The Windows of Basque Country, France

Le Pays Basque France

Nestled in French Basque Country, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a fishing port and resort town just minutes away from France’s border with Spain.

We book-ended our two-week stay in Bilbao, Spain with day and weekend trips to Bordeaux and Rioja Alavesa wine country, elegant Biarritz, France, and seaside Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

When Shawn, his parents and I weren’t tempted by what was in Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s ground-level windows – most notably the tempting tarts of golden-brown known locally as Gâteaux Basques – we focused our attention upon the buildings’ upper-level windows, and their delightful flourishes.

Many of Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s buildings are unified by their crisp-white bases. From there, they’re adorned with shutters of all shapes, sizes, and hues, making them look like doll houses come to life.

Some of the homes’ balconies are fashioned out of twisted iron whereas others feature wooden balconies sporting linear designs. Half-timbered flourishes, grey stonework and red-clay rooftops also add finishing touches.

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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

52 thoughts on “The Windows of Basque Country, France

    1. Greetings Robin, my knowledge about Basque Country was also pretty limited until we spent two weeks in the region. I was pleasantly surprised – Bilbao (where we based ourselves for 2 weeks) has wonderful museums and a great comeback story, and there are many picturesque spots along the coast (in both France and Spain) that I’d love to see more of someday.

  1. Love these doors. They’re so light, colorful, and beautiful. My husband and I are thinking of going to France this summer. This looks like a beautiful part to explore. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Monica, exciting that you’re contemplating a jaunt to France in the coming months; have you pin-pointed a region to explore?

      Thank you also for stopping by – glad you enjoyed the peek at Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s unique architecture!

      1. We have thought about spending a little time in Paris and then heading south to Provence. We’re traveling with our little baby, so we’re hoping to find some place beautiful and sleepy, where we can take long walks and long lunches!

      2. Monica, sounds like you’re giving the travel bug to your little one early on – that’s great! I haven’t yet been to Provence but I imagine you’ll find some quaint villages that are perfect for the type of delightful, slow travel that you described. I’d love to get to Provence some year to see the lavender fields in bloom; perhaps your visit might coincidence with that?

    1. Jeff, I too love the whimsical details and splashes of color that we’ve encountered – largely on the road. I haven’t been to Alaska, but I’m guessing there are some buildings with interesting flourishes that are unique to the state though?

  2. Those windows are beautiful. I found from books, blogs, tv program etc that many parts of France are really beautiful, especially in country sides. It was too bad, I just visited Paris during my short visit to France last year. I wish, I can see the other part of country sides someday..

    1. Nurul, it sounds as though Paris whet your appetite to explore more of France someday. I used to live in Germany for many years, and made frequent weekend trips to the French countryside – mostly in Alsace and Lorraine, where some of my ancestors came from. Provence and Burgundy are high on my list though! Here’s hoping you’ll get the opportunity to revisit France sometime soon. It is a beautiful and varied country.

    1. Madhu, glad the post could get you in the mood for your upcoming Basque adventures. What Spanish spots are you planning on exploring? As you may remember, we greatly enjoyed our time exploring Bilbao’s art scene, and getting a feel for the wine culture in Rioja Alavesa. The pintxos (tapas) are also a treat!

    1. Carol, perhaps you can commission an artisan in Australia then? :) I can relate to appreciating architectural and home-design elements while on the road. When I was in Morocco some years ago, I became smitten with some of the brass door knockers on the colorful doors of the riads there. I went to a hardware store and found one of the traditional styles. We have yet to have a permanent home door on which to install it, but it’s waiting patiently inside a dresser drawer. A fellow traveler I met in Marrakech was so smitten with the copper sinks that she brought one home with her to the UK. I think she took on a Sahara Desert trek first, bringing to mind jokes about “traveling with everything – to include the kitchen sink.”

    1. Cornelia, having grown up in a setting like Bavaria (where there’s so much Lüftlmalerei), I can see why you appreciate refined architectural details. Hope your week is off to a good start!

    1. Gerard, mais bien sûr – from tapas time (pintxos) to more elaborate lunches, we enjoyed a blend of both :) How has your honey wine (mead) production been going these past months?

      1. I made a 5 gallon batch of cyser, that’s an apple juice / honey / water mixture that is fermented. I made it in November and it’s ready now. It’s good! I’m very pleased with the way it came out. I will post a blog about home winemaking soon. I’d love to share some with you.

      2. Gerard, I’ve never tried a fermented blend like that, but you’ve certainly piqued my curiosity. Perhaps at some point we’ll meet at the same latitude and longitude, and Shawn and I will be able to taste your cyser masterpiece. :) Wishing you a splendid Saturday!

  3. Love the window pictures – I take a lot of door photos now – my husband thinks I’m crazy – but one of my more popular photos in my etsy store is a photo of a door in Murano!

    1. U2Shadow, thank you! I’m fortunate in that my husband now helps me ‘collect’ the interesting window candidates – perhaps that’s to speed along the photo-taking process! :) While I’ve been to Venice, we have yet to get to explore Murano to its fullest. I suspect that my camera would be working overtime, though! :)

  4. Really liked the doors and windows of Bilbao. There are so many lovely old houses and buildings scattered throughout the city to be loved and adored.

    1. Hi Dale, it sounds like you and Franca also took a liking to the area. Shawn and I both concluded that we could see ourselves enjoying many sunny mornings in one of the miradors (enclosed glass sun porches) gracing the fronts of the buildings in the Old Town. A seaside view from one of these windows in Saint-Jean-de-Luz would be splendid too!

    1. Emma, the quirky windows of the world are precisely what inspired me to start this site’s Collage series. :) Glad you enjoyed this set from French Basque country, and thank you for the compliment.

  5. What a lovely idea to capture colourful and a variety of windows. I think all over Europe has all the ingredients for a great travel destination! I have one framed poster of ‘Thresholds of Prague’..we bought during our holiday there. These windows brought back those memories of admiring the doors in Prague.

    1. Hi Veena, and thanks for stopping by. We’ve been lucky to have tiptoed through a lot of countries, and the Collage series seemed the perfect way to round up all the beauties that we discovered along the way.

      Prague, of course, has an abundance of stunning Old World buildings. Your ‘Thresholds’ poster must feature a beautiful sampling of the city’s architecture. When were you last there?

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