The pace of life in Bayonne (pop. 43,000) has not changed for centuries. Here the word for walk is flaner, meaning “to stroll,” rather than marcher or even se promener. Towering above it all, the Gothic 13th-century Cathedrale Ste-Marie marks the leisurely passing of the time with the tolling of its bells. (Open June-Sept. M-Sa 7:30am-noon and 3-7pm, Su 3:30-8pm; Oct.-May reduced hours.) The Musee Bonnat, 5 r. Jacques Laffitte, in Petit-Bayonne, contains works by Degas, El Greco, and Goya. (Open May-Oct. M and W-Su 10am-6:30pm; Nov.-Apr. reduced hours. 5.50, students 3.) The Harmonie Bayonnaise orchestra holds traditional Basque concerts in pi. de Gaulle. (July-Aug. Th at 9:30pm. Free.)
Trains depart from the station in pi. de la Republique, running to: Bordeaux (2hr. 9 per day, 22); Toulouse (4hr. 5 per day, 32); and San Sebastian, Spain (l’2hr. 6 per day, 8). Local STAB buses depart from the Hotel de Ville for Biarritz (every 30-40min.; last bus M-Sa 8pm, Su 7pm; 1.20). The tourist office, on pi. des Basques, finds rooms. From the train station, take the middle fork onto pi. de la Republique,
BASQUE ME NO QUESTIONS
In Bayonne, the capital of France’s Basque region, restaurants post signs reading “Euskara badikigu.” Years of Latin lessons won’t help you discover that this means “Basque spoken here,” for Basque is the only non-lndo-European language spoken in Western Europe. Basque might not be the language of Babel, as believed in the 18th century, but Basques are tied to an ancient past-geneticists recently found a link between Basques and Celts. Recent talk of Basque identity, however, has focused on the the ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty), a radical movement based in Spain that organizes attacks in the name of independence. As violence continues in Spain, France has cracked down on ETA training cells and imprisoned members for acts of terrorism.
Only 10% of French Basques vote for Basque parties, and even fewer support the ETA’s radical ideology. How has France escaped Spain’s problems? French Basques did not experience the cultural oppression that their Spanish counterparts did under Franco, and scholars suggest that tolerance toward French Basque culture has actually aided in their assimilation with the larger nation. The Pays Basque remains on the middle ground, balancing its cultural identity between extremes of separatism and assimilation.
veer right over pont St-Esprit, pass through pi. Reduit, cross pont Mayou, and turn right on r. Bernede which becomes av. Bonnat. The tourist office is on the left. (05 59 46 01 46; www.bayonne-tourisme.com. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10am-lpm; Sept.-June M-F 9am-6:30pm, Sa 10am-6pm.) The iSHStel Paris-Madrid , on pi. de la Gare, has cozy rooms and friendly proprietors. ( 05 59 55 13 98. Breakfast 4. Reception 6am-12:30am. Singles and doubles 16-22; triples and quads 44.) Get groceries at Monoprix supermarket, 8 r. Orbe. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-7:30pm.) Postal Code: 64100.
A playground for the wealthy since the 19th century, Biarritz (pop. 29,000) can still put a dent in the wallet, but its free beaches make it an option for budget travelers as well. Surfers ride the waves and bathers soak up the sun at Grande Plage, while bathers repose au naturel just to the north at the less-crowded Plage Miramar. A short hike to Pointe St-Martin affords a priceless view of the water.
Trains leave from Biarritz-la-Negresse 05 59 23 04 84), 3km from town, for Bordeaux (2hr. 7 per day, 26) and Paris (5hr. 5 TGVs per day, 67). The tourist office, 1 sq. d’Ixelles, finds accommodations. (05 59 22 37 10; fax 05 59 24 97 80. Open July-Aug. daily 8am-8pm; Sept.-June reduced hours.) The EiAuberge de Jeunesse (HI) O, 8 r. de Chiquito de Cambo, has a friendly staff and lakefront location at the Francis Jammes stop on bus line #2. (05 59 41 76 00; fax 05 59 41 76 07. Internet access 2.50 per 30min. Dorms 13. AmexMCV.) Hdtel Barnetche , 5 bis r. Charles-Floquet, is one of the best values in the centre ville. (m05 59 24 22 25; www.hotel-bametche.fr. Breakfast 6. Reception 7:30am-10:30pm. Open May-Sept. Dorms 17; singles 35; doubles 58.) Cheap eateries can be found along Rue Mazagran and Place Clemenceau. Stock up at Shopi supermarket, 2 r. du Centre, is just off r. Gambetta. (Open 9am-12:45pm and 3:30-5pm.) Postal Code: 64200.
DAYTRIP FROM BIARRITZ: ST-JEAN-DE-LUZ.
The vibrant seaport of St-Jean-de-Luz lures visitors with the Maison Louis XIV, pi. Louis XTV, which temporarily housed the Sun King. (Open July-Aug. M-Sa 10:30am-12:30pm and 2:30-6:30pm, Su 2:30-6:30pm; Sept.-June closes 5:30pm. 4.50. Tours every 30min.) The village’s earlier days of piracy funded its unique buildings, exemplified in the Eglise St-Jean-Baptiste, r. Gambetta, built to resemble a fishing boat. (Open daily lOam-noon and 2-6pm.) Trains roll in to bd. du Cdt. Passicot from Biarritz (15min. 10
per day, 2.50) and Bayonne (30min. 7 per day, 3.90). ATCRB buses ( 05 59 08 00 33), across from the train station, also run to Bayonne (35min. 7-13 per day, 3.60) and Biarritz (25min. 7-13 per day, 2.80). The tourist office is at pi. Foch. (05 59 26 03 16 05; fax 05 59 26 21 47. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su 10:30am-lpm and 3-7pm; Sept.-June reduced hours). Postal Code: 64500.
In 1858, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous saw the first of 18 visions of the Virgin Mary in the Massabielle grotto in Lourdes (pop. 16,300). Today five million visitors from across the globe make the pilgrimage each year. To get to La Grotte de Massabielle and the three basilicas, follow av. de la Gare, turn left on bd. de la Grotte, and follow it to the right and across the river Gave. Processions depart daily from the grotto at 5pm and 8:45pm. (No shorts or tank tops. Grotto open daily Sam-mid-night. Basilicas open Easter to Oct. daily 6am-7pm; Nov.-Easter 8am-6pm.)
Trains leave the station, 33 av. de la Gare, for: Bayonne (2hr. 5 per day, 18); Bordeaux (3hr. 7 per day, 28); Paris (7-9hr. 5 per day, 86); and Toulouse (2¥A\r. 8 per day, 21). To reach the tourist office, on pi. Peyramale, turn right onto av. de la Gare, bear left onto av. Marasin, cross a bridge above bd. du Papacca, and climb uphill. The office is to the right. ( 05 62 42 77 40; firstname.lastname@example.org. Open May-Oct. M-Sa 9am-7pm; Nov.-Apr. reduced hours.) The newly-renovated Hdtel du Commerce , 11 r. Basse, faces the tourist office. (05 62 94 59 23; email@example.com. Breakfast 3.80. July to mid-Oct. singles 32; doubles 38; triples 45; mid-Oct. to June reduced prices. MCV.) Camping and Hotel de la Poste , 26 r. de Langelle, 2min. from the post office, offers a campground and attached hotel. (05 62 94 40 35. Open Easter to mid-Oct. Electricity 2.50. Showers 1.30. 2.50 per person, 3.60 per site.) The cheapest eateries are near the tourist office, away from the touristy main strip. Postal Code: 65100.