Bayonne (‘Baiona’ in Basque) means ‘the good river’. And indeed the wide estuary of the River Adour, into which leaks the smaller River Nive, in a sense still defines the town. The pair establish a watery boundary for Petit Bayonne with its narrow streets, attractive riverside buildings clad in red and green shutters, student bars and shoals of waterside restaurants. Here, Euskara is spoken almost as much as French.
Bayonne, cultural and economic capital of the French Basque country, forms, together with sprawling Anglet (that final ‘t’ is pronounced) and Biarritz, 8km to the west, an urban area often called BAB (population around 100, 000).
In addition to its yummy chocolates, Bayonne is famous for its marzipan and prime smoked ham. Incidental fact, if you’re prepared to believe tradition: the baïonnette (bayonet) was developed here in the early 17th century.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009