Ville et Village - European Vacation Rentals
France Information

PYRENEES ATLANTIQUE

Landscape

The Pyrénees range from Bayonne on the Atlantic side, across to the Spanish border and then inland along the Pyrénees. It is a land of many wonders. The countryside is beautiful with two contrasting geographies: the seaside and mountains. The coastal region has rocky cliffs, pretty coves, long sandy beaches and pounding Atlantic surf. Coastal cities have charming small Basque houses lining the seaside or splendid large chateaux perched on rocky cliffs. Inland, the mountains are lush and green with picturesque villages nestled in green meadows or tucked into verdant valleys. Herds of cow and sheep dot the landscape.

Towns, Villages & Attractions

This is an area known for its Basque culture made evident, in one of many ways, by the names of the villages: Ustarritz, Ainhoa, Ixtassou. The game of pelote (handball) is played in almost every village and it is not uncommon to come across a local match in a village center. Another traditional local game is Jai Lai, played indoors on a 3-sided court with the use of a straw scoop. It is fun to attend a Jai Lai match and hear the scores announced in Euskara, the Basque language.

The beaches are sandy and golden. Each beach has its own character. At Bayonne the sand is seemingly endless as it stretches for miles along the coastline. At Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz the beach hugs the edge of the city. At Bidart the beaches are quiet and sleepy with the occasional seaside restaurant. The area is well known for its strong surf and is a destination spot for international surfers.

There are many beautiful little villages each with a distinctive character. St. Jean Pied-de-Port is located in the mountains alongside a river and was once an entry port to Spain. It now has a wonderful outdoor market and is famous for its espadrilles. Espellette is famous for its peppers which locals string across their doorways to dry. Ainhoa is classified as one of the prettiest villages in France designed in classic Basque architecture.

If city life is more your style, here are a few suggestions. Biarritz has a beautiful boardwalk overlooking the sea, a fishing port and a lovely old city with narrow windy streets and fashionable boutiques. Bayonne has a large harbor, a Basque museum and a vibrant, pedestrian-only city center. St. Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure are cities on the sea, each has pretty Basque style houses that line the sandy beach.

This region benefits from its close proximity to Spain. It is easy to take a day trip across the border and then back again. Bilbao is home to the Guggenheim museum, and is just an hour's drive from Biarritz. San Sebastian is a beautiful seaside city with elegant hotels lining a horseshoe-shaped cove, a fantastic nightlife and cobblestone streets lined with restaurants serving Pintxos, Basque style tapas. Pamplona, famous for the running of the bulls is also nearby.

Food & Wine

Basque cuisine is distinctive and delicious with flavorful peppers, local cured ham and fresh seafood dishes. The region is famous for its brébis (sheep cheese), salted ham, delicious chocolate, fine linens, dried hot peppers and espadrilles. There are lists of local producers to visit. My family and I spent an afternoon in the countryside visiting a dairy farm that produces the local brébis cheese. It was a wonderful outing; the farm owners were delightful and walked us through the process, gave us tastes of the cheese in its different stages of development and let my daughter stir the whey.

Sport & Recreation

The mountains are lush and green with marked hiking trails. In fact, trekking is an important part of the history of the area. In the first century, pilgrims came from throughout France to pray at the gravesite of St. James the Great whose tomb is in southwestern Spain. One of their main routes passed through the Basque country. To this day locals hike the same route as their ancestors. As mentioned earlier, the beaches are beautiful. Sunbathing, body surfing and swimming are favorite activities. But if you prefer to spend your time on dry land, check out the championship golf courses. This is an area for some wonderful golf courses, several with truly stunning settings.

 

PYRENEES MEDITERRANEAN

Landscape

The Mediterranean side of the Pyrénees extends from Perpignan in the north to Cerb“re in the south at the Spanish border. The beautiful coastline alternates between broad sandy stretches and jagged cliffs. There are many charming ports like Collioure and Banyuls-sur-Mer. Closer to the Spanish border, rocky terraces are covered with vineyards which overlook the sea. Inland near Prades, the mountains become very steep with Le Canigou reaching almost 10,000 ft. This majestic peak is visible from afar and its presence dominates the area. This is beautiful country with narrow valleys, thickly forested hillsides, colorful fruit orchards and sheep grazing in high meadows. Several of the villages here are known for their hot springs.

Towns, Villages & Attractions

This side of the Pyrénees is also extremely rich in things to see and do. There is wonderful French and Catalan food, medieval fortified towns and churches, art, music, thermal baths, hiking, beautiful beaches and access to Greek and Roman ruins. For rentals in this area, contact us. Our selection here is included in our online catalog. Please inquire.

There are many villages which serve as a great location for your rental. Here are a few of my favorites. Castelnou is a beautiful little fortified village perched on a hilltop. Prades is a little town surrounded by fruit orchards and the home of the Pablo Casals summer festival. Just outside of Prades is the Abbey St. Michel de Cuxar that dates back to the 11th century. Villefranche de Conflent is a walled city built in 1080 and perfectly intact to this day. Céret is a hub of Catalan activity including Spanish style bullfights. Its Museum of Modern Art has paintings by Picasso, Braque and Juan Gris. Perpignan was the second city of the Catalan princedom after Barcelona. It is a thriving commercial city with a vibrant local market.

For a bit of decadence, Molitg-les-Bains has a beautiful old-world spa decorated in pink marble that offers thermal treatments.

Day Trips

It is easy to take a day trip to Spain. Close to the border is Empuries with its Greco Roman ruins. Figueres was home to Dali late in his life and is the location for the stunning Dali musuem. It is definitely worth a trip and just a short morning's drive. Barcelona is also easy to reach but best enjoyed with more than one spare day.

Food & Wine

Because of the beauty of the countryside, this is a resort destination. Wherever the French come to vacation, there are fine restaurants. This area is known for its fresh vegetables, fruits, and local cheeses. And at the seaside, in addition to all kinds of fish, sardines are a local specialty. On the plateau above the sea, stretch vast vineyards. Thus there are good local wines to enjoy as well.

Sport & Recreation

The Pyrénees Méditerrean is a terrific place for hiking. The Canigou, at almost 10,000 ft, dominates the area and there are many hiking trails to the top. It is an easy day trip to Collioure to enjoy the warm water and have a wonderful seaside meal of sardines, the local specialty. The city and its surrounding countryside produce one of France's most reputable wines.

Call or email us. We look forward to helping you plan your trip!

 
Ville et Village - Home and Search