Holiday Goddess Handbag Guide editor Anneli Knight spends some time in the home of French surf culture and tries the local tapas.

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 Biarritz is France’s version of Byron Bay in Australia or the Californian equivalent of Baja in Mexico: the beachside surf town mecca.

This elegant coastal village brings its own twist to the surfer’s sanctuary with a unique fusion of French chic and Basque bonhomie. Influenced heavily by Spain – with the border only a 25-minute away – you can begin your day with chocolate croissant and baguette and end it with a splash of tapas and sangria.

Dining

The Surfing

The beach called La Cote de Basque is where the French surf culture was born in the 1960s and restaurant The Surfing (9, Boulevard Prince de Galles) is an ode to this history: its walls adorned with old photographs. The views from the restaurant and balcony stretch over the Atlantic Ocean as far as Spain. And to build up your appetite or burn off lunch you can head to the beach via the Les 100 Marches – or one hundred steps – that weave down onto this wide-open stretch of surf beach. The food is laidback, best known for its meat dishes: burgers and the local staple of duck.

Il Giardino

Celebrating the European culture in this French and Spanish town is Italian restaurant Il Giardino (5, rue du Centre), perched down one of the pedestrian laneways on the way to Port Vieux. The restaurant is renowned for its high quality seasonal food, its impressive wine list and reasonable price, and the atmosphere of small candlelit tables lining the streets is the perfect way to enjoy a salty-aired summer night.

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Plage Port Vieux

Plage Port Vieux is the most sheltered beach in Biarritz, a narrow cove that offers a haven from the surf. There are two restaurants hugging the edge of this high-cliff beach – one offering a fine range of tapas and the other a smorgasbord of seafood, and both with breathtaking views.

Miremont

This exquisite patisserie is highly-priced but irresistible. Try the chocolate croissants, or the hot chocolate, or any one of the cakes or pastries or coffees. Anything – just go there. The old mirrors and chandeliers in this space help you feel transported back to the heyday of Biarritz glamour 

Shopping

The area of La Negresse, near the Biarritz train station, is flourishing under a rapid gentrification and is the place to go for vintage shops, antiques and funky accessories. A good starting point is Kiki Ritz (www.kiki-ritz.com) for vintage jewellery and clothes, and you can discover the other gems yourself by wandering around. And there’s a well-known beauty salon there (in a town that loves its beauty salons), Institute de beaute de la Negresse, using all natural French products (44 r Luis Mariano).

Palace or chalet

Hotel du Palais

Biarritz is an imperial town, with the sprawling Grand Palais (Grand Palace) dominating the northern shores of town. This summer palace was built at the request of Princess Eugenie in the nineteenth century and has since been converted into a lavish hotel, with royal service and style for a blue-ribbon price.

Villa or chalet

There is an abundance of choice for holiday rentals at all levels of luxury in and around Biarritz. There are holiday homes for rent as well as upmarket hotels, with views overlooking the Atlantic, and their picturesque shutters to keep the morning sun at bay.

 Photography – Seija Keeble

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