Museums in Bayonne
Even if you aren’t into museums, no visit to the French Basque Country would be complete without a stopover at the Musée Basque, at 37 Quai des Corsaires in Bayonne. The museum’s best allure is its collection of Basque artwork. It provides a fine introduction to the unique Basque culture.
Another centerpiece attraction in Bayonne is the Musée Bonnat at 5 Rue Jacques Lafitte. This was founded as the collection of artist Léon Bonnat, who donated his personal works to the city. Surprisingly impressive for an art museum in one of France’s less prominent cities, the museum features works of Goya, Degas and da Vinci. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, antiques and objets d’art.
The Musée de la Mer, at the Esplanade du Rocher de la Vierge in Biarritz, is entertaining for all ages. The aquarium features a large variety of species, but the finest living exhibit here is the seals (both in a basin on one floor, and an underwater view the next floor down). Get a real show by visiting during the seals’ feeding time (10:30 am and 5 pm daily). Be sure to grab a snack at the panoramic bar with a sea view.
Châteaux de Pau, 2 Rue du Château in Pau, was the birthplace of the illustrious Henry IV. It is a wonderful example of early medieval architecture. The “salle des cent couverts” or room of a hundred covers, features a glorious collection of wall tapestries.
Musée National des Parachutistes in Pau features exhibits devoted to the history of parachuting, with special attention to military maneuvers.
Chocolatiers and Chocolate Shops
There are several places where you can learn about chocolate-making or just stock up on this popular sweet. Some of the must-see spots for chocoholics include:
La Fabrique du Chocolatier Puyodebat (5 and 7 Rue du Luc in Bayonne), with various chocolate-making devices on display and exhibits on the history of chocolate in Bayonne. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 am to noon and 4:30 to 6 pm.
Musée du Chocolat, 14 Avenue Beau Rivage in Biarritz, features an eclectic mix of exhibits, including chocolate sculptures, presentations on the history of chocolate-making and antique chocolate equipment. One of the best reasons for visiting is the chocolate tasting.
There are several chocolate shops in the area, including a long list of shops in Bayonne. The best choices include Atelier du Chocolat de Bayonne at 1 Rue des Carnes and 33 Boulevard Alsace-Lorraine, Patisserie Mauriac at 23 Rue Port-Neuf, Confiserie Pariès or Chocolats Cazenave at 19 Rue Port-Neuf.
Cheese-makers in the Bayonne Region
Take a roadtrip to sample one of the Basque Country’s finest offerings: its quality-controlled cheese. There are several A.O.C. Oshau-Iraty cheese makers and farms in this region, including Michel Larramendy on Route de Cambo in Hasparren to the southeast of Bayonne and Biarritz, Gaec Artzainak in La Bastide Clairence east of Bayonne, and Fromageries des Chaumes at 155 Avenmue Rauski in Jurançon near Pau.
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