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Bayonne prospered from the 13th to 15th centuries under the dubious protection of the Anglo-Norman kings who ruled Aquitaine. A century later, Jews, expelled en masse from Spain, injected fresh commercial vitality and must be forever thanked for establishing chocolate making as a local trade. The town’s 18th-century commercial prosperity was fuelled in no small measure by Basque pirate ships, which landed cargoes much more valuable and sweeter scented than the tonnes of cod caught off the coast of Newfoundland by the substantial Basque fishing fleet.


The Rivers Adour and Nive split Bayonne into three: St-Esprit, the area north of the Adour; Grand Bayonne, the oldest part of the city, on the western bank of the Nive; and the very Basque Petit Bayonne quarter to its east.