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The Basque Country: A Day in Bayonne, France

By Lu Sobredo

Readers may have noticed that Lu Travels Abroad Blog has been overwhelmingly about Spain. So far. This is not surprising to family and close friends. After all, Spain is where we visit often. Spain is what we consider our other home country. Even though Spain was not even on my family’s radar when we began vacationing in Europe, a confluence of circumstances took my husband James to Spain for the first time 12 years ago. He then took the whole family about 9 years ago. And we never looked back, only forward to frequent visits. Being there feels like being home.

You know what makes Spain an ideal site for exploring Europe? Other than the opportunity to spend time with our Spanish friends who are now part of our extended family, or delight in the food and be mesmerized by the landscape? Its proximity to other European countries.

Our time in the Basque Country early 2018 made us realize how convenient it was to also explore nearby places we’ve read about in tour books. Rick Steves, a travel aficionado & a fixture in the travel world speaks of the Basque Country. It is an area that straddles between Spain and France. 

So with Donastia-San Sebastián in Spain as our home base, my husband and I crossed the border and spent a day in Bayonne, France. Only an hour bus ride to this medieval town, we didn’t mind waking up at an ungodly hour to catch an early bus in cold temperature. We welcomed hopping from one cafe to the next in a picturesque locale in winter, absent the tourists that crowd the town in the summer.

Rick Steves' travel website, At-a-Glance section describes Bayonne (Bayona in Spanish) in this way: “Urban French scene with a Basque twist, home to impressive cultural museum, scenic ramparts, and lots of ham.”  (Rick Steves’ Europe, Web February 24, 2018). 

Rampart—mound of earth that shoots from the ground is explained in the tourism brochure of 2017, Bayonne was “founded as a Roman fortified town at the junction of the Nive and Adour Rivers. Bayonne later prospered during the Middle Ages under the Pantageet kings of England. Thanks to trade, the town enjoyed a golden age with the building of the cathedral, cloister and castles.”

Our day in Bayonne was centered around the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame de saint Marie and the remarkable wrought iron railings by the River Nive. We strolled along what the tourism brochure called the Quay sides of the Nive—“the narrow, stone and half timbered facades, cafes, restaurants and market hall.” These are some of the points of interest in Bayonne that my husband James Sobredo and I captured with our cameras. It is a charming town, rich in history and worthy of including in your itinerary when in Europe.

So next time when visiting Europe, consider a stopover in the Basque Country. Get a glimpse of Bayonne, France while you're at it. If wanting the quiet stroll in winter or participating in the festive liveliness of summer, take your pick.  Bayonne won't disappoint.

©Lu Sobredo


  1. Nice article - but try and find time to explore the inland villages* - especially in summer when the coast is steaming with people and parking in the same time zone becomes difficult!
    * villages like Ascain, Biriatou, La Bastide-Clairence and Sare for starters. Then there's Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry - a sweet spot to explore.


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