Revisiting St Jean de Luz in France’s Basque Country

Having devoured finished all the sweets I brought back from France’s Basque country, I am now savoring each and every one of my hundreds of photos taken during my recent trip there.  And already planning my next trip back.  So many villages visited (Aïnhoa, Espelette, St Jean Pied de Port, Itxassou, Sare…), many that I can’t wait to revisit, and yet so many more to discover (Guéthary, St Pée sur Nivelle, Bidart, St Etienne de Baigorry…).  My favorite, which will always be on the list, no matter how many times I’ve been back… is St Jean de Luz.

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France

Right at the border with Spain, St Jean de Luz lies on the Bay of Biscay on France’s Atlantic Coast.  For me, no trip to the Pays Basque would be complete without a stop there. As well as a visit to its fantastic covered market, especially on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, when the stalls are spilling out on to the sidewalks, and there is hardly a space unmanned by a passionate vendor, selling his or her seasonal produce or homemade Gâteau Basque with a smile and a story or two.  Around every corner, there are men in black berets, the colors of the Basque flag (red, green and white) and the makings of an outrageous picnic to take to the beach, port or shady square.  (Just don’t forget some of this for your picnic !)

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France

Walking around the market with my family became quite a challenge; losing them among the overflowing crates of tempting produce happened on more than one occasion.  It was always easiest to locate my husband… predictably found chatting with the fromagers, tasting various ages of the region’s renowned sheep’s milk cheese (to pair perfectly with the black cherry jam that I was busy tasting).  I joined him and even tried a local cheese with a crust made from the famous Espelette pepper (below, bottom left).  Who says this pepper isn’t spicy ?!  Piment d’Espelette  also showed up in my favorite salted butter by Breton Jean Yves Bordier, sold at Maison Adam (above left).

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France

There are so many things to love about St Jean de Luz – and I don’t just mean Maison Adam’s macarons and Pariès’ caramels.  The charming and impeccably clean streets, colorful fishing boats lined up at the port, endless shops with 101 options for espadrilles and Basque striped linens, as well as surfing shops and restaurants tempting you inside with their daily specials of freshly caught fish and seafood, especially hake, sea bream, chipirones and tuna (anyone go to the annual Fête du Thon on July 9th ?).

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France

Indecisive shoppers, you have been warned:

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, FranceSt Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France

While the rain continues to fall and summer is often hiding behind the clouds here in Zürich, I’ll continue to revisit the beach in St Jean de Luz, photo by photo, until I can once again feel the sand beneath my feet, with picnic basket in hand, slice into a Gâteau Basque or unwrap a Pariès caramel. Then head back into town to a fronton (court) to watch a game of pelota (euskal pilota), roam the streets searching for more Basque sweets to bring home to Switzerland, and start the process all over again…

St Jean de Luz, Basque Country, France


20 Responses to “Revisiting St Jean de Luz in France’s Basque Country”

  1. mom says:

    I truly loved St Jean de Luz wandering around every nook and cranny! It is such a charming and lovely town filled with colors everywhere in food and espadrilles!!! Your photograps bring back the lovely weather…having a picnic on the beach with tons of stuff from the market. Yes, getting lost was fun finding each other. I wanted all the bread, you wanted the most perfect figs, Olivier the cheese and your father wanted it all. I forgot to buy something at the market …can you go back??? Thank you for suggesting that we all go there this time around. I do want to go back but where will I go next…to the places I missed or the places I loved!!!

  2. Emma says:

    Hah I love your mom’s comment! “Your father wanted it all” 🙂

    I like how you captured the baguette-sized-peeling-paint patches in the baguette photo. That is an awfully amazing pile of espadrilles, and an even more amazing tree in the second picture! The pepper butter sounds delicious…

  3. G J says:

    I absolutely love St. Jean de Luz, it was my first trip into France (driving in from Spain) many many years ago. Will never forget sitting in one of the little restaurants eating chocolate crepes and really contemplating how different it was from Spain, and loving it all.

  4. Kerrin says:

    mom, so what did you forget ? Ok ok, if I reeeaaaally have to go back for you, then fiiiine, I will. [tee hee] And you are so right – that is the most difficult question of all – to go back to the places we missed or return to the places we loved. I say BOTH ! 🙂 On y va !

    Emma, oh totally, my mom said it best ! 😉 Nice catch on the baguette paint on the wall. And seriously, I have never seen so many espadrilles in my life. Please don’t ask how long it took me to choose which ones I wanted. Nor how many I actually came home with, haha ! As for the butter, could be interesting to bake with it… Wish I could find it here in Zürich.

