Seaside Biarritz, in France’s Aquitaine region, is a two-hour drive south of Bordeaux, close to the Spanish border. (A 45-minute drive takes you to Spain’s San Sebastian).

Biarritz and nearby fishing port Saint Jean de Luz both belong to the French Basque Region, but the culture of the special place becomes even more pronounced as you head inland. Many of the French Basque Region’s most famous villages, including red pepper town Espelette, are under an hour drive away.

The Basque villages have a unique architectural style, with white-washed houses featuring a pretty red or green-painted wooden trim. Each town has a trio of buildings that make up the main square: a church (the region is predominantly Catholic); city hall; and a so-called fronton wall for playing the local sport pelota – this is a fast and furious ball game reminiscent of a tough-guy’s take on squash (suffice it to say that in the professional leagues, the ball speed can top 155 miles per hour).

Biarritz makes a great base from which to explore the Basque region and can easily be combined with a jaunt to San Sebastian and Bilbao (the latter is a 1-hour-40 minute drive away). Needless to say, the food in this part of the world is excellent.