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!!!

Tags: ,

2 Comments to “Saint Jean de Luz, the French basque town!”

  1. One of my favourite towns!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hahaha is difficult for me like them all lol!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: