Last week, I wrote a post about an enjoyable coastal hike we took on a family holiday to France’s Pays Basque.
This week, I’ll write about the little coastal town that served as ‘home’ during our stay in France’s southwest region. Guéthary, a small town just a few kilometers south of Biarritz, made a perfect base for our stay.
We divided our time between lazy beach days in Guéthary, visits up and down the coast to see interesting Basque coastal towns, excursions into the Pays Basque interior, where more interesting Basque towns tempted us and visits to the nearby Spanish Basque towns.
Guéthary was laid-back and enjoyable, with lots of pretty villas from the 1920s and early 1930s, in what would have been the heyday of this outpost just south of sparkling Biarritz. The views over the coast are charming and quite a few beaches dot the area, so you can enjoy your time trying different ones.
This is a haven for surfers, and the waves can be quite strong. Beaches are clearly divided with blue flags for swimmers, and green flags, with red circles, for surfers.
As a former lifeguard, I can only sympathize with the poor lifeguards who clearly earned all the euro they were paid constantly calling surfers out for crossing into swimming territory when they got excited about catching the perfect wave. Surf boards and little children simply don’t mix well.
Guéthary is at the far western point of the Central Eastern Europe time zone, so sunsets are extremely late – and fun to watch the drama and colors of the sun slipping behind the horizon of the Atlantic.
There was a lively crowd of surfers, families, couples and those who have been vacationing here for decades that kept then town busy, but also low-key. The restaurants were okay, although we preferred to buy dinner from the local markets and cook at home during our stay. There were lots of good places to enjoy an aperitif and oysters – alongside those stunning sunsets.
Wednesday evenings were set aside for pelote (a traditional Basque sport) matches on the town’s fronton.
Every Basque town has a fronton – the wall and hard court where players practice pelote against rival towns, which often serves as the town’s place or piazza (main square). And to the glee of my kids, it served as a convenient wall on which to practice tennis each morning.
We enjoyed watching a match one evening – although I’m not sure we grasped all the rules, or that it captivated us enough to become rabid pelote fans back home.
Guéthary served as an excellent base for exploring this interesting region, and we enjoyed our brief time here as ‘locals’. Although, while we are always happy to practice our French, I must admit none of us made ANY progress with the complicated Basque language.
I’ll enjoy memories of this charming little town along the Atlantic Ocean.