A weekend in the Spanish Basque Country was on the agenda but we ended up on the French side. I discovered Biarritz thanks to a fellow classmate while taking my Interior Design Course in Dublin and to be honest, I knew nothing about the French Basque Country in southwestern France and even less about this lovely city. Biarritz happens to be a 45-minute drive from San Sebastian and 1h45 from Bilbao and Pamplona, you’ll understand why I am mentioning this as you read all about this long-weekend escape.
Disclosure: This is probably one of the most disorganized trips we’ve ever taken but we still managed to make it worthwhile.
When planning our stay in Biarritz we realised that the flights did not work for the dates we wanted to travel and decided to fly into Bilbao and stay in San Sebastian. We finally made it to one of the best food cities in the world; who wouldn’t love to spend three days doing *Pintxo crawls?! But alas, our stay was brief… my husband didn’t like the hotel I booked and within minutes we were booked at the Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa sea & spa. Off we went!
Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa
We arrived at the Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa and checked into our room which got Mr. Chieff’s stamp of approval and our vacation was off to a start.
That same evening, we had reservations at Azurmendi, No. 16 (2016) of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, which we were by no means going to miss even if it was 1h40 minutes back in the direction we came from! This is where I mention how great my husband is for putting up with my sometimes-ridiculous requests. Over three hours of driving for a great restaurant is well worth it if you ask me. Our meal was fabulous! Thank goodness!
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great during our stay, we only got one day and a half of sunshine so we spent our Saturday by the pool at the Sofitel. Let me explain why the sun is so important to us; we live in Ireland. Need I say more? For this reason, we jump at the opportunity to enjoy some rays and a little beach time whenever we can.
That evening we decided to stay local, we made reservations at L’Impertinent, a one Michelin starred restaurant located within walking distance from the Sofitel. Biarritz is a very walkable city and you can enjoy great shops, beautiful architecture and a lovely coastline.
Lunch at Bar Jean and a Stroll in Pamplona
The following day we woke up to a cloudy chilly morning and decided to follow the sunshine after enjoying a great lunch at Bar Jean. This tiny bistro faces Biarritz’s famous food market, Le Marché des Halles de Biarritz, you can enjoy Pintxo style dishes made with fresh local ingredients! The tomatoes were to die for!
We then took a day trip to Pamplona on a Sunday when everything happens to be closed. Again, terrible planning. We walked around the deserted streets and made our way back to Biarritz after a couple of hours. That evening we were in the mood for seafood so we opted for Chez Albert, a restaurant located at Port-des- Pêcheurs, translated to Port of Fishermen, the food was fresh and delicious.
On our before last day, the sun decided to make an appearance, so we decided to spend a little more time working on our tan after heading into town for some crêpes at Le Blé Noir. The coastline is stunning in Biarritz, it happens to be the birthplace of European surf, you will see surfers waiting to catch a wave along the designated surf areas on the beach.
Restaurant Le Pim'Pi
On our last evening, we indulged in another great meal at Le Pim’Pi Bistrot, also walking distance from the Sofitel. Located in the heart of Biarritz, Le Pim’Pi offers an authentic cuisine with local seasonal ingredients in a relaxed bistro setting.
Our flight out on Tuesday was late in the afternoon and I was not going to leave until I experienced a Pintxo crawl in San Sebastian! Yes, I’m somewhat stubborn… On our drive, I started checking the opening hours to various Pintxo places I had on my list and of course almost all the good ones open for lunch and then close and don’t open again until 5pm and we still had one more stop to make in Bilbao before catching our flight.
Trust me when I say that there are good Pintxo places and some you need to stay away from if you don’t want to risk food poisoning! Luckily one of the spots on my list was open, Yay! Goiz Argi, where the warm Pintxo are prepared in front of you and not left out on the counter for who knows how long! The Pintxo were amazing but I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to try all the other great places on my list.
Our final stop, Bilbao where the Semana Grande de Bilbao had just ended a day earlier. Great planning! (insert sarcasm here) This happens to be the biggest festival in Northern Spain, every year over a span of nine days, more than 100,000 participants crowd the streets of Bilbao for Semana Grande. We missed one of Europe’s many exciting street parties where you can watch Strongman competitions and bull fights during the day and listen to live music and watch extravagant fireworks displays in the evening with the locals. For those who are interested, La Semana Grande will take place from the 19-27 of August 2017.
We walked around Bilbao and made note of all the other things we missed out on during our visit such as the Guggenheim. Guess this just means we have to come back!
And so, our trip came to an end, off to the airport we went! There were plenty of lessons learned after this trip, here are my top three:
- Send a few hotel options to the hubby and have him pick one. (I am no longer responsible for poor choices) 😉
- Plan, plan and plan some more! Make back up plans if the weather doesn’t go your way and find our if there are local festivals happening during your visit.
- Check the opening hours of restaurants that don’t require advanced reservations.
What is your most poorly planned travel experience? What did you learn from it and what do you do differently now? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
*(Pintxo: A pincho (Spanish: [ˈpintʃo], literally "thorn" or "spike") is a small snack, typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country and Navarre.)
For a better-planned trip check out Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion and Biarritz Long Weekend!
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