Archive for April 30th, 2020

April 30, 2020

Saint Jean de Luz, the French basque town!

I have heard of the history and the story of course part of my history too. However, with so much to see, not been down here. Then ,one day we were with the families on the beaches of the Médoc and looking for something else to see I came up with the idea of visiting this town. Well the rest is history and we have been again to Saint Jean de Luz . Let me tell you a bit about this historical town of France and Spain, at least.

From the Paris always base the trip is long but easy ; you get here from Paris by the A10 then switch to the local D810 (old N10 road) ,before reaching the autoroute A63 ,you exit sortie 3 or 2. We took it by car from Lacanau-Océan the first time and from Versailles the second; and parked both times at Blvd Victor Hugo city center . The train from Paris is to the  gare de Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure at Place Verdun,on the line from Bordeaux -Irun at the limits of the towns,it has direct connection from Paris Montparnasse station, I never came here by train sorry.

The town can be seen on foot, however in summer when we went there is a free bus service  Hegobus around city center, which is fun to take with kids ,best line 43. Hegobus webpage in English here:  Public transports bus Saint Jean de Luz

A very brief history to set the stage for Saint Jean de Luz. It has been tried to bring back into the kingdom of France since Charlemagne days; after he attacked Pamplona in Navarra, they reposted with an ambush at Roncevalles or Roncevaux in French, they were known first as the Vascons established in present day Navarra, and were set back from the 6C north of the Pyrennées, then the area of Gascogne ( current days covering departments of the Landes, Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and, in part, other departments of the regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie, as well as the villages of the valley or Val d’Aran, north of the autonomous community of Catalonia ,Spain)  . They started with a dynasty as the kings of Pamplona until Sancho VI takes the title of king of Navarra from 1178. It had French connection because Sancho VII died without heirs, and the kingdom passes to his nephew Count Thibaud de Champagne. After many wars the peace is achieved in the region by the edit of Union in 1620 signed by king Louis XIII when the kings of France become automatically kings of Navarra as well with the confirmation of the treaty of the Pyrenées in 1659 due to the union of king Louix XIV and Infanta Maria Theresa of Spain. The frontiers and the repartition has remained intact to our days.

saint jean de luz

The Basque language is unique and rare, it is part of the finno ourgriennes language of Europe (Finland,Estonia, and Hungary) the only non indo european languages in the old continent, and habit to name it the oldest languages in the continent. They are many hypothesis as to the origin of the language too many to include on this presentation, needless to say nothing is sure of its origins. In France the integration into the national spheres is much more subtle and peaceful, than in Spain.

The city of Saint Jean de Luz, is best known for the treaty of the Pyrenées of 1659. A political marriage of king Louis XIV with the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain, the king arrives in town the 8 may 1660 and the 9 june joint the Infanta at her house the maison Lohobiague, where a parade takes places led by Cardinal Mazarin of France.  The service is done by bishop Olce of Bayonne for a duration of 3 hours. The door by which the couple leaves was sealed forever. And this is the main reason I came here as an amateur historian and lover of architecture in my belle France.  You go by the port area and see the Maison de l’Infanta or Maison Haraneder (where Maria Teresa stayed) with beautiful paintings of the school of Fontainebleau, now a private property,but visits arranged. The Maison Louis XIV or maison Lohobiague (where the king stayed) is of old basque design typical mariner deco, from the second floor beautiful views of the Pyrenées too. The Church St Jean Baptiste, richly decorated inside if outside is a bit dull,  this is where the marriage took place!  This was tops , worth the detour alone!

king Louis XIV came here to married Maria Teresa of Austria , infanta of Spain (daughter of the king of Spain, Felipe IV)on June 9 1660. The door of the church of St John the Baptist or Saint-Jean-Baptiste, from which the royal couple went out was closed 3 years after the wedding, even if the sign on the door tells of the closing immediately after the wedding according to French history school book. Her 6 children died early except one, but the grandson Felipe V born at Versailles later became King of Spain in 1700, and it is the Bourbon dynasty still running in Spain today. Felipe V ,also built La Granja de San Ildefonso , near Segovia, to look as a miniature Versailles as a reminder of his birth and time there.

However, much less on the Infanta… She stayed at the house or Maison de l’Infante-Joanoenia ,located at 1 rue de l’Infanta in town. Built in 1640 by Joannot de Haraneder,a rich boat builder of noble titles given by king Louis XIII for his services in the siege of La Rochelle. The Infanta lived here while the marriage ceremonies were going on in June 1660. The house ,also hosted king Felipe V of Spain and his brothers in 1701, as well as emperor Napoleon III and the emperatrice Eugénie in 1854. She of course Spanish Montijo from Belmonte Castilla La Mancha where I have visited the castle still in descendants hands and open to the public. You can visit the bedroom of the Infanta, the anteroom of the great hall with a decoration of the 17C, the monumental chimney in sculpture stones, heads of angels, richly sculpture beams decorated with mythical figures, fabolous monsters, exotic fruits and celestial constellations. The oratory along this grand hall has a great view over the harbor or Port et la Rhune

saint jean de luz

saint jean de luz

Some other things to see around town are at least my favorites are the port/harbor area with colorful boats of fisherman and a beautiful view ahead of the Pyrenées mountains.  Of course, in summer the best attraction could be the beach at Grand Plage in city center right walking from it! ideal for families as it is protected by dikes so no big waves! We do lots of travel by car to the city, many times stopping by here, and the one time we stayed longer we use the Hotel de la Plage in summer time, great views convenient to all, and great friendly service ,right at Grande Plage with fantastic views and central to all: for reference webpage here: Official Hotel de la Plage St Jean de Luz

