Lounging By The Ocean In Basque Country – St Jean De Luz, France
I can hear the ocean from my campsite. The sound of the waves crashing and receding, somehow the same, yet somehow a little different every time. There’s something about that rhythm that’s just so mesmerizing, so utterly relaxing. It’s like a balm for the soul and I absolutely love that we can park this close.
Even the pets are feeling it.
Polly is relaxing in the grass, her nose buried in the green, her tail wagging in deep sleep likely dreaming about chasing rabbits in the sand.
The cats are sleeping soundly on the bed inside LMB, baking happily in the sun from the side-window. They found their travel legs right away, and are sooo much more relaxed than our first trip. Plus the sound of the ocean is soothing them all.
Dad and I are outside in the “sitting area” of camp, enjoying some Sue-style (you know who you are…) gin and tonics. It’s his very first drink of the trip, and dad has already declared it his best gin and tonic and ever. I think he’s feeling the nomadic vibe, that buzz you get when you’re on the road.
“I understand why you and Paul traveled all these years” he says “there’s something special about this”
Plus it’s been a great day.
We had an easy 2 1/2 hour drive from our place to the St Jean De Luz where we were warmly welcomed by the camphosts. Then we enjoyed a lovely, long walk by the ocean cliffs, with Polly happily off leash and views to die for. What more could you want in life? Plus now we’re having happy hour with that ocean…pulsing, crashing, receding. Man it’s heaven.
We’re In Basque Country, On The French Side
Our first day in the camping car on our mini-tour to Spain is actually on the French side of Basque Country.
If you’re not familiar with Basque Country, it’s the name of a slice of land located in the western Pyrénées, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. It’s the original home of the Basque people and there’s both a Spanish side (which is actually an autonomous region within Spain) and a French side (Pays Basque Français) to it.
The French side is officially part of France (no autonomy here), but it still maintains a unique identity. On the coast it’s known for its lovely beaches and excellent surf, and throughout the region there are a multitude of cute little towns with heaps of charm. But it’s also very different from the rest of France.
The Basque speak a different language (French is the official language here, but many folks are bi-lingual, and Basque itself is an unusual language with very old Pre-Indo-European roots), they build houses with a very distinct architecture (white houses with red or green timbering and trim are typical) and they are deeply proud of their heritage.
Basque Country is not just a place, it’s a whole culture apart.
Our Camp Is Lovely
We’re parked at a lovely little campsite recommended to us by fellow travelers (thank you Linda from The Chouters).
Camping Ferme Erromandie is right smack by the ocean with delightful little green sites for only EUR 17/night with our ASCI card discount. We can’t actually see the water from camp, but we can hear it and it’s literally 5 steps away across the (very quiet) road. The camphosts were just lovely when we arrived, welcoming us warmly, asking about our travels, and taking the time to drive me around to pick the perfect site of my choosing.
This is also our very first dad-daughter parking job. It’s always a bit stressful when you do something like this unrehearsed, but we managed to successfully slot into our site without hitting any tree branches or crushing the rear end, two double wins in my book (dad did awesome with hand signals to help me back-in). It’s a good sign for the many parking jobs to come on this trip….
That night we eat at the local restaurant by camp. It’s a simple job and we decide on wine (always a sure shot) and a very interesting-looking “Basque Hamburger” (which was a bit more of a gamble). The latter ended up being nothing more than a few slices of thick ham in a bun with some condiments, probably the most literal interpretation of “ham-burger” I’ve ever eaten, but alas also the least memorable. Oh well, the wine was good, the atmosphere nice….and you can’t win ’em all!
Nearby St Jean De Luz Is Totally Charming
Around 4 km from camp is downtown St Jean De Luz, a charming seaside town famous for the marriage between Louis XIV and Marie Thérèse in 1660, which sealed the peace between France and Spain accorded by the Treaty of the Pyrenees the year before.
It’s a beautiful town with no end of lovely little alleyways, a wide sandy beach, and pretty red and white houses that border in neat rows by the water. Plus there’s lots of Lous XIV stuff here, if you’re into that, including the house he lived in (now a museum with period furniture), and the church (L’Église Saint Jean Baptiste) where the famous marriage took place. In between the history there are a slew of modern surfer shops selling board shorts and beach-style shops selling espadrilles, as well as no end of lovely little cafes to sit and sip and enjoy. Oh and tea towels are another thing here, if you’re into those. It’s a Basque thing.
From Camp Erromandie you can walk the 4km into town via the coastal trail, which is absolutely lovely and a great way to explore if you have the legs to do it. Otherwise it’s either a bike-ride away, or you have to bring in the rig.
We decided on the latter, so early the following morning we drove in and made use of the super TIGHT, but extremely handy Motorhome Aire (EUR 9 per 24 hrs) that’s literally right next to town. You can spend the night here if you wish (waaaaay too crowded for our liking), but we just used it for the day, squeezing in with almost complete expertise (it’s our 2nd daughter-dad parking job, after all) to our teeny slot before taking our time to wander around town with Polly.
We had a blast walking around, gawking at the near-perfect-picturesque houses, enjoying the port and seaside views, seeing the church and having a coffee on the main square. There’s even a lighthouse (Phare de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, not open to visitation) and a 17th century Fort (Fort de Socoa, not open to visitation) to round out the scenery. All in all just a lovely little town.
We’ve Made A Good Start
Our first night on the ocean set the perfect tone for the start of our trip.
We still had a lot to figure out; how to travel together in a small space with all the paws (Paul and I have done it, but this was all new for dad), where exactly we were going to stop, how far we planned to go each day. It’s not complicated stuff, but it takes a little time to find your routine and rhythm on the road, especially with someone new. In the meantime the ocean had soothed us and we were both feeling that tingle of joy which is the freedom of travel. It was a very good start indeed.