California: a dream destination of sunshine, ocean, surfing, beach chic and wholesome living.
If only you could fly there in 2 hours.
Well, you can! Kind of.
You can find all of the above in the place I want to talk about. But where exactly is Europe's California?
You can probably think of several places where it most definitely isn't, but any ideas as to where could merit this prestigious title?
Well, here are some vital clues as the place I'm talking about has:
Still struggling? Have you narrowed it down to a most likely country yet?
Well, if you’re still browsing your atlas with your finger tracking the Baltic coastline, you probably need some help…
The answer is the Sud Landes coast of France and at its hub is surfing mecca and all-round cool place, Hossegor.
Welcome to Europe’s California!
(Congratulations if you already knew the answer. Sadly, there is no prize).
In fact, Hossegor was considered a cool destination well before the surf scene arrived. In the art-deco 1930's, Hossegor attracted artists, writers and socialites escaping from Paris and we are most grateful for the marvellous villas they constructed around the lagoon. By all accounts this was the time and scene of some fabulous parties!
Incredibly it was not until the 1950's that the first surfer - an American - was witnessed actually riding an Aquitaine wave, all be it in Biarritz just down the coast. Apparently it was quite a sight and a landmark moment for this corner of France. Surfing in Europe was about to take off.
Word spread and so did the surfing. The globe-trotting surfing pioneers of the 1960's and 70's soon started arriving to check out what all the fuss what about. Could there possibly be undiscovered waves outside of America and Australia? The answer was an emphatic 'yes'.
Sounding good? For your chance to sample the 'west coast lifestyle' of Hossegor try a Hossegor Wellness Retreat run every year in May and September by Bay Fitness legend, Andrew Blake. Just 40 minutes transfer from Biarritz airport with several weekly flights from UK airports.
It’s since the 1970’s that the surf scene truly arrived and Hossegor has genuinely become the surf capital of Europe. For many years it has hosted a leg of the Pro World Surf Tour and around it has grown a huge surf industry of board-shapers, surf wear designers and more.
It’s this surfing heritage that defines the town. Pioneering surfers who passed through in the 70’s and 80’s decided they couldn’t leave Hossegor and have since made it their home. Added to the mix is a young, entrepeneurial cohort as well as an affluent retired population. Subsequently, the town is a unique mix of nationalities, all of whom believe they are living the dream in Europe’s California.
I've been visiting Hossegor for the best part of 20 years so I'm a relative newcomer. But over the years I've met lots of inspiring people here and I've gradually built a list of favourite places and activities – with the help of my local friends.
You’ll certainly get a flavour of Europe’s California at these Bonnes Addresses in Hossegor...
EAT & DRINK
Lou Cabana – fabulous beach shack serving simple, fresh dishes. Perfect for couples at lunchtime or sunset.
Boulevard du front de mer, Plage Culs Nus (stick that into Google translate).
La Pêcherie Ducamp – Capbreton is the place for fresh seafood and this eatery by the fish market is the locals' choice.
4 rue du Port d’Albret, Capbreton
Louvine Collective – healthy bites and a cool clothing collection too! This place is pure Hossegor.
45 ave. du Penon.
L'Etiquette – for an apéro and a little sophistication with your equally successful pals. Also you can stock up on a few bottles from their excellent cave to help lubricate your holiday.
Place des Pins Tranquilles, Hossegor
St Andrews Brewery – the former Crème Café and Heads Brewery has been re-invented as a micro-brewery / café-bar / live music venue. Superb (over-used phrase alert) craft beers and the burgers are fantastic.
Plage Bourdaines, Seignosse Ocean
Gym – to live the Californian dream, you've got to 'work out', right? So, head to CapForm for its fitness suites, aqua, bikes, cardio and much more.
CapForm Movipole 6 rue des Résiniers ZA des deux pins 40130 Capbreton
Bike rides – rent bikes and discover the local area via its extensive network of pistes cyclable.
Jerry Bike Rental Hossegor 9 avenue Jean Moulin 40510 Seignosse
Surf – refining your technique or learning to stand-up? These guys should be your first port of call
Surf Seignosse Paradise Plage Estagnots
SUP-YOGA – combine the two on the serene Lac d’Hossegor
Hossegor Surf Club
Tennis – Californian’s all have a tennis coach, right? Hossegor Tennis Clus has 14 superb courts in the heart of town and various group and private courses.
Hossegor Tennis Club, Parc des Sports 40150 Soorts-Hossegor
Golf – ok, so they’re all golfers as well (how does any work ever get done?). There’s a very pleasant parkland course in Hossegor but head instead to neighbouring Golf de Seignosse which has an American feel about the course too.
Golf de Seignosse Avenue du Belvédère, 40510 Seignosse, France
So there you have it - Europe's California is less than 2 hours' flight from London. And with the charm of a French holiday thrown in too with the morning boulangerie trip and daily markets bursting with fresh produce.
Fly into Biarritz and a swift 40 minute transfer will see you on the ocean at Graviere or Estagnots.
Now, if you've made it this far in my article, thank you and well done. What I'd really like to hear is your ideas on where else in Europe could lay claim to the title of Europe's California?
Justin Ashby is a Founder and Director of villa specialists Alternative Aquitaine, part of the Simpson Travel family since 2018. For advice on planning your holiday in Hossegor, Alternative Aquitaine has over 50 quality villas, beach houses and apartments in and around Hossegor, many are just a short walk to the beach. Call Alex or Justin in the UK on +44 1395 576655 for advice.
PS The very day I wrote this blog post, I was happily distracted making a new reservation for a 5 bedroom villa in Hossegor. And where was the client from? La Jolla, California....
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