A fine romance in the Basque region of France

Michelle Patient discovers a charming and relaxed honeymoon resort just a short plane ride away

Honeymoon Package, available on request – prices from 295€ per person for stays from 03/03/12 to 16/05/12; from €339 pp for stays from 17/05/12; from €384 pp for stays from 7/7/12 – 27/7/12 and €399 for stays from 28/7/12 – 15/08/12 (very high season)

2 nights in an ocean room with sea view and terrace

Buffet-Breakfast (or in your Room)  

1 dinner for 2 in the Ilura Restaurant with Chef Fabrice Idiart’s Tasting Menu served with a bottle of champagne.

For reservations and booking information please call La R�serve St-Jean-de-Luz on + 33 5 59 51 32 00 or visit www.hotel-lareserve.com / www.groupe-floirat.com

Michelle Patient discovers a charming and relaxed honeymoon resort just a short plane ride away


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PLANNING a wedding is hectic and stressful, to state the obvious. I’m speaking from firsthand experience as I’ve just started planning my own wedding. Just researching and booking hotels for wedding guests is enough to make me want to reach for a big glass of wine. So I think I can confidently speak for myself, my partner and other newlyweds that the last thing we want on a honeymoon is hassle. I like to daydream about warming myself in the sun on soft beaches in Thailand and Costa Rica, but then thoughts of flight delays, long security queues, transfers and lost luggage creep in and leave me cold. So what to do?

Head for the Basque region. Board a midday Ryanair flight at London Stansted, and in just under two hours, you arrive in Biarritz in southwestern France. Biarritz’s airport is compact and no-fuss, so you’re out and ready to start your honeymoon just 15 minutes after the plane lands. If you want to explore the area, you can hire a car and head for the mountains to such villages as Sare and A�nhoa, check out the surfing scene in Biarritz, or drive to Bilbao in Spain to see the Guggenheim Museum. We wanted some pre-wedding down time, so we headed to St-Jean-de-Luz on the Basque Coast, which was a quick 10-minute taxi ride away.

This relaxed and charming resort town, known for its good weather and its small but busy harbour where fishermen have hauled in tuna and sardines for centuries, has plenty of accommodation to choose from. We stayed at Hotel La R�serve, a four-star clifftop boutique hotel that’s just a 10-minute walk from the town centre. The white-walled and red-clay-tile-roofed Mediterranean-style hotel was completely renovated in 2011, and its 41 rooms (including five suites) are tastefully decorated in chocolate brown, ivory and Toile de Jouy. Bathrooms are light and spacious and feature excellent power showers. The hotel’s greatest asset is its romantic view of the sea, which can be enjoyed from the terrace over cocktails, from a private balcony, or from the heated infinity pool.

At Ilura, La R�serve’s restaurant, Chef Fabrice Idiart’s menu is inspired by Basque cuisine, and he aims to source his produce and fish locally. Our server was kind enough to bring us a special slice of Basque cake to try, which was a moist almondy cake filled with cherry jam. We also enjoyed creamy foie gras, sweet lobster and local cheeses. Ilura, like the hotel itself, is unpretentious. We were instantly at ease upon arrival, and this was aided by the friendly hotel staff who bent over backwards to please and didn’t mind our rudimentary French.


After exploring the hotel, we ambled along the softly sloping coastal path down to St-Jean-de-Luz, all the while enjoying the sea view. The path opens up to a wide promenade lined with park benches and flower beds which runs along the golden sandy beach, where beach tents can be inexpensively rented in the summer. Families and couples amble slowly down the promenade with ice creams while gazing at the sports enthusiasts in the water: we watched a group of kayakers whoop with glee when they caught waves that carried them towards the shore.


We continued to the Rue Gambetta, a pedestrian street lined with an array of shops including clothing boutiques, delicatessens offering (and giving away free samples of) local saucissons and cheeses, and our favourite discovery, the patisserie Maison Adam, who sells freshly made chocolates and macarons that melt in your mouth.


The Rue Gambetta leads to the Place Louis XIV, where we stopped to sip a coffee and people watch. Artists display their wares here, and we witnessed a smiling bride and groom emerge to cheers at the register office across the square. We also passed St John the Baptist Church, where yet another wedding was taking place, so we couldn’t check out the Baroque altar inside. We instead saw the bride emerge from her car to her audience of delighted guests. She and her new husband succeeds a famous union by over 350 years: in 1660, King Louis XIV of France married Marie-Th�r�se of Austria—the eldest daughter of King Philip IV of Spain—at the very same church, as part of a treaty that ended years of warfare between France and Spain. King Louis apparently relaxed in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the days preceding his wedding. The Sun King clearly knew a good place to unwind when he saw it, and St-Jean-de-Luz, which sits nearly halfway between Paris and Madrid, still offers the best of both countries.