Gave d'Oloron from where you can see the famous fortified medieval bridge, or, rather, half a bridge - the other half having been destroyed in a feudal war. The village centre is 1km from the cottage - there's a selection of local shops and restaurants.
Navarrenx dates from the 11th century; it is considered one of the finest example of a fortified town in the south west, not least because its Protestant inhabitants resisted every attempted invasion during the Wars of Religion!
Nearby Salies-de-Béarn is a larger town and offers more by way of shops and restaurants. Salies is a genteel spa town which has been a popular watering hole for those seeking thermal cures and relaxation, for over 100 years. There's also a splendid Moorish-style casino in the town and a golf course close by. Salies is also a pleasant place for a stroll, notably along the narrow backstreets with their steep-gabled houses. And if you fancy a break from walking, you can take gondola trips along the river in summer.
Countryside & Mountains
This region is known as the 'Béarn des Gaves', where the mountain streams from the Ossau and Aspe valleys converge to form the famous Gave d'Oloron, known for exceptional salmon fishing (the world championship comes here here every year) and, for thrill-seekers, rafting and kayaking. The region is also famous for its abundance of heritage, especially châteaux (eg at nearby Aren and Laas) and bastides (medieval fortified towns), includingNavarrenx.
The Haut-Béarn is a wonderful landscape that forms a natural boundary between France and Spain. It is also a haven for outdoor pursuits. Two beautiful river valleys – d’Ossau and d’Aspe – offer great walking/hiking, mountain biking and, in Spring, good white-water potential. Parasailing, rock-climbing, horse-riding and fishing are also popular. Skiing is possible at nearby stations such as Gourette.
In the Parc National des Pyrénées lives some of Europe’s most exotic wildlife including chamois, royal eagles and brown bears, whilst at Laruns there is a 92-hectare reserve for the griffon vulture. At Lescun you will find one of France’s most photogenic natural locations, the Needles of Ansabère, an amphitheatre of jagged limestone peaks rising to the summit of Pic d’Anie.
Also in the Haut-Béarn and a great day out for the kids is a ride on Le Petit Train d’Artouste. Built for dam workers, this 10 kms train journey tales passengers along the flanks of the Pic de la Sagette.
A short drive east is the stylish and compact city of Pau. Barely known of outside of France, Pau has a variety of attractions. It sprang to fame in the 19th century when wealthy British and Americans were drawn to its mild climate and it became a popular winter holiday destination. To this day Pau retains an ‘upmarket’ feel about it. There is a thriving café and bar life plus plenty of opportunity for boutique shopping, notably along the rues des Cordeliers and Serviez. Pau also has its own château (and birthplace of King Henri IV) plus one of the south west’s finest panoramic views - the spectacular array of distant, snow-capped peaks as seen from the Boulevard des Pyrénées. A little known fact is that Pau is home to continental Europe’s first golf course, built in 1856 by a resident Scotsman. Pau also hosts horse-racing events, a vintage car race and a Formula 3 street race every year.
In the other direction, the Basque capital of Bayonne has a fine, historic centre with a beautiful cathedral, ramparts plus a range of stylish shops and restaurants. There's also a good museum - Musée Basque - for learning more about the Basque people, their culture and history. And, of course, no visit to this Chocolate City would be complete without sampling its famous hot chocolate and visiting one of the many chocolatiers.
Other suggestions for day-trips:
• Wine-tasting in the vineyards of Jurançon, Madiran and Béarn
• Crossing the border into Spain for a visit to Pamplona, San Sebastian or Bilbao
• A trip to Lourdes to satisfy the religious or the plain curious