Happy to finally be in Biarritz I found the taxi queue. I took it all in, there were families arriving on holiday, there were groups of college age kids and everything in between. The train station was a buzz from the train’s arrival. My taxi driver spoke no English so it was my first real test, in Paris it seemed that I would start out in French, but people would pick up that I am American and switch to speaking in English which entirely defeated my desire to practice. Not so in this place, my French didn’t fail me as I conveyed pleasantries and the address of the Airbnb. The driver told me that they had not seen many American tourists yet now that we could enter the country again, but he said that Biarritz was a destination for the French mostly. Over the next few days, I would come to agree with him.
I met my Airbnb host Nathalie who turned out to be the sweetest person, she showed me around the flat and then we toured the building to locate the pool and how to exit the property to the beach. Biarritz while larger than the little beach town in Michigan where I grew up at approx. 25,000 people still felt swollen with tourists but transient, you just knew that very few were staying past summer.
Tired from the trip, having arrived late and not really wanting to put the effort into pulling myself together to go out to dinner I opted to go to the market instead and pick up a few things including some salad items for dinner along with a French baguette. On a previous trip to France, I had fallen in love with white peaches, and I noticed that this market had some marked “Cultivé en Espagne”, I thought well, since Spain was literally 22 miles down the road, they were practically grown locally so I thought they would make a lovely snack in the morning with my coffee.
After a light dinner and a hot shower, I crashed, the emotions of the last couple of days were gone but with them had gone my energy, I needed a good night’s sleep. Leaving the balcony door open for the smell of the ocean air, my head hit the pillow and I was out in minutes.
There are so many things that I love about travel but one of those things is just having to figure out all the simple things that one takes for granted every day. This morning for me it was coffee, how to figure out yet another version of a European coffee maker. The shapes and the designs are interesting, this one looked like a big pitcher that was bent over. A few minutes later I was happily sipping my morning coffee and eating my sliced peach on the balcony taking in my view of the Biarritz hillside. Most of the village, either still asleep or some rental apartments, not yet open for bookings, I can’t tell.
I write in the morning, I love the quiet contemplation time of the morning when the world is still quiet enough that you can hear the birds or in this morning’s case it was seagulls, making the announcement that the beach was open and ready.
I am officially on vacation, no meetings, no emails my days stretch before me with only one thing to do and that is to answer the question, what do you feel like doing right now? I opted for a shower and dressing to go out to breakfast and have a wander.
I set out walking along “Le Grande Plage” (in English – the big beach), the beach was already busy, the French making the most of a beautiful sunny day. I love to people watch so my walk was filled with story as I took it all in. My plan was nothing more than to wander my way toward the city center and look for a sidewalk café that was busy (a usual sign of a good experience). Une table pour un, s’il vous plait, rolled out of my mouth, one of the few French phrases that my tongue doesn’t trip on. Luckily the perfect table awaited me tucked in a shaded corner of the outdoor dining area that had obviously grown into the street because of Covid.
Like at home most things are open here now but there is a definite leaning toward staying outside. Indoor restaurants are not at all filled but their outdoor spaces are busy. I looked at the menu and was pleasantly surprised to see a vegan option and green juices available, not something I expected and then I looked and saw the name of the café, Milwaukee Coffee. I had to laugh, I am in France wanting to experience all things French and I end up at basically a restaurant I would find in San Diego with its green detox juice and avocado toast. The irony is that one of my favorite places in San Diego to go to breakfast is Café Madeleine, a French café in San Diego’s South Park area. It turns out that I am living in irony.
With a full stomach, my wander could continue with a bit of focus, I decided to wander in the general direction of the market stopping along the way, practicing my French in each place, it is such a challenge when your ability to communicate your needs is basically at a toddler level or perhaps pre-school it can make your inner adult not want to say much but I also know that when I force myself and am successful and getting across what I need or want I feel a great sense of accomplishment.
Biarritz is not for those out of shape for sure, the village is on a hillside so there is no way that you are going to wander this place and not get some exercise which was a perfect way to cap off my morning. I have been very dedicated to my workout regimen since the beginning of the year, on this trip I even brought my TRX so I could work out along the way no matter where I was, but the hills of Biarritz were an added benefit.
After dropping the food and making a quick change into a swimsuit I headed down to the beach. The building that my Airbnb is in has a pool, but it stays in the shade until early afternoon, so it was clear why the pool sat empty, and everyone was at the beach.
The surf classes were full today although watching them from the comfort of my spot on the sand made me hope that the rain that is projected for tomorrow holds off since it does look fun, but I am also conscious that I have something else going on, something that can happen to me when I have worked without a break for far too long. The last real vacation I took was in August of 2019, actually, I took three vacations that year which is highly unusual but looking back on it now and given how 2020 went, it is a good thing that I did, however, it has been far too long and the journey has been difficult so as I unplug on this vacation I can feel the exhaustion setting in, it is my body’s way of reminding me that I have been doing too much and it is time for a forced work stoppage, I know that when my body begins to feel that way I have no other choice than to give it what it needs. Rest and relaxation, they are my recipe!
Laying in the sun felt so good, the sun heating up my skin and that sleepy feeling coming on, laying there picking out French words in the background and randomly dosing and reading, dosing, and reading I spent a blissful afternoon on the beach.
I think that I have decided that Biarritz is a well-kept French secret, it is a lovely place with a very relaxed feeling to it. Other than one German couple and two Englishmen I only heard French all day. I don’t know if that is just timing given that Europe is just opening or if it is like this all the time, I do know that it is July in France and the French are known for either vacationing in July or in August, you do one or the other, the entire month spent somewhere else. My American brain hears that and immediately wants to sign up as I lay here wishing that I had planned for a longer trip, a longer downtime. I need more time to develop the whole joie de vivre (joy of living) habit that the French do so well.
Stay tuned as my French journey continues.
À Bientôt (See you soon),