Need help with SW France itinerary

Old Apr 4th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 188
Need help with SW France itinerary

We are planning on flying from CDG Paris to Biarritz and staying in St. Jean de Luz for 3 nights. Several years ago I stayed at Clair de Lune outside of Biarritz and have decided that next trip I wanted to spend more time in SJ de luz. I speak French and zero Spanish so we are more comfortable on the French side.

If we stay 3 nights, we only end up with 2 full days, one to explore Biarritz (which shouldn't take very long)and the other St. Jean de Luz. Should we add one more night to be able to do a quick side trip to spain--St. Sebastian and Hondarribia? Should we try to squeeze in Bilbao also? Or are there other smaller, quaint Spanish cities we should consider since we are so short on time?

When do those glorious rhododendrons cover the hillside in Biarritz? Seems to me they were blooming in June?
JudyADenver is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 15,249
Seems that you are clinging to the coast. Why not go inland a bit & explore the Pays Basque region & the Pyrenees. Here are a few suggestions - I wrote this for a friend who was staying in a Gite just south of St Jean Pied du Port - so there may be some "specifics" in there that you can ignore:

Maps & Books needed
Michelin Map #342 – Haute Pyrenees, Pyrenees Atlantiques
Michelin Green Guide to the Atlantic Coast

The page numbers & stars in the following text refers to the pages and star ratings given by the Michelin Guide.

Trip 1 – Pays Basque - do this on a clear sunny day, and get to La Rhune rack railway as early in the morning as possible so the sun will not be in your face for the view of Bayonne, Biarritz, & St Jean de Luz. Don’t do this on a Sun or Mon morning when shops close.
le Labourd* pg 235 Route #1
start at Arcangues (save Bayonne for later)
St Pee
La Rhune – rack railway – plan on 2 ½ hrs – 45 mins up, & 1 hr on top.
Ainhoa* – one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France (TMBVoF) a classification given by a French association

Trip 2 – Pyrenees
La Haute Soule** pg 393
Southern route. From St Jean Pd d Port, take the very pretty D18 southeast over the col Bagargui. Continue on the D19 then the D26. When the D26 hits the D113, take the D113 southeast of you want to visit the Gorges de Kakouette** (walk). If you do not want to visit the Gorges, continue on the D26 towards Tardets-Sorholus. When the D26 hits the D918 before Tardets, take the D918 east until it ends at the N134. Take the N134 south.
Gave de Aspe* pg 110.
Aspun* panorama**
Col du Somport**
at the Col du Somport, retrace your route and head on the N134 north towards Sarrance. Just before Surrance, take the D241 west and then north until it hits the D918. Take the D918 west and then the pretty D117 west back to St Jean.
Haute Soule** pg 394

Trip 3 – deep into the Pyrenees, following the route of the Tour de France
Take the A64 east towards Pau. Past Pau, take exsit #11 to Lourdes. From here, the route is described starting on pg 122. Navigate around Lourdes and get on the D937 east & D935 south to Bagneres de Biggore. Continue on the D935 past Campan (notice the “figures” in various places in Campan). Continue on the D935 until you get to the small village of Ste Marie de Campan – it should take you 2 ½ hrs to get this far. Take the D918 southeast to the Col d’Aspin***. Retrace you route on the D918 back to Ste Marie and then southwest on the D918 to the Col du Tourmalet**. This route is the most famous route the Tour de France takes through the Pyrenees – you will see lots of bike riders along the way, and a statue on top of the Col de Tourmalet. Continue west on the D918 to Luz St Sauver. Take the D921 through the Gorge de Luz towards Argeles-Gazost.. From Argeles, you can either head back to Lourdes and then back to the Gite, or continue through the Pyrenees on the next trip (Trip #4). However, do not do the latter if you plan on taking the 4 hour gondola and mountain railway ride to La Sagette – highly recommended, see page 304

Trip 4 – deep into the Pyrenees, and a fantastic train trip.
Take the A64 to Lourdes like you did on trip 3. This time, from Lourdes, take the N21 south to Argeles Gazost, and then the D918 west. This is another of the famous Tour de France routes, and is described on pg 116 (in reverse). Go over the Col de l’Aubisque***. When you get to Laruns, turn left (south), and take the D934. This is described on pg 303. When you get to the D431, take it north to the Gondola starting place. Take the Gondola, and then the very scenic train to La Sagette – the most scenic views are from the left side of the train going up. At the termination of the train trip, you have the option of walking to Lac d’Ayous, but we did not take this trek – most people on the train did not either. This entire gondola/train trip will probably consume 3-4 hours, but it is well worth it.

After the La Sagette trip, return north on the D934 to Laruns, and continue north through Laruns. When the D934 hits the D294, take the very scenic D294 west to Escot, and then the D238 north to Oloron Ste Marie*. We visited Oloron, but did not find it very interesting. Trace the following route on Pg 393 (in reverse). Take the D936 northwest and then the D25 west to Mauleon. Since you have already driven on the D117 route on Trip 2, from Mauleon, take the D918 west, and then the D933 southwest back to St Jean Pied de Port.

