One sunny day we stumbled out of the train in Biarritz, by the bay of Biscay. In the heydays of this Belle Epoque resort, the newly built train connection whisked one down in record speed: only 30 hours of train travel from Paris. Little did the turn-of-the century aristocracy know that their favorite summer playground could be reached within five and a half hours only 100+ years later.
After all the private beaches and beach clubs on the Riviera, miles and miles of free beach is a fabulous thought. Likewise is the realization that one does not need to have the bronzed, toned body of a Brazilian beach goddess to feel welcome in a bathing suit. As long as one minds the surfer-swimmer borders, and the lifeguards who infuse trespassers with shame by tormenting the vuvuzela. Beach weather in Biarritz is a game of roulette. In order to have any idea about tomorrow’s weather, one must look at three independent weather forecasts, take the rough average of them, and add a serious error margin. If a weather forecast says “full sun” it may be that the sun is indeed full – but not before 5 pm. And a day with 28 degrees and scorching sun may be followed by a day with 22 degrees and drizzle. And it can be T-shirt weather in December, according to our hotel landlord.On a beautiful summer’s day one can feel the illusion that Biarritz is overlooking the sea. In truth, it is the sea that tolerates the presence of Biarritz. The bay of Biscay is a graveyard for ships even in this day. Fog, swells, thunderstorms, hurricanes, you name it. In the winter the bay of Biscay is said to be a cauldron from hell. Which is exactly why storm watchers are drawn to it.
After just two days, I had not even noticed my little heart conspiring against my reason and firmly deciding I will have to come back. Not when the sun is shining, but when the sea is raging, the whales pass close to shore, and the lighthouse beam sweeps over the dark raging waters. The sea is always lit from the shore at night, and I can only imagine the magnificent view in October, November, or December. Especially from the Hotel du Palais standing on a bluff over the sea, and most especially when viewed with a cup of heated, liquid chocolate in one’s hands.
But for now, for this July day, I will savor the sunshine and watch some crazy swimmers feel brave in the nearly sleepy waters of the bay.
(Biarritz, France; July 2016)