Aujourd'hui nous sommes le mercredi 15 novembre 2017. C’est la fête de Saint Albert.


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Guéthary: Des vagues dignes d’Hawaii

Waves worthy of Hawaii at Guéthary

 

L’exotisme se trouve au coin de la rue, ou presque. Pour surfer sur des vagues légendaires, nul besoin de s’envoler pour Hawaii. Sur la Côte Basque, à Guéthary, certaines ondes sont aussi spectaculaires et redoutées que dans l’archipel polynésien.

Il faut que le swell rentre pour que la vague se forme. Que le vent s’engouffre, donc. Ce jour-là, « elle » apparaît. Calme, régulière et puissante. Sur la plage de Guéthary, en contrebas de la gare, les surfeurs regardent, hypnotisés, ceux qui osent la défier« Cette vague est magique, elle me rend timide », murmure l’un d’entre eux. « Un trésor », souffle l’autre.

Qu’ils soient vieux, jeunes, professionnels ou juste doués, qu’ils viennent du coin ou d’ailleurs, ses fidèles sont tous égaux devant elle. Elle naît au large, loin de la terre ferme. Dure à atteindre (il faut ramer longtemps), elle est très difficile à évaluer – de la plage, on l’estime souvent à un mètre, alors qu’elle peut en faire trois ou quatre. En fait, elle ressemble comme deux gouttes d’eau à la vague de la scène finale de Point Break tournée à Hawaii, sauf qu’elle est plantée là, entre l’horizon et les Pyrénées. Les habitants l’ont baptisée Parlementia (« la Parle ») en raison du débat qu’elle alimente depuis des décennies. Est-elle à Guéthary ou à Bidart, le village voisin ? Dans un esprit d’apaisement, il est entendu qu’« elle commence ici, mais termine là ».

Guéthary, France: Secret Seaside

At a glance

Where is this beach? South-west France, south of Biarritz, minutes from Spain.

Who is it good for? Families with young children or teenagers. Civilised party animals, too.

What is there to do? Most beach or watersport activities, notably surfing. Great coastal walking. And unexpected night life.

What makes it special? It’s a concentration of the best of the Basque coast.


Parlementia: "The ocean rolls in over rocks, chucking surfers about like incompetent seals" (Photo: Alamy)

Arrive in Guéthary, and you know the holiday’s going to have character. There is nothing vague or undefined about the French Atlantic coast as it bangs into Spain: this is Basque country. Cliffs, heathland and woods drop to beaches harder-won than the vast stretches of sand of the flat littoral zone to the north. The ocean rolls in over rocks, chucking surfers about like incompetent seals. Sea and sky are huge. The Mediterranean coast seems effete by comparison.

The Basques farmed, whaled and fished from here for centuries, building their white houses trimmed with red woodwork. Well-to-do outsiders arrived in the 19th-century to build holiday villas. These days, smart Parisians who are too cool for the Riviera congregate here in summer. Warm summer nights in the village (with a population of around 1,300) are as lively as you like at Le Madrid or the Bar Basque.


Heteroclito – a mix of surfer hangout and junk shop (Photo: Alamy)

• France holiday guide: beaches

The first of the village’s four beaches, by the port, is so small that it barely counts: one game of volleyball and it’s full. Along the jetty, though, is Harotzen Costa, a long and wild beach with a mix of sand, pebbles and rocks sufficient, at low tide, to leave rock-pools for your tots to taunt crustaceans. Further south, Cenitz beach is rocky to the north, and then curves sandily the south.

The final and best beach is Parlementia, at the other end of the village. Here you will find a long sandy stretch, with with great bathing and sand-castle-making opportunities – and it draws fewer people because it’s further from the centre. The surfing is also good but, as throughout Guéthary, not for the neophyte: the combination of decent rollers and underwater rocks could shred bodies. The best Parlementia waves are, anyway, hundreds of yards out. Guéthary surf schools take absolute beginners a few minutes along the coast for easier waterse at Hendaye or St Jean de Luz.

• The 10 best beach holidays in France

No Guéthary beach has a bar, though there are several nearby. Hippest is Heteroclito – a mix of surfer hangout and junk shop – up the slope to the village from Parlementia.


"Sea and sky are huge. The Mediterranean coast seems effete by comparison" (Photo: Alamy)

Back in the village, visit the pelota court, play tennis or visit the contemporary art museum. Better yet, set off on the coastal path, a cracking 15-mile ramble to Hendaye on the Spanish border. Behind, a yeoman’s countryside rises, settled and prosperous, to the Pyrenees.

And so back to Guéthary for sunset. Serenity is probable, on one condition: don’t talk politics. Talk rugby or surfing or sex or cuttlefish (a local speciality). Anything, but leave separatism alone. It’s not your affair. You will lose. And a little lustre will be knocked off the holiday brilliance.

Getting there

It’s possible by train. Shortest journey time, London to Guéthary, via Paris and Bordeaux, is a shade under nine and a half hours, from £164 return (02844 848 5848, voyages-sncf.com). Or fly to Biarritz with Flybe from Birmingham and Bournemouth (0871 700 2000;flybe.com), with Ryanair from Stansted and Dublin (0871 246 0000;ryanair.com), with easyJet from Gatwick (0905 821 8905;easyjet.com). The airport is six miles from Guéthary. Bus transfers are easy with the Chronoplus bus service (chronoplus.eu).

www.telegraph.co.uk