Trip 5 – Coastal towns
Bayonne** – this was perhaps our favorite coastal town
Biarritz – lots of “Grande Dame” hotels & mansions. Take lots of walks around the coastal points, Rocher de la Vierge* & along La Perspective (view**)
St Jean de Luz** – nice resort town with plenty of shops
Corniche Basque** pg 379

Small villages close by that are worth a visit
St Etienne de Baigorry, and then west on the D949 to the col d’Ispeguy
St Jean Pied de Port**
Sauveterre de Bearn*
Salies de Bearn

Sites close to the Gite worth visiting
Grottes Isturitz et d’Oxocelhaya**
Chateau de Laas pg 393. Near Sauveterre

We visited Pau, but did not think that much of it.
We visited Cambo, but I don’t remember much about it – must not have been that exciting..


Mileage is from Osses.
Prices (lowest Fixed Price/highest FP) and XXs (degree of elegance) , and the stars (*) are from the ’03 Michelin Red guide.
We “checked out” the menus at almost all of the following places. We dined at the ones that appealed to us. The ones that have comments are the restaurants we actually dined at.

Bidarry 6K
Pont d’Enfer ^ 12/26 outside view cl S 05 59 37 70 88 did not like this restaurant
Barberaenea X 15/22 outside view Cl Tuesday 05 59 37 74 86

St Etienne 8K
Arce XX hotel rte d’Ispeguy 22/33 view, outside 05 59 37 40 14 liked this restaurant

St Jean 12K
Pyrenees * XXX 38/84 05 59 37 01 01 Best meal on our trip
Central X hotel outside 17/38 Cl M Cad 05 59 37 00 22

Itxassou 18K
Fronton X hotel 16/37 Cl W view outside 05 59 29 75 10
Txistulari X hotel 13/27 outside 05 59 29 75 09
Chene X hotel X 15/28 outside view Cl M good “simple” place

Ancille 19K
Pecoitz X red man 14/29 view 05 59 37 11 88 view Did not like this place

Esterencuby 20K
Les Sources de la Nive X 12/27 at Beherobie - south 4K view 05 59 37 10 57

Cambo 23K
Bellevue X hotel 14/27 view outside Cl S,M Cad 05 59 93 75 75
Chez Tante Ursule X hotel 14/31 outside 2K north 05 59 29 78 23 Cad
Relais de la Poste hotel 05 59 29 73 03

Espelette 25K

Ustaritz 29K
Patoula XX 20/35 Cl S,M outside 05 59 93 00 56

Ainhoa 31K
Ithurria * XXX hotel 29/44 Cl W 05 59 29 92 11 Only OK

Bayonne 42K
Auberge du Cheval Blanc * XXX 23/61 Cl S,M 05 59 59 01 33 Excellent dinner

Bidart 45K
Table et Hostellerie des Freres Ibarboure * XXX 40/60 outside Cl S, Wed after 9/7
05 59 54 81 64 Best meal in Bayonne/Biarritz area

Biarritz 45K
Campagne et Gourmandise *XX 36/59 Cl S,W outside view 05 59 41 10 11 Excellent
Les Platanes * XX 40/46 Cl M, Tu 05 59 23 13 68 Checked this place out – didn’t impress us

Stu Dudley

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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 10:44 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 141
If you'd like to go to San Sebastian, I think it would make a nice day-trip from St. Jean. It's a pretty short distance, but a totally different vibe. Bilbao would be way too far away to be worth it. I also think you're right about the exploration of Biarritz not taking very might even skip it and perhaps try one of the inland places recommended by StuDudley instead of Biarritz. Just a thought...
Felly is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 11:00 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 22,153
Stu I am saving your handy list for my own trip to the area next fall. Forgive me but I canot figure out what the numbers/numbers mean...prices? Thanks for this and all for your other very informative postings.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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Posts: 15,249
The nunber/number is the meal cost (in Euros) that's in the Michelin red guide. The first is the cheapest fixed price menu, and the second is the highest. Those prices are a few years old.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 01:35 PM
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Posts: 188
Stu--Thanks for so much information! Looks like we have so many places to consider. I will print your list right now. Under restaurants you listed " St. Jean-- (is that St. Jean de Luz or another town?) We would like to stay at Victoria Parc? Are you familiar?

Felly--I would only cruise through Biarritz if those magnificent rhododendrons are blooming--it's really worth a trip so see that enormous hillside painted with pinks, purples, blues and every shade in between.
JudyADenver is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 01:50 PM
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>>St. Jean-- (is that St. Jean de Luz or another town?) <<

Nope - it's St Jean Pied du Port - farther inland - and a cute village to visit.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 01:54 PM
Join Date: May 2005
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Thanks very much, Stu!

St. Jean Pied de Port is really a 'cute" town, as Stu says. Their market is on Mondays.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2006, 02:03 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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>>St. Jean Pied de Port is really a 'cute" town, as Stu says. Their market is on Mondays<<<

We've visited well over 50 different markets in France. The one in St Jean Pied du Port is not that great of a market, IMO.

Stu Dudley

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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Speaking of markets, here are listings of market days:
RonZ is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2006, 05:03 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 657
Basically the same question but different starting point. I'll be in San Sebastian for the week but free Friday about noon until sunday evening. Interested more in smaller towns and day-to-day life than grand hotels. Have been to Roncesvalles but looking for new areas. Thanks
weber6560 is offline  
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