I haven’t been on a stag do in Biarritz. But the rugged nature of Basque lifestyle studded with Rugby, surfing, a casino, bars and enough man food to fill up a bear, if bears liked food laced with garlic, means planning a man party here would be a sound plan.
Oddly, the professional game is suffering a bit in Basque Country. Biarritz and Bayonne have both has recent successes, powered by Basque totems such as Immanol Harinordoquy and Dimitri Yachvilli (and Iain Balshaw). This season though, both have been relegated to second flight, with financial pressure necessitating talk of a humiliating merger. As this is Biarritz, I’ll ignore blue neighbours Bayonne and go with the team carrying the Basque colours.
Tickets for home games are easy to come by, the most expensive ticket via their website costs EUR 35 and comes with drum banging sound effects and the opportunity to wear a natty red kerchief without looking a total chief. My highlight was a game against Stade Francais a couple of years ago with a dozen internationals all showing up well (sartorially as well, Matthuie Basteraux with a dead ringer Mr T haircut). It’s definitely better value than in the UK, especially when inexplicably short beer queues for tent-based bars are factored in.
One slight irritation is the ground is 30 mins from the town and beach area, buses and taxis will probably sort this out easier than a concrete path walk in flip flops.
Pre and post rugby, the only place in town is Cafe Red with Bordeaux Vin, some funny green stuff and high fat and high smell food: steak frites, some stinky saucisson and everything in between are served with real distinction. It’s the only non-clubhouse bar I’ve seen with some singing going on, so high marks for a scene that seems anachronistic now in the UK. At least four or five other bars in the town show games, La Tireuse, has about 20 beers on tap and multiple bottles which must be the the best place in town for choice.
Macho day time activity
With some really quite aggressive waves, day time activity for a stag doesn’t get any better than some surfing, either through hiring a board and drowning away, or by getting a two hour lesson for EUR 40. Both Euskardi surf school and Plums surf school, bang on the main beach, offer the same deal which is perfect to knock out a hangover at 0900. It’s about the same time some only just elegantly-dressed types are thrown out of the beach-side casino.
Our instructor, or moniteur d’Surf, managed to fit the stereotypes of both a Frenchman, reeking of Galloiuses, and a surfer so you can’t argue your experience isn’t authentic. My favourite moments were successfully managing to stand up once and facing backwards, then a bolt of lightning and crack of thunder just as we were being explained the importance of watching the conditions.
Club Playboy. Think Pigalle in Paris with only one strip bar. So pretty terrible on face value.
After four visits to Biarritz, this was actually the first time I’s seen the neighbourhood of Les Halles, perched half way up the hill leading out of the town. This had several bars, including one with a name I didn’t register, replete with basque tapas, pintxos, and the young, fruity white wine, txakoli. This is noteworthy from being poured as high as possible into a flat bottomed beaker to generate some froth. There’s definitely a bit of a Spanish Basque vibe here, outdoor drinking at Bar Jean and Rotisserie Poulet is a feature of San Sebastián in just across the border, it’s ideal for large groups.
Definately French in origin is Port des Pechuers, or fisherman’s port, right on the water to the south of the beach. Four restaurants here serve only seafood, each hitting a slightly different market. Casa Pedro (I said French, right?), the cheapest, and Coursair, the next cheapest, hit the mark with barbequed prawns, sardines, sea bass and non-BBQ’ed moules. It’s tempting to say this is a touristy area as I could always hear English being spoken, similar to Les Halles. On reflection, though it’s mainly for a French, though perhaps not Basque, crowd.
Something for the little lady
To loop back, I’ve never been on a stag do here and instead have been with my wife Becky. As a result, I also know there is a very nice chocolatier and high-end bakery, Maison Adam, just on the beach, which I’ve discovered now serves chocolates in BA’s first class. There are also one or two jewellers and boutiquey style shops with a certain amount of style. Lesson learnt from this escapade? Biarritz is a better place than a stag do and definately more fun with my surfy, food photographer and pintxos-aficionado wife.