    G J, what an amazing first taste of France ! Thanks so much for sharing. Hmm, totally craving crêpes now =)

  5. Dominique (De vous à moi...) says:

    Cela fait des années que je n’ai pas mis les pieds au Pays Basque… à regret! Je suis contente que l’on puisse trouver mon beurre préféré (là c’est la bretonne qui parle) celui de JY Bordier… avec du piment d’Espelette (of course!).

  6. Christian says:

    as always wonderful pictures that give me Wanderlust just looking at them. I hope some of that beautiful weather soon ends up on the shores of Lake Zurich.

    Bis bald,

  7. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    I’m with Emma above, I love your mom’s comment about your dad. As I was reading her comment, and saw that bit, I thought – “that’d be me, too!” I’m a horror at markets. Wanting to sweep everything straight off the counters into my bags!

    I’ve never heard of St. Jean de Luz before, so thank you for sharing. It is certainly my type of place. Though not sure about those shops selling yards upon yards of fabric, and shelf upon shelf of shoes. I’m one of those indecisive shoppers at times. (I even left Marimekko in Helsinki empty handed as I couldn’t decide!!!!!!!!!!)

    Hope the summer returns for you soon, before the autumn sets in!!!

  8. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite says:

    Ah St Jean de Luz – so so beautiful! We were there in 2008 on a lovely trip to Basque country and fell in love too! Your photos really are beautiful – they totally capture the essence of the place. Thanks for a spot of sun on this grey day…

  9. Kerrin says:

    Dominique, je continue à chercher notre beurre préféré à Zürich, mais toujours pas ici. Il va falloir que je retourne à ta chère région avec un mini congélateur ! 😉 As-tu goûté toutes ses spécialités ?

    Christian, thanks so much. And seriously, what’s with the weather here ?! August is almost here, let’s home summer too.

    Julia, my dad, you and *me* too ! Every table at markets like these has something I want to grab. I would get enough for a picnic for an entire army, haha ! And indecisive shoppers unite ! Great place to work on your decision making – I wouldn’t let you leave empty-handed !! Blue stripes for us 🙂

    Mardi, merci beaucoup !

  10. bea at La tartine gourmande says:

    Ca donne completement envie d’y retourner!

  11. Barbara says:

    I love the Basque region. We spent a view days exploring around St Jean Pied du Port before setting off to walk the Camino de Santiago. Your photos are gorgeous Kerrin.

  12. Alexander says:

    Musing! :O the tree growing at the side of the building is fantastic. Very interesting and colourful.

    Alex’s World! –

  13. wandering educators says:

    i do believe this is my very favorite post on your site, as of yet. the colors! the food! the scenery! i pinned so many to pinterest! 🙂 thank you!

  14. Valentina says:

    What a lovely trip. Reading the post and looking at the photos even made me miss this area where i’ve never been. Pencil…

  15. Kerrin says:

    bea, merci beaucoup ! Faut y aller alors, direct Boston –> St Jean de Luz ! 😉

    Barbara, thank you so much. We all loved St Jean Pied de Port too, such charming streets ! How was your pilgrimage ??

    Alexander, thank you. I always love funky trees – and that definitely qualified as one !

    wandering educators, thank you for your very first post – and all those pins !!

    Valentina, add it to the list for sure… 🙂 Obrigada !

  16. marti says:

    oh, the cheese….

  17. barbara says:

    Our pilgrimage was the best 6 weeks of our lives. I would love to walk some of the other caminos that lead to St Jean Pied du Port.

  18. Tami says:

    Oh joy! This is such great timing! I’m in the middle of planning some time here in the beginning of October and I’ve found interested info on the French Basque country hard to find. There;s very little out there. So great to hear about all your discoveries and time there. I’m thankful I came across it. Can t wait to go now!

  19. Kerrin says:

    marti, oh yes the cheese – and then some ! 😉

    barbara, wow, that’s quite a statement – the best 6 weeks of our lives ! Simply amazing.

    Tami, so perfect ! How exciting that you’re heading that way, I’m so jealous – I want to go back ! 😉 Must be beautiful in the fall too. Glad you found this post – and hope you saw the extra sweet one too: ~ Bon voyage and bon appétit !

  20. Jen Laceda says:

    Hi, Kerrin! Long time no seeeeee….What a lovely place! Love it, love it, love it!! Wish I was on your side of the pond 🙂

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