Our first stop was the surfing town of Biarritz. The Southwestern region of France and the town of Biarritz in particular have a wonderful laid back vibe unlike the more glitzy Cote D’Azur. There are no blinged out yachts docked in a harbor, jet skies, flashy people or trendy hotels. What you will find in Biarritz is a great surf town (think Montauk – before it became a scene – in France). The breathtaking, rugged coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean coupled with the delicious food and gracious people in this charming seaside town was nirvana.

photo[2]

I am trying really hard to ignore we are already in the last gasps of summer although the multitude of children’s school reminders keep bringing me back to reality that only 3 short weeks are left before we leave the beach and head back to the city. We still have so many reviews to post of places we checked out  in the last two months – from Hawaii to London to Amalfi – and will just have to keep the memories of summer alive in those as we publish them. This particular post, from our contributing reviewer Romi Howard who checked into Hotel Du Palais in Biarritz in July, takes us to one of the most iconic and historic beach resorts in Europe. Enjoy!

Biarritz was our target for our annual summer getaway to commiserate and celebrate our 7-week ‘empty nester’ status while the kids were at sleep away camp. After a successful country-hopping affair last year involving multiple countries, we decided this year to concentrate on the particular region of South-West France and bordering Spain, allowing us the flexibility to alter our plans on a moments notice if needed. Which of course we did – replacing locale San Sebastian with Deia, Mallorca – due to a bleak weather forecast.

Our first stop was the surfing town of Biarritz. The Southwestern region of France and the town of Biarritz in particular have a wonderful laid back vibe unlike the more glitzy Cote D’Azur. There are no blinged out yachts docked in a harbor, jet skies, flashy people or trendy hotels. What you will find in Biarritz is a great surf town (think Montauk – before it became a scene – in France). The breathtaking, rugged coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean coupled with the delicious food and gracious people in this charming seaside town was nirvana.

Art of Soule
Art of Soule

There’s really only one place to stay in town and that is the 156-room Hotel Du Palais. Built around 1855 by Napoleon III for his wife, Eugenie, the hotel was originally designed to be a summer villa but ultimately evolved into a fashionable destination for the aristocracy Main_Lobbyand upper class.

The grounds and the building itself are impressive and impeccably maintained. As you enter the lobby, you feel like you’ve been transported back in time  – the hotel is indeed a throwback to Brigitte Bardot 1960’s France when Biarritz was at its heyday.   The opulent Belle Epoque décor, to be truthful, is not typically my taste (we prefer more minimally-chic hotels) but it grew on us quickly.

pool and beach

The accommodations themselves are very spacious with high ceilings, many with glass doors opening to balconies. We had an ocean classic roomview Junior Suite with a dead-on direct view over the ocean (perfect for opening the windows and falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves). There was a separate area to store our luggage and ample closet space – which is often difficult to find in French hotels. The bathroom was also very spacious, albeit a little bit dated. The Hermes and Bulgari bath products were a nice added touch.

The on-site Imperial Spa is not to be missed. Located at the far end of the hotel under the guidance of Karine Plumat, this spa is one of the best I have experienced. The 5-story spa includes a full service hair salon (along with also therapeutic services), a sleek and modern gym (a nice juxtapose to the main traditional public areas of the hotel), a wood-paneled library where you can hang out in your robe and read or relax. But the pool is really a site to behold. Encased in glass windows overlooking the sea, it is a visual oasis of calm with natural light coming in from all angles. This is what all hotel indoor pools should be like.

pool

The service of Hotel Du Palais was beyond accommodating and gracious. Two particular stand-outs were Isabelle Guide, the General Manager, who made our stay beyond enjoyable, and Olivier Pasquet, one of the concierges, who never steered us wrong.

What We Loved

  • Breakfast in La Rotunde, the main hotel restaurant – overlooking the ocean and the Grande Plage du Biarritz – was sumptuous.
  • The overall vibe of the town of Biarritz. Navigating the town on foot is quite easy and a great way to explore the cute shops and delicious restaurants. Rue Gambetta is the main street and dotted with adorable surf shops, yummy bars and restaurants
  • Chez Modjo – a super laid-back and cool restaurant found in a little alleyway (5 rue Garderes) with some of the most delicious local food you can imagine. A must during your stay.
  • The hotel’s indoor saltwater pool. Glorious to swim in.
  • The views from the hotel of both the town and the beach are unrivaled by just about anything else.

What We Didn’t Love

  • Some areas of the hotel – such as the lobby, check-in and guest room bathrooms – were starting to look a bit tired and could use an update.

Skip

  • The area immediately surrounding the Grand Plage was too touristy/kitschy for our liking. It is in a consolidated, central area so you can easily avoid it.

Don’t Miss

  • Forget your diet. Everything in this town is downright delicious. Our favorite restaurants included:

    – Cafe Jean (13 Rue des Halles, down the block from Cafe du Commerce and directly across the street from the market)

   – Cafe du Commerce (1 rue des Halles)

   – Saline – a wonderful ceviche bar (62 Rue Gambetta)

   – La Cabane a Huitre (61 Rue Gambetta)

   – L’atelier (18, Rue de la Bergerie)

  • Les Halles du Biarritz – an impressive covered market open from 7:30am till 1:30pm daily. A must to visit with an impressive array of local produce, fish, meat, and sweets (the gateau basque, a local cake, is delicious. Patisserie Adam, although not on the market premises, is an adorable bakery offering a wonderful version as well). Another not to miss experience is to sit at the plentiful oyster/seafood stands dotted throughout the market that also serve as a bar for insanely delicious freshly shucked oysters with a glass of Sancerre.
  • Art of Soule (28 Rue Gambetta) – an espadrille shoe store with locally made espadrilles in every color under the sun, is a sight to behold. They also make and sell great towels and beach bags (great gifts to bring back). The owner, Julien, gave us a great overview of the town and ultimately guided us to some great meals in the town.

Tips

  • Take the time to explore the many different beaches outside La Grande Plage. A little further up on both sides of the hotel, you’ll come upon some remarkable beaches where you can watch the surfers. Many of them you will have all to yourself.
  • Be flexible with your plans. The weather in Southwestern France can be highly unpredictable, changing from sunny to a windstorm and downpour at a moment’s notice.

Inviato Note: The Hotel Du Palais is a Belmond (formally Orient Express) managed property. You can check here for the best amenities, rates and availability with Classic Travel, our booking partner. Amenities include: upgrade upon arrival, complimentary daily buffet breakfast, early check in and late check out and complimentary round of golf or bottle of champagne (upgrade and check in/check out subject to availability).

 

 

 

Hotel Du Palais Biarritz

1 Avenue de L’Imperatrice,
Biarritz, France

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