Our late summer holiday this year was a little tour of the south of France. Although our main stays were Biarritz and Bordeaux, we visited Arcachon, St Jean de Luz and San Sebastian in the week that we were away.
After flying into Bordeaux, Arcachon was a flying visit for lunch on the beach for the first spot of French sunshine. We picked up some things from a boulangerie, as we didn’t quite fancy sitting down for Arcachon oysters (luckily we found some later on in the trip). The local sweet treat is canele, which is a little pastry that seems to be a cross between a batter and a cake, with a slightly chewy texture. Delicious regardless and often served alongside a coffee, much to our delight.
Next it was on to Biarritz where we made full use of the outdoor seating and local shops and markets for our dinners.
I spent a lot of time in France as a child and melon with saucisson, fish soup, octopus pies and celeriac remoulade were always on the menu. We recreated those wonderful childhood dinners but added a little local wine to the mix.
Biarritz is a surfer’s paradise and although we didn’t do any surfing, it was great staying so close to the water. Ocean sunsets were particularly good with a drink in hand from a popular bar just down the road from us (Etxola Bibi). Their straws were actually made of straw! No plastic waste here.
From Biarritz we had a couple of trips, firstly across the border to San Sebastian where we had lots of sunshine and the most wonderful pintxos – tapas from the Basque region.
We found the perfect little bar with huge plates of pintxos laid out at lunchtime, and sat at a table outside watching the world go by. Pintxos tend to be individually priced and you just load a plate with whatever you fancy. There was plenty of seafood, croquettes and tortilla, which kept us very happy.
San Sebastian old town is a lovely place for a wander, with lots of cute shops and grand churches.
After a day on the beach and in and out of the crashing waves in Biarritz, we headed to St Jean de Luz for dinner. This came highly recommended by my parents who visited years ago on their travels through France, but I think it has expanded a little since then. It didn’t seem quite the same fishing village we imagined but was beautiful all the same. We had our best meal of the trip there, opting for a 3 course set menu at one of the busy restaurants off the main street – La Vieille Auberge.
We tucked into grilled anchovies with a very garlicky salsa verde, the best squid dish either of us has ever had, a seafood mixed plate, wonderful duck breast and finished off with profiteroles and a local creamy caramel flan.
After a wonderful time in Biarritz, we headed back towards Bordeaux and stayed in a little pool house outside a small town called Saint Loubes. It was a 15 minute drive to a tram stop and then a very easy and cheap tram ride into the centre of Bordeaux, where we ate moules frites before a Bordeaux rugby match on one of our evenings there. Les Moules du Cabonon has a range of mussels in different broths, and we both went for moules a L’Ardennaise – mushrooms, lardons and cream. Delicieux.
Other highlights of Bordeaux were the markets for Arcachon oysters, every ice-cream flavour under the sun from La Maison du Glacier and perfect sharing boards and local wine from little hideaways like O P’tit Bahut.
Of course Bordeaux itself was beautiful and we spent hours wandering the streets and climbing to the top of Pey Berland tower for the views.
One extra little trip, which was only a 15 minute walk from Saint Loubes, was to Chateau de Reignac. We had the wine tour and tasting all to ourselves because the others didn’t show up, so we lapped up the history of the vineyards and made the most of the wine tastings on offer. Chateau Reignac produce just 4 wines, 1 white and 3 reds, going big on quality over quantity. All the better for it I say.