Biarritz: Côte de Misery

Posted by in Culture, Travel

Biarritz – not just a swanky box of chocolates you know.


Biarritz is beautiful but if you happen to be on a budget in winter be mindful of the fact it is completely and totally inept! The (Flix)bus drops me on a road, no sign of tourist info.

Fortunately I manage to acquire some informations on its whereabouts by asking a local in rustic French and it’s her who tips me off to the unassuming cul-de-sac in the centre-ville where lies the tourist info.

When I find it the news isn’t good, the only hostel takes a sabbatical til spring! I knew this already but I thought there would be others. WRONG!

Groovy tickets and a station you can’t sleep in. Merde!


They point me to a travel agent which doubles as a ticket office for onward buses. Tourist info tells me they close at 18:30 but this turns out to be 17:30 giving me the sum total of about 10 minutes to book either Bordeaux or Toulouse.

I can’t decide so look to the train station for alternatives. This involves a trip on an electric bus with possibly the grooviest colour scheme, at last something typically French.

The station delivers more misery. Even in the early hours a train to Bordeaux can be up to €33 (compared to the buses €15) and Paris was something like €125! Some plane fares are less than that. What is going on at SNCF!? The GARE DE BIARRITZ is located in the middle of nowhere with a ticket office that closes at lunchtime or may as well.

It does have a shop that’s about to close and has already run out of pain au chox for the day. Mercifully it is equipped with WiFi (about the only bit of good news) but no heating and it appears the seats are designed especially to deter nomadic adventurers who’ve made an error du judgement from sleeping there.

The Airport terminal also closes overnight so that’s out. It’s only when I get up to survey the station small print outside which more or less says ‘la gare est firmé a 22:30hrs’ in other words that I realised my predicament was a little more serious. I was going to have to freeze or shell out for a hotel.

One by one the lights of pubs and cafes around the station switched off, their shutters rolled down for the night including one with a baguette vending machine. This is my second screw up in under a year but it happens. I suppose you’re expecting me to say something about Cock Robin being that it’s my first visit to France in 10 years.


Well ok, two things ‘just around the corner’ (get it?) is a bar where again my rusty rustic French holds well enough to order a cafe creme. ‘I don’t have it’ he says in English noting my French must be either abysmally bad or doesn’t have the correct accent. I’d like to think it’s the latter. What comes back to me is brown stuff in a cup, ‘merci monsieur’ he says on my payment.

Including the barman, three guys are watching football and eventually I have to interrupt them to tell them of my impending doom (other than the lousy coffee I’ve just paid to consume). They understand me and help to find a room at a crappy hotel near the station. It turns out to be a 2km walk! Normally this would be ok, but my main bag is robust, heavy and worse, the wheels are beginning to wobble.

I arrive at the Premier ‘otel (clearly the word ‘premier’ is utilised as an ironic joke) to find it has only an automatic reception. It says €33. When I eventually find a real red headed receptionist behind an unwelcome looking closed door she says it’s €36. ‘What happened to 33?’ I ask. ‘It’s nine o’clock’ she says. It isn’t.

According to her computer (which I can’t see) it is. Personally I think she’s pulling a fast one. The smell of rat lines the pit of my stomach as I hesitantly cough up. As a further nose rub she gives me room… 36. If ever I teach again this is the case study I’ll use for irony.

She mentions the wifi and password. Lugging my bags up to the second floor (no lift) passing the whiff of weed from open windows I slide the door card into it’s slot to enter my darkened room. After locating the light switch I’m pleasantly surprised to see no dead pigeons on the floor, sick stains on the carpet, blood on the bed sheets or used condoms hanging from the row of coat hangers.

Perched on my bed I attempt to connect to the wifi to find the second screen won’t appear. Running downstairs she’s already switched off the lights to make her escape. I mention my woes to see one of those sardonic French shrugs. Pah!

It eventually works on my mac but my phone is a non starter. Next up the shower. I don’t mind it being small but the shower head is pointing at an angle that cannot be adjusted. I can’t wait til morning to get the hell out of the place.


Back at the station, more disappointing coffee though at least the pain au chox has arrived. A quick charge of the phone before heading back to central to buy a ticket to Toulouse where the curse of the terrible T’s would be waiting.

Asie in Francey – weird.

To top things off the Musee de Chocolate is permanently closed. However the Asian museum is open (as in present) but closed. Why it happens to be on the west coast of France is another question mark. A Croque Marie as dreadful as the coffee marks an end to this sorry tale and I make my way to the same bus stop as yesterday wishing I’d stayed on the bloody bus to Bordeaux.

Getting back to Cock Robin is the second thing. Pete (Kingsbery) recorded ‘Better You Know’ in Biarritz. Why? I’m at a loss but I’ll bet he had a better time than I did.


Thanks for reading here, should you be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, check out the MEDIA page, and/or the UNIVERSITY page for my teaching ethos. 

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Song of the Surf – No-Man
Better You Know – Peter Kingsbery
Sea Song – Tears for Fears