Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Biarritz, France - Part 1

Maybe I'll visit Biarritz one day. In a way I don't want to because I'm afraid it won't be as magical as what I imagine from these postcards. The city of Biarritz is on the south-western coast of France near the border with Spain.  If you think Biarritz doesn't look like a French name, you would be right; it's Basque. Biarritz may be located in France, but it is also in the heart of Basque territory.

Biarritz was a whaling town as early as the 12th century, but it was recognized as a resort destination by the 18th century.  In 1854, Empress Eugenie (Napoleon III's wife) built a palace here, which is now the Hotel du Palais , where the nightly room rate ranges from about 400 Euros per night to 1,500.  If I were going to spend that much money on a hotel room I would do it here. Over the years, Biarritz has attracted the rich and famous, including the British royal family (as in Victoria), exiled Russian royals, the Hapsburg family, and celebrities such as Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso,  and Ernest Hemingway. There is also a casino in Biarritz, which is the building shown on the postcard above.

I should also mention that Biarritz is a popular surfing destination. Actress Deborah Kerr's husband Peter Viertel is credited with bringing the first surfboard to France and introducing surfing to Europe. He was purportedly so impressed by the waves in Biarritz that he called for a surfboard to be sent to him from California. It must have been magical for him to have all of those waves to himself.

The card below shows the Cathedral  of Saint Eugenie.

More cards of Biarritz tomorrow!


  1. A charming coastal destination. Is there an indication of the date of the postcard?

  2. What great postcards - and who knew Deborah Kerr's husband was a surfer? I love the different shapes and colors of the beach cabanas - they're almost like skirts.

  3. Imagine a Californian surfing at Bairritz.

  4. Paul,
    Funny you should ask. It's relatively easy to find dates for many American postcards, especially ones that are numbered. These are numbered and even marked with the series, but I couldn't find any reference that would provide me with any date brackets. They were printed by the Labouche Frères Phototypie, in Toulouse. The Labouche brothers printed postcards for a long time, starting in the late 1800s. I would guess these cards to be from about 1920.

  5. Hey! A Coincidence here in that a friend at work was talking to me about a recent surfing trip there.I have never been to the region.I am now double-interested!

  6. i just love the changing tents on the beach...they look positively medieval...or like those used by byzantine armies!

  7. Nancy and I spent a day in Biarritz a few years ago. We had been treated to a trip to San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz is very close. A rich friend needed some traveling companions and took us along.
    It's a long story!!! One day was not enough but it was a charming seaside town. There was a sand castle contest that day. I'll send you some pictures if you're interested. Your postcards so often connect with my life!

  8. Barbara,
    Maybe you can hook me up with a rich traveler who needs a companion. That sounds like a perfect match for me. Did you stay at the Hotel du Palais? In any case, I would love to see the pictures!



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