Over the Hills and Far Away – 6 – Biarritz, Milady Beach
Milady beach was just across the road from where we were parked with the Motorhome, and I found it a curiously named place. Possibly in homage to Edward VII, (popular with the ladies, just ask Alice Keppel) or perhaps the Milady from Dumas’ Three Musketeers, a thoroughly bad sort of girl, branded with a fleur de lys. Edward had collapsed whilst staying in Biarritz in March 1910, subsequently convalescing there (to much criticism at home) . His convalescence was to no avail however, and he died in May, succeeded by George V. His reign lasted a mere nine years, in sharp contrast to his mother, Victoria, whose reign of 63 years and 7 months is the longest of any British monarch, and the longest of any female monarch in world history.
Queen Victoria and in particular Edward VII, gave the town a new lease of life, as in his train followed many of the British aristocracy and the upper classes. Indeed, Biarritz was ‘the’ place to holiday up to the beginning of the second world war.
The fifties saw an influx of a different kind of glitterati, with Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby. Sacha Guitry, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Igor Stravinsky sharing dinners, parties and gambling tables. But Biarritz spectacularly re-invented herself as the 60’s were about to dawn when Californian film maker Peter Viertel was in Biarritz to make a movie of Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”. Admiring the perfect swell lines forming off the town beach, Viertel immediately sent home for his board and in the process almost single-handedly turned the town into one of Europe’s surf capitals.
We explored Milady beach on foot and by bike on the paths that ran above it. It was lovely, particularly when we went out late to catch the sunset over the water. Before we reluctantly leave Biarritz and its beaches, I’ll be posting a few more photos in the next entry.
PS: Why not read about my birthday thoughts HERE?
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