How to live it up in Biarritz for less!
Trip Start Sep 05, 2008
40Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
If you think that swanky French resorts like Biarritz are out of your price range, think again! Struggling to find playtime money in this miserable recession, my friend Allison and I share a terrible affliction - champagne tastes with a vin du plonk budget.
This summer we had a mission: to find a holiday destination with glam factor that we could do on a budget. We're not talking shoe-string - we decided we wanted to eat well and perhaps indulge in a few spa treats but not splash money on an expensive hotel that we two sun worshippers would spend little time in anyway.
We wanted sun, gorgeous beaches, and a laid back vibe in an upmarket French resort free from loud and leery karaoke bars and English pubs. We wanted a great holiday for less, without feeling that we were scrimping or missing out.
Biarritz, the famous Basque seaside town on the Atlantic coast, came out as the top choice. But could we afford it? Self-catering seemed the obvious solution.
We surfed the net and found the P&V holidays' Beat the Euro deal - offering self-catering apartments in France, including Biarritz, at 2008 Euro exchange rates - promising a saving of up to 45 per cent!
We picked a self-catering residence in the heart of the action that looked perfect for our needs - the P&V Biarritz Haguna. We booked a week in a self-catering apartment at the residence for a bargain price, bought cheap flights with Ryanair, packed our best bikinis and headed to the sun...
The Biarritz Haguna scored full marks for all our requirements. It's situated just a five-minute walk from Grand Plage, ten minutes from the shops and restaurants of the town centre and backs onto a street filled with delightful French food stores.
Although simply furnished, it was clean, well-appointed with a balcony overlooking the residence's private gardens, and was plenty big enough for two friends to share.
Checking into the famous Hotel du Palais on Grand Plage would be great if you could afford it, but staying here we got a very comfortable base with great access to the best of Biarritz without a crippling hotel bill. Hurrah!
The little street below the residence has a mouth-watering boulangerie, charcuterie, and fromagerie, plus a fabulous greengrocers, and a little supermarket that's great for basics and everything else - including a superb selection of good French wines at low prices you'd never find in a local shop at home!
With shops selling fresh local produce this good, self-catering is a pleasure.
On our first day, we explored them all and stocked the fridge with delicious patisserie, fresh baguettes, cheeses and salads for breakfast and lunch, and rose wine, olives and nibbles for aperitif time. The plan was that we'd eat these meals at the apartment or pack a picnic for the beach and enjoy dinners out in the evenings.
The kitchenette in our apartment was well kitted out with crockery and cooking facilities. We worked out that even though we'd feasted well, we'd probably saved on average 20 Euro a day each by catering for ourselves instead of having breakfast and lunch in the cafes. Excellent!
The Best of Biarritz by Day
Biarritz is an upmarket little gem that exudes boho chic without taking itself too seriously. This enduringly popular Belle Epoque seaside town attracts French celebs and scruffy young surf dudes in equal measure - and while you will see the locals parading in elegant beachwear, no-one wears diamonds to the beach a la St Tropez. The architecture is a glamorous mix of gabled Basque houses - Biarritz is just 15 minute's drive from the Spanish border - and art deco hotels and villas.
The town itself is compact, and you can easily get everywhere on foot.
It's not just the locals who are well-groomed, the beaches are too! At the crack of dawn every day, the beaches are cleaned and combed as part of Biarritz's impressive efforts to fight pollution.
If you're a surf god or goddess this is the town for you. Biarritz has been famous for surfing and its vibrant surf culture since the 1960s, and it now hosts the annual European surfing championships.
All the beaches - La Grande Plage, Plage Miramar, Plage du Port Vieux, La Cote de Basques, Marbella, and La Milady - are gorgeous. Your choice depends on whether you want to swim, surf or body board as each beach regulates these activities according to the safety of the famously fierce tides that make surfing here so great.
La Grande Plage, the main beach lined with restaurants and cafes, has separate areas for bathers and surfers; Le Port Vieux is a small shady beach ideal for families; La Cote de Basques is the hot spot for surfers, and Miramar was our sandy paradise of choice.
Plage Miramar is accessed by foot, surfing is not allowed and body boarding is restricted, making it the perfect beach for people like us who just love to sunbathe and swim.
A break from the sun...
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, there are plenty of attractions to tempt into town...
Museums & Galleries
Biarritz has plenty of great museums for culture vultures and history lovers, including the History of Biarritz Museum (Rue Broquedis), Museum of Oriental Art (Rue Guy Petit).
Our two favourites were the Le Bellevue (Place Bellevue), a stunning modern gallery where we saw an exhibition of sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz...and on a less high brow note - The Chocolate Museum!
That Biarritz is such an important town for chocolate comes as a surprise to most visitors, and a tour of the Musee du Chocolat (Ave Beaurivage) is a real treat. Here, you get to see exhibits of antique choc making equipment, a short film about the history of chocolate production and buy presents to take home in the gift shop that's stuffed with extraordinary chocolate treats.
As you'd expect of such a surftastic town, there are plenty of shops selling famous brand surf boards and the coolest beachwear to match. We were a lot more interested in designer wear of the less salty kind. Hermes, in particular. The brand famous for its signature silk scarves has a suitably sumptuous store here, as does Paris's favourite department store, Galeries La Fayette. It costs nothing to look, and it's reassuring to know that these designer emporiums are at least here!
Find out more information about the P&V group's Residence Haguna in Biarritz on PV-holidays.com. the website for P&V.
Next week read part two of Natalie's blog - the best of Biarritz at night!