In 1915 Coco Chanel opened her third boutique at 2 Edouard VII Avenue, Biarritz. The first and second were in Paris and Deauville. This was the type of town Biarritz was – its ocean side glamour and warmth attracting a smart, wealthy set. This was a time when people really knew how to travel as evidenced from the pre-trip instruction, ‘Chill the champagne, pack the pearls and fire up the Bugatti’. Today, the Chanel boutique has gone (it went in 1939) to be replaced by a far less chic bookshop. Biarritz’s former glamour bravely clings onto life today, despite brutal planning decisions in the 1960s and 70s which showed no mercy to her delicate, balanced architecture. Whilst Biarritz must have been stunning in its day, it still offers a fashionable, breezy alternative to the Côte d’Azur and proximity to London means, a real change of scene (and weather) is possible in under two hours.
“Chill the champagne, pack the pearls, fire up the Bugatti”
Biarritz’s Grande Plage beach is split into two. In 1957 American Hollywood screenwriter Peter Viertel observed the impressive Atlantic surf, wired back to California for his surfboard and inadvertently introduced Europe to surfing. Today, surfing dudes from all over Europe mingle with France’s tanned, young things who soak up the sun – fashionable beachwear comes as standard. Once the go to resort for European aristocracy, Biarritz is still able to attract moneyed European families to its shores. Elegant 50 something Spanish women in Pucci kaftans lend a hand with their grandchildren whilst their husbands enjoy their early retirement.
After a day on the beach, strolling down the Grande Promenade or marvelling at the Bay of Biscay ocean life in the twenty aquaria at the Aquarium Biarritz, late afternoon shopping is a pleasant pre-dinner activity. Galeries Lafayette, the Parisian department store is here and unlike in Britain, many of the independent boutiques and shops survive. Biarritz, like so much of France, has plenty to ruin your diet from chocolate caramels (chocolate making is a speciality) to Gâteaux Basque – a vanilla cream filled Paleo hating puffed pastry confection. Café Miramar (see over) is a great spot for a mid shopping caffeine re-fuel. Enjoy a pre-dinner glass of champagne in Place Bellevue and then take a seat at the open windowed Café du Commerce (see over) for a classic, French bistro supper. Well fed, well shopped and well rested is a day well spent.
Where to eat
Beautiful café dating back to 1872, well used by locals. The salon at the back has tremendous views. Ideal for coffees, breakfast and pastries if your waistline allows!
1 bis Place Georges Clemenceau
Café du Commerce
A favourite spot of mine. Perfect bistro dining. Good service. The restaurant has tables at the windows giving it an airy, open plan feel. Busy on summer evenings, book ahead.
1 Rue des Halles,
Large, busy restaurant in the old port, well known for its ultra fresh fish. Lovely sea views. Booking recommended.
51bis Allée Port des Pêcheurs
Where to stay, where to shop, what to read
Hôtel du Palais
The top hotel in Biarritz. Occupying the best position in town, the Hôtel du Palais has hosted everyone from Napoleon to Churchill. Enjoy the amazing views whilst dining in some style on the beautiful terrace.
Opened in 1875, this Basque épicerie has both picnic essentials (try their Basque charcuterie) and wonderful condiments, chocolate, oils and coffees to take a taste of the Basque country back home with you.
5 Avenue Victor Hugo, arosteguy.com
Françoise Sagan’s slim novel is a French summer in book form. Written over a few months in a Parisian café, when the author was only 18 years old. She would later be described as writing with a pen ‘saturated in French literature’.
Côte Sud Magazine
Dreaming about living permanently in the South of France? Find your fantasy interiors in the pages of Côte Sud magazine.
Create a clean, fresh, French look with the following beauty essentials:
1 Chatelet Beauty Case by Delsey Paris, £125, delsey.com
2 Nars Eyeshadow in ‘Biarritz’, £18.
3 The perfect pretty lip is yours with Nars Velvet Matt Lip Pencil in Dolce Vita, £20
4 Guerlain Terracotta Joli Teint Natural Healthy Glow Powder Duo, £32
5 Clinique Cheek Pop in Pink Pop, £17
6 Full Fat Lashes Mascara by Charlotte Tilbury in Glossy Black, £22 johnlewis.com
7 Nuxe Huile Prodigieux Shower Gel, £10 for a gorgeous satin finish and delicate fragrance.
8 Chanel Cristelle Eau Verte, £49 50ml. Crisp lemon and lime top notes are perfect on a summer’s evening. Very fresh and very French.
Taking you from Beach to Boulevard whatever your budget.