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We have heard more than once that the French Basque are more French than Basque and on our one day in St. Jean de Luz, we noticed it right away. St. Jean de Luz just felt French. From their squares filled with elderly women all dressed up to chat with friends to the chocolate and macaroon shops that line the streets to typical French waiters. But, I love all those things about France, so naturally, I fell in love with St. Jean de Luz.
Things to do in St. Jean de Luz, France
We visited St. Jean de Luz, France on a day trip from Hondarribia. It took us two hours to get from Hondarribia to St. Jean de Luz (see below), leaving only about 4 hours to explore, which is plenty of time if you just want a taste of the town.
Place Louis XIV
We started our day by walking along the old fishing port and into the main town square, Place Louis XIV. There seems to be quite the hubbub about Louis XIV living in a house on the main square in the year 1660…and getting married in the town’s main church, Eglise St. Jean-Baptiste…and his love of eating macaroons, as everything seemed to be centered on these facts. In front of the City Hall, there is even a black equestrian statue that is a mini-me replica of the one at Versailles.
La Grande Plage Beach
We strolled from Place Louis XIV down the restaurant-filled lane toward the la Grande Plage beach. The water in the bay is quite clear and there were many brave souls out swimming in the chilly water. Walking along the breakwater, we passed many hotels, the main shopping area and the casino. We continued along the water to the park. We walked up the small hill and found stunning 360 degree views – from the cliffs, to the ocean, to the bay, to the town. There were couples strolling, bike riders resting and children on a school trip eating their lunches and playing. We walked on the sand on the way back to town, letting the clear water lap over our toes. The water wasn’t nearly as cold as I expected it to be and, for a moment, I was a little disappointed that we hadn’t brought our suits.
Squares and Lanes of St. Jean de Luz
Once back in the main square, we found a nice café with a typically-French waiter and ordered a pichet of vino rouge. Feeling quite French about it all, we sat and sipped and people watched. Quickly falling in love with the little town, we got postcards to send back to America and took a stroll through the back streets of the town in search of stamps. Once that was checked off our list, we plopped down at another small café and Kris finally got his Croque Monsieur and I had quiche and a salad….and, of course, more wine ~ a perfect ending to our day trip to France!
Getting from Hondarribia to St. Jean de Luz
I popped into the Hondarribia TI on the main square of the upper town to ask a simple question: How do we get from Hondarribia to St. Jean De Luz, a town just 12 miles away on the French side of Basque Country. “You have a car?” No. “Oh, it’s not easy.” And, she was right. It wasn’t easy. Here is how we got there:
We took the E25 Bus from Hondarribia to Irun and got off at the Colma stop. From there, we caught the Topo train (as it is locally called; Metro Donostialdea, officially) two stops into Hendaye, France – the first town across the border. Then, after an hour long layover, we took the TER train two stops to St. Jean de Luz.
Overall, it took about 2 hours to get from Hondaribbia to St. Jean de Luz, which seems a little ridiculous considering it is truly only 12 miles away. But, had we looked at the TER train schedule in advance, we could have more accurately planned our original departure time from Hondarribia. It was an adventure and a learning experience, as are most of our travels.
Note: On the return trip, train schedules aligned much better. It only took us 1 hour to return from St. Jean de Luz to Hondarriba.
We want to know: Have you been to St. Jean de Luz, France? How would you spend one day in St. Jean de Luz?
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