Posted May 9th, 2010, 06:22 PM
I have been to both San Sebastien and Biarritz, and my choice - by far - would be Biarritz. It is one of my very favourite places in the world - I spent the summer in the area many years ago and love, love, love it!! Biarritz has a very Basque flavour (it is located in the Basque region of southwest France), and has a lovely town centre and amazing beaches. There is a prominent oceanside luxury hotel which was originally built in the 1850's by Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, as their summer retreat. Queen Victoria holidayed there, as have other crown heads of Europe, and as you've said, Biarritz has long been a favourite playground of the wealthy and famous, and for good reason. The Empress' huge summer retreat is now a large luxury hotel called the Hotel du Palais. It is adjacent to the main beach and is definitely worth a look - amazing!! The main beach by the hotel is lovely, but as it is the favourite of tourists, it can be crowded.
There's another hidden gem of a beach that is the favourite of the locals, and I highly recommend it over the main "grand plage". It is only a short distance from the main beach, but it is around a corner - most tourists don't find it because you can't see it from the main beach. It is where all the locals go and has been called the most magnificent beach on the southwest coastline. It is spectacular. It is called the Cotes (pronounced "coat") des Basques - backed by huge cliffs and with an immense long stretch of sand - it's the spot I would pick to spend the day if you are looking for some relaxing beach time. Another highly recommended day trip if you are not into beaches is the nearby city of Bayonne. The old town is amazing, if you are more interested in history and architecture than the beach.
What cruise are you taking that you are so lucky to be stopping at St. Jean de Luz/Biarritz?? I will put it on my future wish list - it's a place I definitely want to take my children to see. Lucky you - enjoy, whatever choice you make!!