Photo by Thomas Lodin

A Visitor’s Guide to Southwest France


When I told people I was going to France, everyone said the South West was the place to go.

They said, ‘you’ll get down there and you’ll just know.’ I didn’t know what I would know, but, as I took the exit just before Hossegor to avoid tolls and saw all the green and got that very particular vibe you get from a place close to the ocean, I just knew. Luckily, through some hot tips from our friends at Wasted Talent (mates who had spent time here), and a random Australian man I met who had been living in France for the last 30 years, I was well prepared for a good time. Here is my tried and tested list to ensure that if you visit, you will have a good time too.

Eat and Drink 

This list could be endless because it’s France (and everything is amazing in France), but there are definitely some highlights. First off, grab yourself some oysters and wine at Chez Jerome/Jerome Labeguerie on the north shore of Lac Hossegor. Impossible to spend more than €10, yet everything still scores a 10/10. L’Etiquette is a wine bar with a daily rotating menu and friendly staff, and it’s an easy place to stay all night. Coolin Bar is a great spot to watch the sunset, but it usually only starts getting a vibe after 11 pm, so hit up Le Surfing and Lou Cabana for post-surf beers and snacks right on the beach… because why the hell not?

Down in Biarritz, you’ve got Market Halles de Biarritz, a massive market with stalls specialising in everything that the French do well: cheese, croissants, foie de gras, and charcuterie. A true French experience, with all the sellers very much wanting you to walk away happy. Next door is Bar Jean where there is always, always a line. Your best bet is to just walk to the headland near Plage du Port Vieux, because it doesn’t even matter which bistro you perch at, you’ve got the best views of the Basque Country from here.

 

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Coffee 

Hossegor’s go-to coffee/food/shopping area is located in the industrial area about 10 minutes back from the beach, in a zone called Soorts-Hossegor. Here you’ll find Waxed Coffee, where a couple of friendly fellas will serve you some damn good coffee and insight into the spots to surf if you ask nicely. Another great one is Volt Coffee if you need a zone to catch up on some emails. In Biarritz, you can’t go past Mood Café, a little bit out from the main drag but worth the walk for quality food and a cup of joe.

Shop

You can’t go to Hossegor without swinging past Wasted Talent Boutique, stocking local brands and familiar brands alike and a Rolls Royce parked up in the space just for the hell of it. They throw events frequently throughout summer, so keep an eye out on their ‘gram because it’s always a good crowd. Down in Biarritz, there’s Sunburn Store, full of more independent French brands, rotating mini art exhibitions and other funky stuff you’ll definitely want to buy.

Photo by Thomas Lodin

Surf

Now, I’m no surf expert (and I know some people get funny about surfing tips) but I was lucky enough to receive some much-appreciated advice about where to go. Hossegor is the best bet for waves over Biarritz because it’s essentially just a big, long beachie. Unfortunately, being here in summer means the waves are unsurprisingly fickle (or just completely flat), but the sun goes down at 11 pm so you can find something, somewhere, eventually. The best spots I experienced were Plage des Bourdaines and Les Estagnots, which you can alternate between whenever one’s looking too busy. It’s worth a venture through La Foret (the forest), north of Hossegor to get away from the crowds, and La Piste at Capbreton is fun, if not for the fact you’re surfing next to WWII bunkers. As with any surf trip, you’ll find your own spots, so I guess the only thing to remember is that it all works better on the low.

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