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Surf and Turf Fusion: Experience the Best of Land and Sea in South-West France

Surf and Turf Fusion: Experience the Best of Land and Sea in South-West France

For a French holiday combining surf and Alpine turf without having to drive too far between destinations, head for southwest France. Hossegor, near Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, is the surf capital of France, and a destination for beginners and experts alike. Some 170km inland is the 19th-century spa resort of Luz-Saint-Sauveur, around 30km south of Lourdes in the Hautes-Pyrénées. The charming village makes a great base for exploring the mountains, on foot or, better still, by e-bike, as well as canyoning, whitewater rafting, horse riding or zip-lining.

I came up with this solution for my own family holiday. Our sons wanted to surf and all four of us wanted to explore the outdoors in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

We began in Hossegor, which delivers for both surfers and non-surfers. This New Aquitaine surfing mecca has a 3km beach with four different surfing spots. Home to world-class beach breaks, it hosts the annual Quiksilver Pro France surf competition in October. There’s a vibey surf scene at the northern end of the strip, a lively town centre at the other with endless cafés and eye-popping patisseries, chic boutiques, a very good market selling artisanal products and clothes, and a beautiful harbour at adjacent Capbreton. The strong currents put the main swimming beach, La Centrale, off-limits for many, but Hossegor Lake offers paddle-boarding, waterside dining and swimming. There are glorious walks and cycle rides to be had in the peaceful pine forests.

Bar vibes: enjoying the afternoon sun on the beach at Hossegor.
Bar vibes: enjoying the afternoon sun on the beach at Hossegor. Photograph: Stephen Hughes/Alamy

Surfers aren’t restricted to the summer months. As Raphael Tutenuit of Surf Guides explained: “Between January and March the water rarely drops below 11C and the sun is warm: our students really love coming off-season to enjoy the quieter beaches and empty waves, and experience a different, less-crowded Hossegor.”

Our sons, beginner and intermediate, took lessons with Raphael on four consecutive days, starting with the gentler waves of La Sud beach, to the south of Hossegor. For day two, Raphael persuaded the boys to get up in the dark for a sunrise session on the golden sands of Les Culs Nus, north of the town. “Taking the first wave of the day with an orange ray of sun lighting the face of the wave as you surf a superb line is incredible,” he said.

We piggybacked their session, sitting on the beach with our herbal teasthe wide dunes behind us and pine forest behind us. “That was epic,” said the 17-year-old afterwards. By the end of the week, they had progressed to La Centrale beach, another easily accessible spot for beginners and intermediate surfers.

Tourists en route from Cirque de GavarnieCirque de Gavarnie is a spectacular natural rock amphitheater on the French side of the Pyrenees near Gavarnie, encircled by eleven 9,800 ft (3,000m) peaks. The central point of the Cirque are Gavarnie Falls, which at 787 ft (240m) are the longest in Europe.
Making trails: tourists en route from Cirque de Gavarnie, a spectacular natural rock amphitheater on the French side of the Pyrenees. Photograph: Paweł Toczyński/Getty Images

“We have world-famous waves here in Hossegor which, on a good day, offer long, hollow barrels, or powerful beachbreaks of all forms,” Raphael said. He’ll take experienced surfers down to legendary La Gravière so they can “understand the mechanics of the peak, and how locals work their way around the current and lineup to catch some bombs”.

Over our final dinner, enjoyed on the beach at the buzzy Gravière cabinconversation turned from what a “legend” surf coach Raphael was to our forthcoming Pyrénées mini adventure and whether to stop at Lourdes on our drive to Luz. Luckily, we decided to do so. The countryside surrounding the Catholic pilgrimage site is breathtaking. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, comprising the Marian shrine and other buildings, is astonishingly peaceful and miraculously untouched by all the holy tat-touting gift shops and overpriced cafés outside it.

Luz-Saint-Sauveur itself sits on the river Bastan at the foot of the Col du Tourmalet, otherwise known as the Giant of the Pyrénées and regularly part of the Tour de France. Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie first put it on the map in the late-19th century after discovering its thermal spa, Luzéa: Thermes de Luz-Saint-Sauveur. Today, the spa is visited by those seeking treatment for medical conditions, as well as tired hikers or skiers in search of a massage or Jacuzzi (entrance price £16).

And relax: Casa Duna, Hossegor.
And relax: Casa Duna, Hossegor. Photograph: Stephen Hughes

We stayed in the quintessentially French Hôtel Les Templiers, an eco-hotel with shuttered windows and a vine-covered entrance in a small square overlooking the 12th-century church of the Knights Templar. On our first full day, we drove 20km to the village of Gavarnie and walked the deservedly popular Cirque de Gavarnie, a beguiling 8.5km hike around the limestone semi-circle, a Unesco world heritage site surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Pyrénées, including Mont Perdu. The walk starts alongside the river Gavarnie before you reach the steep walls of the magnificent cirque, 3,000m wide and 1,500m high. Victor Hugo described it as “the colosseum of nature”. Descending from a height of 423m, the grande cascade is one of the highest waterfalls in Europe. Enjoy it with a picnic, or over a traditional lunch taken on the terrace of the Hôtel du Cirque et de la Cascade.

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E-biking up through the old stone villages around Luz was loads of fun. We did a small section of the 24km Luz Ardiden-Trotinet loop, and vowed never to ride push-bikes again. The hairpin bends were eye-watering, especially coming downhill. White-water rafting on the river Gave de Pau the next day felt like a walk in the park and after all our exertions none of us was tempted to bungee jump from the Napoleon Bridge, which some say was a gift from Empress Eugenie to thank the river for curing her sterility. We opted instead for ice-creams from Glaces Artisanales, a roadside stop whose tiny terrace overlooks the gorge.

Two-hour group lessons from
£32 per person; private two-hour lessons from £50 per person (surf-guides.com; @surfguideshossegor). Stay at House Dunea three-bedroom villa with pool, from £1,895 for a week, with Simpson Travel (simpsontravel.com; 020 8003 6557); hostels in Hossegor have dorm beds starting from £28pp. For further information information, see hossegor.fr/en

Hire e-bikes from
£47 from Ardiden Velos; for zip-lining see Luz Tyroline. Hotel Les Templiers, from £95 per night, book directly at contact@hotel-luz.com; 05 62 92 81 52. For whitewater rafting and more information, see see Luz Tourist Office at luz.org. and pyrenees-trip.uk

By : Sunjet Date : November 22, 2023 Category : Popular Comments :

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