Is there any destination you visited before that while you no longer remember specific details about it, you do remember what a fabulous place it was overall? Not to mention sometimes, glancing at pictures you took of your visit reaffirms this. For me, that place would be Biarritz, a beach town in southwestern France that is only 11 miles from the Spanish border and is located in the heart of the French Basque country.
Biarritz was one of many destinations visited on a whirlwind trip to Europe (England, France and Spain) and it was also the first place where I actually enjoyed myself on the trip. London was a major disappointment (not the city, just my experience) as I saw most of its iconic landmarks from a motor coach window. In Paris I contracted a tonsil infection (the second in less than a month) and the glorious chateaux of the Loire Valley were marred by my still being sick. However, once we got to southern France, I had finally started to feel better.
Physicans in the 18th century believed that the Atlantic Ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties which inspired countless patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for supposed cures for their maladies. While I do not believe in the religious doctrine and beliefs associated with the miracles that have supposedly taken place at famous pilgrimage sites, I do feel that the bright sun, soothing temperatures, and crisp ocean air definitely helped me to feel better.
I didn’t do much of anything in the way of touring, even though Biarritz is home to numerous historic sites including Hotel du Palais, which had been originally built as a place for the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napeolon III. It also was a much frequented site by other European royal figures including Queen Victoria and Edward VII of Great Britain and Alfonso XIII of Spain. Unlike the first half of the tour where we were constantly on the go, in Biarritz we had “free time,” a wonderful thing for individuals who are traveling as part of a tour group and at times want to be rid of some of their fellow tour mates. In Biarritz I simply walked around, taking in the beautiful scenery including many Victorian era buildings and also just admired the ever lovely and calming ocean. I also saw my first ever topless sunbather (while this is de rigueur on the beaches of Europe, not so much in New Jersey and Florida).
It was in Biarritz where I had my first ever French ice cream, or glace. Near to the steps where you could go down to the beach was a small ice cream shop. Unlike in American ice cream shops like Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin Robbins, where servings equate to the bigger the better with toppings galore, not to mention a vast array of flavors, in France, ice cream is a much more simple affair. I ordered deux boules (two scoops) of chocolate ice cream in a cornet (cone) and it was merveilleux (marvelous), just what the doctor ordered. A month later when I actually had my tonsils removed, I feasted upon copious amounts of ice cream since that was one of the few foods I could actually consume and I often thought about my ice cream in Biarritz.