To experience the town and beaches of Seignosse in southwestern France is like encountering the incongruous blending of a Brother's Grimm fairy tale (the dark and spooky ones, mind you) with the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello classic, "Beach Blanket Bingo." The town lies nestled in the woods, just a half-hour from the Pyrenees mountains, and is typical of the older Landes coastal villages, with a church, some small bars and hotels, and a smattering of old-fashioned Landes farmhouses that look straight out of "Little Red Riding Hood" - thatched roof, shuttered windows and exposed timbers.
Just when it seems the Big Bad Wolf is lurking around the next forested glen, the beach comes into view at the foreground of the village, and it's culture shock - nothing but floral board shorts, Ray Ban shades and waxed longboards. The beaches at Seignosse have been drawing surfers for years; the sands are sparkling white, the waves are big, the water's clean, and best of all - surprisingly few souls have discovered this magnificent haven. The beaches are lined by enormous, mountainous, man-made dunes, created in the 1840s to protect the village from the potential wrath of the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches are sprawling and wide, with breathtaking views of the Pyrennes in the distance.
The town remains remarkably quiet, with little in the way of night life other than a sprinkling of restaurants and bars. For those looking to rock the night away, a quick trip to the town of Hossegar, some 2.5 miles away, will give access to bars, piano bars, discos and even a casino.
By Air: If you plan to arrive by plane, the nearest airport is Biarritz-Parma Airport ( www.biarritz.aeroport.fr), located about 20 miles from Seignosse.
By Train: Arrive by train at the Bayonne or Dax train station, approximately 15 miles from Seignosse. You can find more information on train schedules at www.voyages-sncf.com.
By Bus: Local bus service to Seignosse is available with the local carrier RDTL Voyage ( www.rdtl.fr).
The best way to get from the Biarritz airport to Seignosse is to rent a car. In the airport, travelers will find counters for Avis ( www.avis.fr), Europcar ( www.europcar.com) and Hertz ( www.hertz.com) car rental agencies.
A trip to Seignosse is ideal during the summer months, as it's primarily a beach destination. Of course, you and scores of other tourists here on holiday will be sharing space on the sands, so be sure to book your accommodations well in advance, particularly in August, when many Europeans plan their vacations.
A popular accommodation option for visitors to Seignosse is to rent a house or cottage through an estate service, such as Seignosse Immobilier, which offers holiday rentals in apartments or villas. For visitors who prefer the comforts of hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts, plenty of those can be found in the area, as can standard campgrounds and "vacation villages," which are enormous camping resorts.
Meals from the southwest of France are generally known for incorporating pungent, rich flavors and ingredients like duck fat, porcini mushrooms and gizzards. The region is also noted for the popularity of foie gras. This controversial dish of fattened duck livers involves force-feeding the animals. Another regional specialty is the cassoulet, a stew or casserole of white beans, and meats like mutton, pork sausage or goose. For a taste of regional cooking, pay a visit to Restaurant Lou Sourey Landais. Or, if you need a break from French cuisine, grab a bite at the local Pizzeria Le Vésuvio.
Once they've arrived in Seignosse, travelers can find more information about the town and its environs by visiting the Office du Tourisme de Seignosse.
While You Are Here
The beaches at Seignosse are unforgettable and truly some of Europe's finest. But once you've had your fill of sand and surf, explore some of the town's other offerings. Seignosse lies on the outskirts of the heavily forested Pyrenees, and just north of the village are two large lakes, the Black Lake (Etang Noir) and the White Lake (Etang Blanc). The lakes are tucked into the woods, where travelers can find some good hiking and excellent views from a few of the wonderful restaurants dotting the lakes' shores.
Between the Black Lake and the village is a sprawling sports complex with tennis courts and bicycle rentals and tours, though many other outfitters in the region also offer biking tours. Horse lovers can also visit the Centre Equestre L'Appaloosa, an equestrian center that offers horseback riding trips into the forest.
To Fake You've Been Here
Chat casually about how you rode a longboard frontside on the wave shoulder and into the barrel, until you wiped out on the beach break. (Translation: You rode a board more than 9 feet long while facing front, on the unbroken part of the wave and into the center of the wave, until you fell when the wave broke on some sand beds).
Linking for a Better Vacation
Unfortunately, there aren't many English language Web sites on Seignosse. To learn more about Seignosse, visit the site of the Seignosse Tourist Bureau.