beautiful Basque region
Travelers: Stephen and
Gina Turner, who hail from Britain and Taiwan, and their two boys
Nathan (7) and Joe (3). Stephen’s sister Jane and her three
children, Josh (17), Molly (15), and Izzy (9), came from the UK to
meet up with the family.
France (Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Socoa and environs) and San
Plan: Not just a
summer break for the whole family, this 12-day trip was also a good
excuse for Nathan and Joe to catch up with their cousins, whom they
hadn’t seen in two years. It was the perfect location for both
families to get to and a great place to catch some summer sun and
waves at the beach.
Reality: Truly a dream
vacation, topped with a little je ne sais quoi. The families
deliberately took a leisurely "côte Basque" pace and
focused on taking each day as it came and just letting the kids be
kids. They found that the weather was great, the food was sensational
(especially the mouthwateringly fresh seafood), the people warm and
the vistas spectacular. The family also enjoyed learning more about
Basque culture and art, and even brought some art home with them.
to Stay: The Turners
booked the Txan Txan Gorri at Socoa (2km from Saint-Jean-de-Luz)
online. They paid over GBP 3,000 for a week at the villa, but the
cost was split between the two families who thought it was well worth
it considering the villa’s spectacular location, its facilities and
beauty. Off-season prices are much lower, making winter a great time
to go. Try www.french-country-cottages.co.uk, www.frenchlife.co.uk or
to Eat: Although they
shopped at local markets for fresh produce to eat at the villa, the
families frequently ate out and thoroughly enjoying the local
cuisine. Regular steamed vegetables were rarely served with meals, so
Gina requested slices of tomato and other cold vegetables for the
kids to nibble on. Local restaurants are often full, so making
reservations is advised.
Around: The families
wanted the freedom to cruise at their own pace, so they reserved an
Avis rental car online (www.avis.com) and picked it up at Biarritz
airport. Knowing that their trip was scheduled for peak season, they
booked the car well in advance. Having a car also allowed them to
explore the beaches and hinterland around Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and even
nip into Spain.
The family loved their visit to San Sebastián, just over the
Spanish border, located just half an hour from Biarritz. Their visit
coincided with a colorful music festival and the kids were entranced
by the jazz musicians, exuberently-dressed street performers and
living statues in the parks. Check out www.spain.info for details.
Splurge: The villa –
but the family insists it was money well spent. Not only was it a
mere five minutes walk to the beach, but the gorgeous house with the
huge garden featured a pool, table tennis area and many other
facilities, including a housekeeping service that changed linen and
provided fresh towels every second day.
Saving: The Turners
saved on airfare by booking their flights directly through the Air
France website (www.airfrance.com). The tickets were non-refundable
and the dates non-transferable, but this was not an issue considering
the money saved.
Although it didn’t rain very much during their stay in France, the
Turner family did encounter one or two thunderstorms. Whenever these
occurred, they simply jumped in the car and drove to Spain!
Tips: Book everything
well in advance. The families paid more for their villa because it
was the last one available. Save considerable money by traveling
during off-peak seasons. If you are traveling with toddlers, bear in
mind that French restaurants serve dinner late (after a meal, the
family found themselves crawling into bed no earlier than 11pm).
Although this was not a problem for the older kids, the smaller ones
struggled a little.
the fact that the Turners could plan a holiday that catered to both
parents and kids (of all ages) alike. This trip had the best of
everything – culture, food, weather, fun and beauty – all in one
place. The kids loved the water (both the swimming pool and beaches
where the Turner boys got surfing lessons from their cousins) and the
fact that they could just enjoy being kids together. The adults loved
the relaxed atmosphere, culture, food and shopping.
Surprise: One thing
the family didn’t expect was the richness of the Basque culture, so
firmly entrenched in this part of southern France and very different
from other parts of the country. They were also surprised by the
sandy beaches – real surfing beaches, not just typical European
pebbles. Vive la surf!