St Jean De Luz

St Jean de Luz in the department of Pyrenees Atlantiques, was home to a major whaling fleet in the 11th century. By the 17th century the local seamen preferred to live from attacking the English naval fleet in the name of the French king, gaining the town the nickname "the viper's nest". In the 18th century, they returned to fishing, but as the whale had already practically disappeared, the sardine became - and remains - the main prey.

Today St Jean de Luz is a mixture of ancient and modern. There are splendid 17th and 18th century town houses, some of them now converted into shops selling local Basque produce, and with their paintwork done in Basque red, the colour of which matches that of the bull's blood that was originally used as paint.

The modern casino is a strange construction, looking rather like a huge liner stranded on the beach. But wherever you go in the town, it is hard to forget that it is a port. If you are brave enough you can even take a daytrip on a tuna boat; you'll never look at a tin of tuna in the same way again…

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