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Hang loose in French California

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In Biarritz, it’s as natural to see someone carrying an expensive purse under their arm as it is a surfboard. The chic seaside resort in the southwest of France was once the summer retreat of the European nobility, and to this day, magnificent palaces and villas still bear witness to that glittering era.

In the 1950s, a film crew from California brought over the first surfboards and plunged with them into the perfect wave, making Biarritz the cradle of European surfing; it is still its epicenter today.

Here are some of the best insider addresses, where you’ll find you can do just as the surfers’ motto recommends: Hang loose.

The Shaper House

61 Avenue du Maréchal Juin
64200 Biarritz
France
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Only with a custom board the perfect ride is guaranteed: The Shaper House is where DIY surfers get together. The store’s young owners, Franck, Sylvain and Baptiste, offer courses, machines, materials and workspaces for everyone keen to craft the ultimate surfboard for themselves. The demand is huge. The shapers work in glass cabins, which let you take a look over their shoulders. In the adjoining café and barbershop, surfers discuss which will be the best surf spots in the next few days while having their beards trimmed.

Etxola Bibi

Square Jean Baptiste Lassalle
64200 Biarritz
France
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There’s no better spot for a sundowner in hot weather. The Etxola Bibi is simply the Basque for “cabin on the beautiful shore ” – and that’s what it is: a smart shack with beer garden tables and nearby pétanque pitches where everyone meets up or plays boule during the season. From the tapas to the wines and sangria, France seems pretty Spanish here. There’s always a gentle breeze blowing high above the Côte des Basques, and from up there, you can enjoy the best panoramic views, watch the surfers in the water and the sun set on the horizon.

Crampotte 30

30 Allée Port des Pêcheurs
64200 Biarritz
France
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Small but inviting: The Crampotte 30 occupies one of the pretty fishermen’s cottages in the old harbor of Biarritz. This simple, but amazingly snug wine and tapas bar with its old wine barrels converted into tables, regularly has DJs manning its turntables, playing everything from surf sounds to electro. A delightfully laid-back, authentic place with local products and food as well as an excellent selection of wines. Don’t miss the chance to sample the very dry, slightly sparkling Basque wine Txakoli.

Heteroclito

Chemin de la Plage
64210 Guéthary
France
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Oysters, seafood and fish are among the specialties this restaurant serves during the season to the elegant clientele of Guéthary, the discreet celebrity refuge south of Biarritz. They include writer Frédéric Beigbeder and actor Vincent Cassel. Madonna is also said to have spent a vacation in the tiny village with its typical red-and-white half-timbered buildings. This is an excellent place to enjoy an excellent meal as you watch surfers ride the waves with your own feet all but in the water.

The Beach House

26 Avenue des Dauphins
64600 Anglet
France
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Time for some après-plage? Then it’s time to head for the surfer hotspot Anglet. The Beach House there is a lounge, restaurant and beach club all rolled into one. If the waves look too high and the beach too sandy, you can always take a refreshing dip in the beautiful pool here or laze on a large sunbed without a single grain of sand to spoil your comfort. On cooler evenings, campfires provide warmth out of doors while a fine blaze in the hearth awaits you indoors. The restaurant serves fusion food with Spanish, French and Asian influences.

Milwaukee Café

2 Rue du Helder
64200 Biarritz
France
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Breakfast and brunch California-style – with avocado toast, poached eggs, burgers and pancakes, not forgetting vegan cakes and detox juices. The Milwaukee Café owes its confusingly American name to its boss, Wendi, who hails from the city of that name. Milwaukee was also where she met her husband, a professional pelota player – pelota is a kind of Basque variation on squash. She followed him to Biarritz and has been running her California-inspired coffee shop there since 2011. The tattooed baristas behind the counter complete the picture – and of course, they are all surfers, as well.

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Best of Montenegro

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For almost a century, Montenegro belonged to Yugoslavia, and then in 2006, the “land of black mountains” gained its independence. This small Balkan state (smaller than the German state of Schleswig-Holstein) has 625,000 inhabitants – and nearly all of them can quote the famous words Lord Byron wrote back in the 18th century: “At the birth of our planet, the most beautiful encounter between land and sea must have been on the Montenegrin coast.

When the pearls of nature were sworn, an abundance of them were strewn all over this area.” The pearls of Montenegro include the continent’s southernmost fjord, glacial lakes in the north, crystal-clear waters seaming 70 kilometers of beach, glorious peace beside Lake Scutari and an Italian atmosphere in the towns along the coast.

