DARREN KENNEDY

TV Presenter, Columnist, Designer and Globetrotter

- SHORT STORIES -


"Hôtel du Palais"

On BIARRITZ, FRANCE

Where have you taken your OB shorts on holiday recently?

Biarritz in the Basque Country, South West of France, which is a gorgeous spot. It's so easy to access and has everything you need. It's this beautiful combination of the bourgeoisie and a hippy, surfer dude vibe so it's got a really nice balance.


What made Biarritz special?

The first time I went to Biarritz was 13 years ago. I was living in Paris at the time, and I decided I wanted to get out of the city for a last-minute weekend away. I arrived at Gare Montparnasse and jumped on the first train leaving which turned out to be to Biarritz. All I knew was that it was by the coast. It turns out the waves are huge and the surf is amazing. I've returned every year since then. I just love it there—the people, the food, the culture and scenery… everything about the place makes me feel right at home. The fact that I’ve got no agenda, no work, no schedule, nothing to do but potter around and do whatever takes my fancy when I’m there is what makes it special. I like to get up in the morning and go for a nice breakfast, wander about the food market, grab copious amounts of coffee, pop to the beach and just generally watch the world go about its business. That's the thing about it—Biarritz is a functioning town, so life goes on. I like that it's not just holiday vibes.


What attractions are unmissable?

Make sure to check out the neighbouring towns including Saint Jean de Luz and Bayonne for a day trip. The nightlife in Biarritz is lively during the summer months but if you want to have a big night out, head just across the Spanish border to San Sebastian for a night out. Great nightlife, beautiful food, and a bustling Spanish city await. It’s less than an hour’s journey by train and it feels like a two-for-one holiday, combining a real city break with a beach holiday.

Are there any areas to avoid?

If you can, steer clear of the casino and restaurants along the seafront. It’s the typical tourist trap. Instead, at night-time, check out the market area, Les Halles, where you’ll find the locals dining al fresco in beautiful wine bars, restaurants and tapas bars. Biarritz is in Basque Country, so it's very much influenced by that region. Le Bistrot des Halles is a beautiful place; it's all seated outside and the food is excellent and well-priced.


What’s the culture like?

Biarritz itself is a bit of a contradiction. It became known as a luxurious seaside tourist destination after Napoleon III built a palace on the beach, now Hôtel du Palais, for his wife Empress Eugenie—built in the shape of an ‘E’, no less. While it still attracts well-heeled tourists, it’s also the birthplace of surfing in Europe and has now become equally known for its surfing culture.


Any secret spots you can share?

While a little out of town, one of my favourite spots is a bar called Les Cent Marches, which is perched on a cliff above one of the main beaches. You can see all the way along the coast for miles, up to the Pyrenees and Spain. The sunsets are absolutely stunning.


Your favourite beach there?

My favourite beach is a little off the beaten track, about 10 minutes’ drive from Biarritz itself in the neighbouring town of Bidart. Also close by is Guéthary, a typical coastal village. The port here was once famous for its whaling but today it’s a beautiful little-known spot, brimming with great restaurants and views of the Atlantic to die for. Random fact but Madonna owns a home there!



"Hôtel du Palais"

The best place to eat?

An unforgettable evening begins with a glass of local wine at Le Comptoir des Halles followed by a short stroll to La Tantina de Burgos. It’s local and nothing fancy but the food is excellent. Fish lovers will be in their element (make sure to try the catch of the day) as will meat fans as the beef is exceptional. Make sure you go when you’re hungry!


Where’s next on your bucket list?

I’m chomping at the bit to check out Tokyo and do a road trip of Japan. Everything about Japanese culture fascinates me.


What are you reading at the moment?

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman.


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