For shopping in Saint Jean de Luz, you have the Les Halles located at Blvd Victor Hugo (right off the underground parking I use) you will have all the local products all year and every morning! Around the Halles ,every tuesday and friday morning you have an outdoor marché as well as saturday mornings in july and august  with plenty of produce veggies, fruits, meats of local producers, especially the cheese of brebis basque especialty.  As far as eating, we do a lot of tapas standing Spanish style or basque as you wish.  It is the traditional way and less expensive too as you do not take a table. However for sitting around place Louis XIV there is Bar La Baleine, for snacks and ice creams is great with kids like me. by the Halles area standing is best with ciders and tapas(try the Chipirons, little calamars or pulps)  is Restaurant Kako Etxea or Chez Kako,18 rue Harispe, place des halles. For seafood at its best try the La Txalupa, place des Corsaires, terrace on the place Louis XIV that goes to port area. Brasserie café Le Suisse / Le P’tit Suisse place Louis XIV, great friendly service, the kids favorite, lots of goodies ncluding ice cream lol! they made the waiter work for the tips::) but he was very good indeed.

There are nice close towns to see like Ciboure with is church of St Vincent 16C, and the native house of Maurice Ravel ,composer of famous Bolero No 27,  Chateau d’Urtubie built with ok of king Edward III of England in 1341. The corniche or cliff hanging road before reaching the port of Saint Jean de Luz at Socoa is marvelous if by car visit ,built by king Henri IV and renovated by Vauban. We took the ride on the corniche superbe!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The tourist office of Saint Jean de Luz in English: Tourist office of Saint Jean de Luz

The city of Saint Jean de Luz in French: City of Saint Jean de Luz on tourism

The tourist office of departement 64 Pyrénées-Atlantiques on Maison Louis XIV in French: Tourist office dept 64 on Maison Louis XIV

The tourist office of departement 64 Pyrénées -Atlantiques on the Church St Jean Baptiste in French: Tourist office dep 64 on Ch St Jean Baptiste

There you go a bit of space of my beloved France and Spain in basque country to boot! This is a vast territory call Euskadi as in Basque country or pays basque covering the two countries and worth the detour indeed, especially Saint Jean de Luz!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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April 30, 2020

Dolmen of Mané Kerioned!!

Well been a while not written up on my beloved Bretagne or Brittany or Breizh! There is so much architecture and history here enough for a blog on its own! Let me go down a bit to the beaches of the Morbihan but especifically to a Unesco World Heritage site in Carnac. However, just before there is something more and I like to tell you a bit on the Dolmen of Mané Kerioned!

I have written on the megaliths stones before but not much on this one which deserves attention and it is very close to me. Hope you enjoy it as we do

We passed by it every time to the beaches but have stop here for a bit of history. The dolmen of Mané Kerioned on the D768 road between Auray and Plouharnel, on our way to Carnac . The stones here dates from more than 3500 years BC. Its a group of 2 dolmen stones standing side by side facing South, and a third one facing them; the longest one you need to kneeled but it is 10 meters long below the surface. It has several engraving hard to decipher even today, these were burial chambers….impressive!!. They are in the town’s limits of Carnac but they are really closer to Plouharnel, just before entering the peninsula of Quiberon.


In the past, these dolmens were covered with a cairn, a mound of stones and earth which has partially subsided. The arrangement of the three tombs forms a whole unique in Brittany: two dolmens are open towards the South and perpendicular to the third which is placed in the center. The largest is below ground level and can go unnoticed by dazed visitors. It is certainly the most interesting. Its total length is around 10 meters. You can clearly see the corridor of the trapezoidal chamber and the decorations engraved in the pillars. This style of parietal engravings resembles the patterns observed on the back of the cover slab of the large dolmen of the Table des Marchand de Locmariaquer (see post). There are tangles of rectangles that look like labyrinths and wavy lines like snakes.  Six of the 27 pillars are decorated with these patterns: Engravings at the level of the room, slab in escutcheon, engravings in the pillars of the corridor, and engravings near the entrance. It is freely accessible although it is located on private land.


The dolmen underground it is good idea to bring a flashlight to fully see the engravings within this tomb, there are many finely carved stones, with unusual chequerboard designs on them, as well as some more standard serpents and axes.


Kerioned means Korrigans, these little goblins or leprechauns would therefore inhabit the dolmens. The mound measures approximately forty meters in diameter and is delimited by four small menhirs. It must certainly have been completely surrounded by a quadrilateral of menhirs. Part of the mound was removed during the creation of the D768 road, and another part was destroyed during excavations in 1866. The dolmen located today in the center of the site, must also have been in the center of the mound and therefore must to be the oldest of the three. The dolmen to the west is nine meters long. The orthostats composing it rise and form the steps of a staircase towards the north. It still has four tables. Eight of the orthostats of the underground dolmen carry engravings on their surface. Only its tables are visible from the surface. Superbe!


To find out more about these megaliths visit the Maison des Mégalithes at Carnac, here it is in English: Maison des Megalithes practical info

The tourist office of Carnac has some info on the Mané Kerioned in English: Tourist office of Carnac on Mane Kerioned

And a bit on the location of the Dolmen of Mané Kerioned from the city of Carnac in French: City of Carnac on the mané kerioned

And there you go another wonder of our world very easy accessable from the expressway N165 to the D768 direction Carnac and right in front of the bowling alley on your right coming from Auray are the dolmens!  The dolmen of Mané Kerioned ,a wonder of our world indeed, go see it

And remember, happy travels, good heatlh, and many cheers to all!!!

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