Beautiful Bayonne

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Friday, October 14, 2011

About 10 km east of Biarritz is Bayonne, both the capital of the Basque region and the chocolate capital of France. It is a gorgeous place with roots back to the Roman era (of course) when it was developed as a fortified town strategically located at the meeting point of two rivers (the Adour and the Nive), and with this location came very important trade links.  Some of the military walls still remain to be explored.  Interestingly, it was actually forbidden to build and live outside of the town walls right up until 1907.

Inside these walls we found a seemingly endless maze of narrow pedestrianized streets filled with centuries old buildings with half timbered facades and stunning wrought iron balconies.  What stood out to us was that it felt like there was actually a community living here, not just a bunch of tourists.  It was a pleasant surprise and it certainly added to the experience.  After some meandering, we stopped for lunch along the river to take in the sun that had come out to greet us.  We opted for pizza and it was wonderful.  We missed the thin and light (yet sturdy) crust that you get over here and the toppings are as varied as they can be, I even had an egg in the centre of mine (see picture). Tasty!

After this well deserved break, we got into the important stuff, chocolate!  Bayonne has a long established history with this ever so popular product.  It actually goes back to the Spanish Inquisition, when Jews who fled Spain set up shop here to continue their trade.  By 1870 there were about 130 chocolatiers in this small town, 11 of which remain today.  It was this presence that solidified Bayonne's legendary status as the chocolate capital of France. It should be noted that Bayonne is also famous for its prime cured ham, (which accompanied the egg on my pizza and was very tasty), as well as being the birthplace of the bayonet – of course. 

Back to chocolate.  We hunted out most of the remaining chocolatiers and were quite impressed with their wares (having to sample some of course).  We headed to L’Atelier du Chocolat ( for those that are bored) as they offer tours of their facility and of course a very generous chocolate tasting.  It was fascinating to watch the professionals perform their art.  The tour was comprised of a history of chocolate, an overview of the process from growing it to eating it, and even some of the old machinery used from over 100 years ago.  It was a very educational experience and the tasting session was pretty sweet as well…

From there we headed back into Biarritz for a stroll along the water to watch the sunset.  Tomorrow we head about a half an hour in the other direction to San Sebastian, Spain.
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Patti on

Enough of the chocolate. Getting tasting the wine.

Linda on

how's the wine ... did you have some with the chocolate ...

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