Wednesday Wander – Rocher De La Vierge, Biarritz

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Biarritz, located on the French coast. I absolutely loved it – the light, the water, the people, the food – it was just wonderful. I’ve written about it here and here, but for today’s Wander I’m going to go back to the town’s origins as a fishing village, before Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie made it such a fashionable place to be.

For centuries, the principal industry in Biarritz was whaling. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became known as a town for bathing, and the 19th century when it became fashionable due to the patronage of the Empress.

Nowadays, there are splendid hotels and a casino along the water’s edge but, if you wander a little further along the beach, you come to the old fishing village and harbour, the water clear turquoise against curving ochre rocks.

The old harbour walls remain and are used today – we spent a few minutes there watching a group of men launching a boat into the water. In the mid 1800s, Napoleon III decided he would like to build a large anchor point and sea-wall, connecting a nearby rock to the coastline. A wooden walkway was built between the two, and a statue of the Virgin Mary was placed on top of the rock to watch over the whalers as they returned to harbour.

The sea can get ferocious in these parts, however, and in the 1880s the wooden walkway was replaced by a metal bridge attributed to Gustav Eiffel (known for a rather more famous metal structure bearing his name). Today you can walk out to the rock and take in the glorious views, past archways of stone over dark blue water, sea birds wheeling overhead.

The day we went was warm and hazy, the water calm, though we had heard that the waves can splash as high as the footbridge on more stormy days.  Also, I think I may have found my dream house…

The Rocher De La Vierge is easily accessed via the coastal walk that runs along the main beach at Biarritz, past the Casino and town centre and leading to the excellent Aquarium. The views looking back are beautiful, as are those beyond, and the walk itself is quite gentle – I highly recommend it.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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Wednesday Wander – Biarritz At Dusk

I recently took a trip to Basque country, visiting San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz in France. Less than an hour’s drive lies between the two cities, even though they are in different countries. I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday – there is a magic to that stretch of coast and I felt very at home there, for some reason.

I saw a lot of different places while I was away, including two locations used for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones (I blogged about them here and here), so will be writing a few Wednesday Wanders about the various locales. This week, I’m wandering to Biarritz, and the beautiful main beach at dusk. We spent a lot of time walking along here, both day and night, as it was the direct route into the town centre. With the beautiful view, the combination of rocks and sea and sky coupled with Art Deco architecture, it was a pleasure every time.

One of the buildings along the seafront at Biarritz is the Casino. Built in the 1920s, it was opened only a few weeks before the Stock Market crash that marked the end of the glittering art Deco era. It is a beautiful reminder of that decadent time, nonetheless, and a survivor – plans to knock it down in the 90s were thankfully scuppered, and the building restored and designated a historical monument. Nowadays it contains a pool, restaurants and a casino, and was full of people every time we passed by.

The walk along the beach also passes this lovely islet, connected by a stone bridge to the mainland. It seemed like something out of a fairy tale (so I loved it, obviously). There was also a lovely church, as well as the old fishing village, which I’ll write about in more detail soon.

But for now, let us look at the gold and violet sky, the shimmer of ocean against dark sand, the clean lines of the Art Deco building, the warm lights of the coastline against the dusk sky. It is a supremely romantic coastline, with a warmth in the air that filled me with joy.

I can’t wait to go back one day.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – An Italian Villa, Tuscany (eventually)

Each week, when it’s time to write another Wednesday Wander, I cast around in my mind to see where I want to go. It’s usually a feeling that inspires me – perhaps the weather reminds me of somewhere I’ve visited, or I find a photograph, or see something on TV or online. This week I thought – Monaco. I haven’t wandered there as yet, though I remember it well. All pink sky and blue sea, roads cut into precipitous green hillsides, the scent of blossom and the glamour of the casino at Monte Carlo, me desperately trying to put together something approaching a sophisticated outfit from the rather less-than-sophisticated contents of my bag.

And yet, when I went to the photo album to grab the photos I definitely remember taking, there was nothing there. Zilch. Nada. I suppose it’s because of the technology of the time – it’s been over twenty years since I was there, and my (pre-digital) camera only worked sporadically on that trip. But at the time I didn’t really care, too taken with the sights I was seeing. I still feel the same way about travelling, keen to take everything in, but I usually end up with about three hundred photos as well, easily able to edit the ones that aren’t so great. And I guess that’s what happened here – the photos I took in Monaco didn’t work out for some reason; they were blurry, or I managed to get a thumb or some hair in the shot (happened more often than I like to think), so I decided to discard them when I got the prints.

There are other places I’ve visited where I’ve taken no photos at all – the Sistine Chapel, for example. If I remember right, we were told not to take any photos as we were herded through the many rooms leading to the chapel, at one point climbing out a window and walking along scaffolding, then climbing back in through another window (I am not making this up), an interesting exercise considering the crowds of people visiting that day (the Pope had just canonised four new saints). Leighton House, in London, is another place where interior photos are forbidden – I don’t know why, exactly.

Anyway, I have no Monaco photos. So, instead, I’ll just wander to this lovely Tuscan villa on the outskirts of Florence. Once a private home, it was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. One night, as I was returning to my room, I walked along the darkened hallway… to see a young woman gliding towards me, her long hair flowing back. My heart almost stopped until I realised it was a young Japanese woman, also on her way to her room. The hall lights were on a timer and had switched off just at that moment, adding to the eerie feeling. For all that, it was a gorgeous place, the manicured gardens and old stone walls reminders of a time past.

So this week, perhaps, was a bit more of a meander than a wander, but thank you for coming along with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.