November 30, 2019

The Sweetest Royal Treatment: Pâtisserie in Biarritz

La Grande Plage in Biarritz is desolate but still dreamy in wintertime.

Most visitors come to Biarritz during summertime for a classic beach vacation. To see a different side of Biarritz, I decided to visit in the off-season. During this period (late fall and winter) when the weather is moody, this Basque seaside resort gets a break from the crowds. The beaches are no longer packed with sunbathers, so you can really appreciate the natural beauty and peacefulness of the Bay of Biscay coastline. 

Michelin-Starred Villa Eugénie Restaurant at the Hôtel du Palais 

Prized for its expansive sandy shores, Biarritz was a favorite destination of Eugénie de Montijo who became the wife of Napoleon III. In 1855, the Emperor built for Eugénie a lavish oceanfront palace designed in the Second Empire style. Ever since, Biarritz has been a fashionable beach resort known for its fancy restaurants and upscale boutiques
Elegant Dining Room of Villa Eugénie Restaurant 

Napoleon and Eugénie's palace is now the Hôtel du Palais, a prestigious 5-star hotel with luxurious accommodations, two gourmet restaurants, spa and seawater swimming pool. In an elegant neoclassical dining room, the Villa Eugénie restaurant treats guests to exquisite Basque cuisine and incredible ocean views. 

Table Decor at Villa Eugénie Restaurant 
I was lucky enough to have lunch at the Hôtel du Palais' Villa Eugénie restaurant. For the main course, I chose the Red Snapper Seasoned with Piment d'Espelette (a mildly spicy pepper that grows around the village of Espelette of the French Basque region). The fish was served over Risotto with Calamari in a Squid Ink Sauce.
Espelette-Seasoned Red Snapper, Calamari Risotto with Squid Ink Sauce

The desserts were the highlight of the meal. The Vanilla Cake with Lemon Sorbet and Raspberries was artistically presented and delicately flavored.
The best dessert was surprisingly simple: Baked Pear over Puffed Pastry with Caramel Ice Cream. I'd like to attempt this at home!

Presented on a plate reminiscent of a painter's canvas, the Vanilla Ice Cream with Roasted Cherry Profiteroles were topped with a decadent chocolate sauce.
Vanilla Ice Cream and Roasted Cherry Profiteroles 
Adorable little after-dinner desserts provided the finishing touch. The platter included chocolate truffles, mini pound cakes glazed with lemon icing, pistachio-cream mini tarts, butter cookies and handmade nougat candies.
After-Dinner Dessert Platter

After the Hôtel du Palais, the next essential gastronomic stop in Biarritz is the Miremont Pâtisserie. Founded in 1872, this dainty boutique has catered to high society ever since it opened. King Edward VII of England was a loyal patron and King Edward VII of Spain had lunch here on occasion. 
Selection of Desserts at the Miremont Pâtisserie

The Miremont tempts guests with an enticing selection of traditional French pâtisserie, such as charlottes and mille-feuilles, as well as handmade candies and chocolate truffles.

Selection of Desserts at the Miremont

Like most bakeries in the Basque region, the Miremont includes a traditional Gâteau Basque in its repertoire. This double-layered tart is filled with almond pastry cream and sometimes fruit.

You may take the pastries to go or savor them while seated down in the dining room. Decorated in refined 17th-century style, the Miremont dining room gives the impression of being in Paris but with gorgeous ocean vistas. The room overlooks the Grande Plage (Grand Beach), the most popular beach in Biarrtiz.

View from the Miremont Dining Room

While in Biarritz, be sure to see the most famous sight: the Rocher de la Vierge (Virgin on the Rock). During winter, the Atlantic waves are wild and dramatic, exciting for surfers, and all the more exciting for traversing the bridge to see the Virgin on the Rock!
Rocher de la Vierge

Like all coastal towns, Biarritz has a lighthouse. I had someone snap a photo of me in front of that monument with my tour guide Veronique from Détours Pyrénéens. She was absolutely fantastic! I highly recommend this company for customized tours and excursions around the Basque Country.
With my tour guide Veronique from Détours Pyrénéens  
Following our visit to Biarritz, we traveled further south along the coastline to Hendaye. Here the scenery is simply breathtaking. The sheer cliffs drop off dramatically into the sea. This site is not for the faint of heart. I loved the scenery but it gave me vertigo!

Next we took a scenic drive through the countryside along the way to Saint-Jean de Luz, known for its family-friendly beaches and typical Basque architecture.

Saint-Jean de Luz is another town with a regal past. In 1660, King Louis XIV married to Marie-Thérèse of Austria in the town's Church of Saint John the Baptist. The entire city is filled with quaint half-timbered houses and historic buildings.
All over Saint-Jean de Luz are charming buildings with red shutters typical of the Basque region. During summertime, residents close the shutters during the day to keep their rooms cool or perhaps to take a nap!
Typical Basque Building

Maison Adam is a must-stop shop for anyone who loves chocolates and macarons.
Maison Adam

In fact, this shop invented the macaron in the 17th century. They claim to have France's most authentic macaron.
Shop Window of Maison Adam

France's original macaron was a simple flour-less almond cookie. Maison Adam macarons are perfectly moist and not too sweet.
Maison Adam macarons
You'll find some of the best chocolates in the Basque Country here. An assorted box makes a lovely souvenir or gift (if you manage not to eat them all yourself!) 
Maison Adam chocolates

The selection includes an enticing variety of flavors. I miss these chocolates! If only Maison Adam would ship overseas...
More Maison Adam chocolates

Saint-Jean de Luz is also a gastronomic capital, with gourmet shops galore! Take a peak in the culinary boutiques. You'll find products to bring home or for picnic. Specialties include Jambon de Bayonne, a distinctive type of ham from this region, and Foie Gras.
Traditional gourmet food boutique in Saint-Jean de Luz

Gâteau Basque is even more ubiquitous in Saint-Jean de Luz than in Biarritz. You'll see this dessert in almost all the bakeries in town.
Gâteau Basque Galore!

In every corner, the Basque Country shows off its style. Even the fish wear Basque-style berets and scarves in this proud region.
Basque Fish Restaurant
I loved the ambience of Saint-Jean de Luz. It was fun to soak up the atmosphere and blend in with the locals as they chit chat with friends and family. The entire city seems to be an open-air social gathering.
Social Life of Saint-Jean de Luz

Copyright © 2019, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved. 

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