Biarritz – Aquitaine, France

Queen of Resorts and the Resort of Kings

Enamored of the town’s wild beauty, Victor Hugo prayed in 1830 that Biarritz would “never become fashionable.” His hopes were dashed when the newly married Napoleon III and his empress, Eugenie, arrived in 1855 and built the aristocratic pink-colored Villa Eugenie as a summer residence.

Biarritz became a favored destination, and royal and noble travelers came to “take the waters” long after the imperial couple stopped visiting in 1870. They were later replaced by a more diverse group of artists, writers, and other glit­terati. Still tinged with past glamour, Napoleon’s villa now is the beautifully refur­bished Hotel du Palais, the focal and social point of this Atlantic-coast resort.

Luckily for hotel guests today, Napoleon picked the choic­est stretch of beachfront, La Grande Plage. Ask any of the young international surfing set, who first discovered the best waves in Europe along these same lovely beaches in the late 1950s and made Biarritz the unofficial surfing and windsurfing capital of the continent.

The hotel’s opulent, spacious guest rooms overlook the rugged coastline in this wild edge of the Basque country, where the mighty Pyrenees step into the Bay of Biscay. At the Palais, the delightful spirit of old Biarritz is much in evi­dence. Try your luck at the classic casino and enjoy the luxurious saltwater spa facility.

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