Cetinje, Montenegro Relief

Narodni muzej Crne Gore
Novice Cerovića, bb
81250 Cetinje
Crna Gora/Montenegro
Tel.: +382 41 230 310
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The Relief of Montenegro located in the courtyard of the Narodni muzej Crne Gore national museum in Cetinje, offers a good overview of this wonderful country. Its scale of 1:10,000 helps us grasp just how high the “black mountains” are and also the sheer size of Lake Scutari. Until 1918, the small town of Cetinje was the capital of the Kingdom of Montenegro, hence the well-preserved royal buildings and many museums gracing the town, while on its doorstep, Lovcén National Park awaits nature lovers. The highest point of the Lovcén Mountains close to the town is the site of the Mausoleum of Njegoš, Montenegro’s poet prince. On a fine day, you can see the Italian coast and the Albanian mountains from here.

Bjelasica Mountains

Eco-tours
Dunje Đokić 5
81210 Kolašin
Crna Gora/Montenegro
Tel.: +382 67 259 020
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Europe’s last primeval forest survives on the slopes of this mountain range in the northeast of the country. Bears and lynxes inhabit the area around the Biogradska Lake, the largest glacial lake in Biogradska Gora national park. Visitors should only ever tour the park with an experienced guide because the weather is unpredictable here. The guides at Eco-tours offer multiday trips during which visitors get to sample the local cuisine, succulent lamb, perhaps, gently stewed in milk or cooked in ash.

Infinity Pool at the Hotel Regent

Hotel Regent Porto Montenegro
Obala bb
Porto Montenegro Village
85320 Tivat
Crna Gora/Montenegro
Tel.: +382 32 660 660
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This hotel occupying a magnificent building in the middle of a luxury marina looks very like a Venetian palazzo. The hotel has multiple swimming pools for its guests, but the main attraction is the outdoor infinity pool with its unique views of the majestic mountains and the gorgeous blue of the Adriatic Sea. After a luxurious dip in the pool, a meal at the hotel’s own Murano restaurant should go down a treat: The menu lists a seasonal selection of wild asparagus, chicory and other local fare.

Cats Museum, Kotor

Trg Gospde od Andjela
Stari Grad 371
85330 Kotor
Crna Gora/Montenegro
Tel.: +382 69 628 53
info@catsmuseum.org
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This fortified town on the Adriatic coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a visible Venetian influence, but it is also famous for its many street cats, which are cherished and protected by the townsfolk. This prompted Piero Pazzi from Italy to set up the Cats Museum a few years back: On a piazzetta not far from the cathedral, this small, but surprisingly entertaining museum pays homage to cats with collections of antique pictures, 19th-century postcards, books, posters, postage stamps, drawings and medallions. And there also are some cats living there, of course.

Golden Frog – Lake Scutari for nature lovers

Tel.: +382/68-421-311
goldenfrogboat@gmail.com
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Ivana Marković was born on Lake Scutari and in 2013, at age 12, she founded the family company Golden Frog Boat: The boatmen are her father and uncle, and Ana, her 24-year-old sister, does the morning shift. While other companies noisily ferry crowds of up to 100 people across the lake, Golden Frog Boat tours use traditionally built boats that carry a maximum of 12 people. Mom’s snacks, all local fare, are included in the price. All boat trips start from tiny Vir Pazar and can be booked on the website or via Whatsapp.

Beška Nunnery on Lake Scutari

Manastir Beška (Beška Nunnery)
81315 Vir Pazar
Tel.: +382 67 231 211
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Lake Scutari is southeastern Europe’s largest lake, and the border between Montenegro and Albania runs right through it. The tiny island of Beška is on the Montenegrin side. The center of spiritual life in the Principality of Zeta was located on the island in the 15th century. For more than 300 years, the island lay deserted, but then industrious Orthodox nuns came along and turned it into a Garden of Eden. They planted 180 fruit trees, and the air is fragrant with the mingled scents of sage, mint, rose and laurel. The churches were renovated with the aid of financial donations. Today, the island is inhabited by 15 nuns, who work and pray here all day long. Visitors are welcome to drop by and are offered fresh pomegranate juice, raspberry cake, painted icons and rosaries. On request, the nuns will also pray for guests.

Ulcinj for ecologists

Martin Schneider-Jacoby Association (MSJA)
Ulica Pavla Kneževića 7
85360 Ulcinj
Tel.: +382 69 069 188
inf@ulcinjsalina.me
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This small, predominantly Muslim town with its 12 kilometers of sandy beach is a veritable paradise for wave riders, although horseback riders who love to feel the wind on their face won’t be disappointed here. The Ulcinj Salina, one of the largest salt production facilities in the Mediterranean, is an important stopover habitat for European birds, which come here to rest and breed on their way from northern Europe to Africa. The Salina was sold to private investors in 2014, and if the projected golf courses and resort are actually built, it could mean the end of the flamingos and Dalmatian pelicans here. The German-Montenegrin environmental organization Martin Schneider-Jacoby Association is working to save the Ulcinj Salina. Anyone wishing to help is welcome to do so, even if it just means paying a visit to this unique place.

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