Visiting Biarritz Is Lovely (Unless You’re Getting A Massage)

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Back when I was living in London, my roommate and I would frequently take advantage of RyanAir’s ridiculously cheap airfare and book short weekend trips. One of our first weekend trips was to Biarritz, France. Located in the Basque region, Biarritz has been a popular resort location since wealthy Europeans began visiting in the 1800’s. For those unfamiliar, this beautiful resort town can best be described as a chilled-out version of Cannes.

visiting biarritz france travel tips

Biarritz is beautiful. | Credit: Flickr/francisvaquero

In addition to being a popular surfing destination, Biarritz also has quite a few luxurious spas. Because we were visiting in the Fall and the weather wasn’t ideal for spending time at the beach, we decided to spend one day getting massages, scrubs and other treatments at a painfully expensive spa.

In retrospect, we would’ve been better off freezing our asses off at the beach.

Upon arriving at the spa, we quickly realized that we were completely out of our element. While we had arrived into town on a £9.99 budget airline, the other guests at the spa had clearly rolled up in yachts and private jets… and they had absolutely no qualms about looking us up and down with thinly-veiled looks of disdain.

Needless to say, this part of the experience was slightly awkward — but not as awkward as other things that took place during the course of our ill-fated spa day.

While I’d had plenty of massages and facials in my life, I had never had any sort of body treatment. However, after experiencing my sea salt scrub and seaweed wrap in Biarritz, I can confidently say I know exactly what it’s like to be a piece of steak. First, I was rubbed down with salt. Once I’d been properly salted, I was basted with oil and covered in seaweed. Then, I was wrapped in saran wrap, covered tinfoil and placed into something that looked like an oven.

Thankfully, they stopped short of cooking me at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

After spending an hour being made into a rather delectable cut of meat, it was time for my massage. Per normal (American) massage protocol, I laid a towel across my backside after getting on the massage table. Once I was settled in, a rather large, matronly masseuse entered my room. She took one look at the towel I had draped over my bum, let out an evil cackle, whipped the towel off, and smacked my ass for good measure.

Smacked. My. Ass.

Despite her initial creepy behavior, the massage started off without a hitch… until the masseuse finished massaging my back and motioned for me to turn over. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a language barrier… and a cultural one. She didn’t seem to understand why I was hesitant to turn over and pretty much pushed me onto my back with a shake of her head and a roll of the eyes that pretty much said “Stupide Américaine!”

I was a little freaked out, but figured when in Rome, you do as the Romans do… and in France, I guess that means going topless.

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She’s undoubtedly on her way to get a (topless) massage.

It took me a few minutes to let go of my modesty issues, but I eventually got over it. That is, until la masseuse began to squirt hot oil all over my chest. At first I thought this was a mistake, and then I realized it wasn’t. Everything felt as if it was moving in slow motion. I went into a state of sheer terror, screaming “NO!!! NO!!! NO!!!” in my head, trying to figure out a way to escape this terrible situation.

And then it happened. She began massaging my chest. As in, the type of chest massage that is typically only ever done by your boyfriend… or, you know, by the doctor performing your annual breast exam.

Needless to say, I was shocked. So shocked in fact, that I began laughing hysterically, and I couldn’t stop. No matter how hard I tried, I could not control my laughter. I laughed so hard that the masseuse had to stop what she was doing. In fact, I laughed so hard that my room mate could hear me outside of the room.

Needless to say, my masseuse was incredibly annoyed, and looked at me like I was certifiably insane. Excuse me, but *I’m* not the breast massager here, Lady. She very abruptly ended the massage and pretty much booted me out of the room with a look of disgust on her face. Knowing my roommate was up next for a massage, I warned her to not be surprised when they started massaging her chest.

She was called in for her massage, so I went to shower and change into my clothing. About 30 minutes into her massage, I begin to hear her laughing hysterically, and five minutes later, she came out, followed by the disgusted masseuse.

Needless to say, if you’re at all uncomfortable with the thought of possibly having an awkward breast massage, then I wouldn’t recommend booking a massage while in France. I would, however, suggest visiting Biarritz, as it’s beautiful, and the rest of the people we encountered in Biarritz were lovely.


Thinking of visiting Biarritz, France? Here’s a few travel tips to get you started.

Where to stay in Biarritz

We stayed at the Hotel Saint-Julien, which was lovely, comfortable, in a great location, and not prohibitively expensive at the time we visited.

If you’re looking for more luxurious lodging, the historic (and highly-rated) Hôtel Du Palais was the summer home of Napoléon III. Since being converted into a hotel in 1893, it has played host to everyone from Coco Chanel and Ava Gardner to King Edward VII and Frank Sinatra. It doesn’t get any more fabulous than that, does it?

What to Eat

Because it’s been quite some time since I visited Biarritz, all of the meals I had have faded from my memory except for one: our meal at Chez Albert, located at Port des Pêcheurs (Fishermen Wharf). Not only does the restaurant offer a breathtaking view of the sea, but the lobster I ate remains to be the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.

For a more detailed list of restaurant recommendations in Biarritz, check out The London Foodie Goes To France,’s Biarritz restaurant recommendations, or Scandinavian Traveler’s great list of places to eat in Biarritz.


Top 10 things to do in Biarritz:

Of course, if all else fails, you can always… 



Question for my fellow travelers: what’s the most awkward cultural difference you’ve encountered while traveling? Leave your story in the comments!


Featured Image: Flickr/vasnic64

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Co-founder / Editor of Daily Urbanista. Kitten GIF aficionado. Will travel for... travel.

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