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The beaches are the best feature. One of Biarritz's greatest pleasures is a stroll along the seafront, as the Plage Miramar runs on to the sweeping sandy Grande Plage. On one side the rock juts out to the lighthouse point. On the other, head along to the sheltered little Plage du Vieux-Port and the old fishermen's port with its minuscule cottages, and then on to the rocky headlands. The Rocher de la Vierge (Virgin's Rock), accessible via Gustave Eiffel iron bridge, is subtly floodlit. On the other side of the bridge you will reach the colossal breakers of the exposed Plage de la Côte des Basques, a surfing favourite in the evening.

There are rainy-day activities as well. Non-surfers can swim at the salt-water public pool in the casino complex above the Grande Plage. The Hotel Miramar houses a Thalasso therapy center renowned for restoring health at a price. The Musée de la Mer (esplanade du Rocher de la Vierge, is a family attraction with tanks of fish, sharks, and seals that provide visual entertainment at feeding times (10am and 5pm daily). The Musée du Chocolat tells of the Basque taming of the cocoa bean with rich tasting sessions. The small Musée Historique de Biarritz (rue Broquedis, closed Sun, Mon) presents local history in the former Anglican church, with photos of every British aristocrat that has visited Biarritz.

For the last 50 years the famous Hippodrôme des Fleurs (ave du Lac Marion, has staged nightly trotting races in July and August. The wild mountains of the Pyrenees stretch for 250 miles (402km) from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and have for many centuries formed a natural frontier: physical, climatic and linguistic, between France and Spain. Second only to the Alps among the great mountain ranges of Western Europe, the Pyrenees are much less frequented, and still offer an exciting combination of knife-edged summits, small glaciers, forested valleys, mountain tarns and little-trodden summer passes. Splendid trails lead to the magnificent cirques and lake-spangled basins of France's Pyrenees National Park. Over on the Spanish side paths lead through the spectacular canyons of the Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park, one of Europe's oldest. In 1997, the United Nations inscribed a portion of the French and Spanish Pyrenees near the French village of Gavarnie and the Spanish village of Torla on its list of World Heritage Sites. Here, nature over the eons has carved three stupendous glacial cirques including the renowned Cirque de Gavarnie and a 3,000ft (914m) deep canyon called Ordesa - Spain's 'Grand Canyon.'