I woke up to the voice of a French woman at the Guerlain Spa.
Hotel du Palais is set alongside the Atlantic Ocean on the Bay of Biscay and is the original vacation home of Princess Eugénie de Montijo and Emperor Napoleon III. Since 1854, this imperial palace was built as a token of Napoleon’s love of his wife. Once known as Villa Eugénie, the property became a Hotel in 1893 and has since hosted some of the world’s most prestigious writers, fashion designers, and political aficionados.
I arrived in Biarritz, France on Rail Europe TGV Atlantic 8537 from Paris with a yearning for the beach and relaxation. In the heart of Basque Country, little did I know I was in for the ultimate luxurious treat.
Here’s where I dined, went, and slept in only 48 hours.
The journey took five hours, and with each hour the French landscape became warmer dryer, and more exotic. When I stepped out onto the train station platform, I knew I had arrived at the ultimate French beach town.
I got my first glimpse of Hotel Du Palais and of all its grandeur when my taxi came around the corner of a small street and revealed a royal palace fit for a princess. As the sun hit the scarlet-and-cream-colored seaside villa, it radiated a power that can only be experienced in person. I had arrived in paradise.
The concierge staff greeted me at the gates with welcoming gestures; they took my bags and ushered me to the front desk. The hotel’s aroma was filled with Napoleon's fragrance made exclusively his darling empress Eugénie for their marriage. I was given a brass key on a heavy green fringy key chain with my room number engrained on it. If luxury is all in the details, then this is just a simple detail that made each moment of my stay memorable.
My room suite was enchanting! I instantly felt at home and at peace. The dish of fresh strawberries that were left on my dresser where another sweet delight! I ran over to the windows and drew back the drapes to reveal a vista that took my breath away. The ocean and all its glory were roaring right before my very eyes. I sat on the loveseat in front of the balcony and smiled. I could get lost in the endless dreamy ocean view and never yearn to come back to reality.
My room was decorated in Second Empire style furnishing from the days of Napoleon, like deep brown chestnut wood with maroon and deep red velvet embellishments. There were several chandelier light fixtures; one on the ceiling as the main source of lighting and one that framed each side of my bed. I imagined Coco Chanel staying in this very room and getting inspired by the smell, the interiors, and the desires brought on by the great blue ocean that is at each guest’s disposable. This was totally an ambiance that had definitely inspired the Chanel Biarritz Tote bag. Leisure enough for a tote, fancy enough for a silk dress and a leather jacket.
Although I hesitated to leave my temporary palace. I knew there was a lot to see and do in Biarritz and my time was limited. I decided to have dinner and watch the sunset at La Ferme Ostalapia.
La Ferme Ostalapia is a family- owned restaurant set on a vineyard and farm where grandmothers, professionals, and farmers in worker boots and espadrilles crowd together under the slate-gray beams. From the patio, there’s a magnificent view of the grapes vines and the Pyrenees mountain in the distance. The very thought of my dinner still makes my mouth water. The waiters emerged from the kitchen bearing a savory chicken and couscous dish that was rich in French tradition and simple enough to eat daily. It was buttery, cheesy with my favorite grade of parmesan, and even had slices of soft avocado nestled in the creamy goodness. I washed it down with the finest of Merlot while I watched the sun disappear behind the Pyrenees.
I couldn’t believe it was almost 10 pm and still light outside! I returned back to Hotel Du Palais for a nightcap at the Imperial Bar where I was greeted by the hotel’s Pianist. I sipped a glass of wine and took in the sights.
I was eager to awake to the sound of the ocean, but I craved the extra rest. Afterall, I had the most calming sleep ever. The kind where you don’t hesitate to fall asleep and wake up beautifully refreshed.
But at 8 am, my room phone rang. Bonjour! It was a lady from the Imperial Spa. What better way to be awakened by the delicate voice of an esthetician at the Imperial Spa. I scheduled a signature treatment in the afternoon around 7 pm and hung up the phone. Still, in bed, I finally got out of bed to see if my view was still there. Of course, it was. I stepped out onto my room suite’s balcony to observe the ocean waves and meditate. I couldn’t wait to get the day started!
I walked into the Hippocampe for Breakfast that was served in paradise. Palm trees and bacon, two of my favorite things.
After breakfast, I went on a walking tour of Biarritz. Few know that this French town has been called home to many beau monde, including Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Madonna to name a few!
Biarritz is an elegant seaside town located in the southwestern part France’s Basque coast and has been a low-key popular resort since European royalty began visiting in the 1800s. A short walk along the boardwalk from Hotel du Palais will lead you to the town’s casino, aquarium, and colorful boat docks. A must - see and a symbol of Biarritz is the Rocher de la Vierge, which is a rocky outcrop topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Reached via a footbridge, it offers sweeping views of the Bay of Biscay.
The tour ended at the Les Halles de Biarritz, an indoor and outdoor marketplace where you can buy fruits, vegetables, delicatessens, and other fine French treats like foie gras I bought a few peaches and tasted escargot with rose wine for the first time. It was delicious!
It was finally time for the beach! I returned back to the Palace to change into my beach clothes. No time for a nap; I can’t believe it took me this long to get to the beach but this was peak hours. Surf’s up!
Because it was May, the water was still a bit frothy. The temperature was about 60 degrees. It read my book about the Dalai Lama as the tide came in. Dosing off a bit, I awoke ready for a drink.
I returned back to the Palace for a pina colada by the salt pool. From the cabanas to the poolside service, there’s a continuous reminder of luxury that’s warming and makes each guest of the hotel feel right at home.
To the 5- story Guerlain Spa is where I went. There, I was able to shower and put on a robe in preparation for my signature treatment. This treatment awakens and stimulates the 5 senses during a pleasurable introductory face and body treatment that relieves tension and promotes drainage. The Guerlain products made me not only smell like a bottle of expensive genie perfume, I fell into a deep trance, forgot what time it was, and when the beauty doctors brought me back to reality, I felt so weightless my skin and body glisten like a pink diamond in the sand. Needless to say, I put on my best silk little black dress and headed to a light dinner in the hotel’s Rotunda.
Going off the royal grounds for my last night in paradise sounded like an awful idea. There was nothing else better I wanted to do than to watch the sunset from the Palace’s bar terrace. I got a few good swings from the putting field at the front of the hotel, which made being outdoors zen-worthy to a golf nap. Plus, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to sign the Hotel’s guestbook. My signature in the same pages of Harry Belafonte was more than the luck of an Irish person.
It has been a long day indeed, but I still found the quietness of the Hotel so exhilarating. I wanted to walk through the front gates again to write poetry on the beach at night. The ocean water is always lit by spotlights coming to the hotels' property so guests can always see the vista. The chilly night was perfect. My stay was perfect. My well-being had been restored. This was the ultimate getaway that was just what I needed to recharge and spoil in luxury.