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Biarritz is a French commune located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, in the southwest of France. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the city has a maritime frontage 4 kilometers long, in the hollow of the Bay of Biscay, less than 25 kilometers from the border with Spain.

The locality results from the union of two ancient settlement centers, one dedicated to agriculture and the other focused on marine trades. Former parish of Bayonne, the Saint-Martin district emancipated itself from it at a still unknown date, at the end of the 16th century or at the beginning of the 17th century. Initially a whaling port, the locality experienced an economic upheaval in the nineteenth century with the advent of sea bathing. Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie made it their resort and created a residence and its park with a new city as an extension. Thanks to them, the elite and all the beautiful European society frequent the seaside resort. This activity did not weaken during the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century (Belle Epoque, Roaring Twenties) until the crisis of 1929. Even today, the economy remains focused on the tertiary sector, including the hotel industry. luxury, personal care and marine leisure are the predominant vector.

Biarritz is today a municipality of more than 25,000 inhabitants whose population, characterized by a high proportion of seniors, has shrunk after having passed the 30,000 inhabitants mark in 1999, due to the decline in net migration.

The history of the resort is also marked by decisive sports individuals who will have a lasting impact on the image of the locality such as the Musketeer Jean Borotra, the scientist and surfer Joël de Rosnay, first French champion in the specialty, or Serge Blanco, the Pelé of rugby.

The resort's mild climate, the spectacle of the ocean and its powerful waves, as well as the eclecticism of the architecture have inspired many writers and columnists.



The presence of prehistoric ancestors is attested in several places of the locality.

The Chabiague valley revealed the frequentation of the site in the Paleolithic, during the Mousterian, that is to say approximately 300,000 to 30,000 before the present (BP) and the Aurignacian (approximately 39,000 to 28,000 BP). Likewise, on the Mouligna and Bois de Boulogne sites, traces dating from the Middle Würmian (50,000 to 30,000 BP) and the Neolithic (9,000 to 3,300 BP) have been found, and at Cape Saint-Martin, from the Neolithic advanced.

The cave of the Biarritz lighthouse was occupied at two times, first in the Chalcolithic and then in the Late Bronze Age.

Evidence from the Roman or Vascone period has to this day remained little known for the locality of Biarritz. If Bayonne was in the 1st century AD a Roman stronghold of some importance, protected against the attacks of the Tarbelli, Aquitaine or Proto-Basque people, who occupied the territory, we have little information on Biarritz, except for the presence of a Roman work on the observation post of the ocean named Atalaye on the remains of which the castle of Ferragus will be built during the English presence from the twelfth century.

Middle Ages
In 1152, Aliénor d'Aquitaine married Henri Plantagenêt who became suzerain of the Duchy of Aquitaine. Prince Edward, eldest son of Henry III of England, invested with the duchy, is engaged to Éléonore de Castille, who brings him the rights to Gascony.

Two centers of population are attested in the Middle Ages. On the one hand, the Church of Saint-Martin enlivens the districts of the interior. On the other hand, the castle of Belay (mentioned in 1342), also called the castle of Ferragus, protects the coast and the current Port-Vieux, while religious life and community assemblies take place at the Notre-Dame chapel. de-Pitié (cited in 1498), overlooking the Port-des-Pêcheurs. We deduce from this two main activities, one agricultural and the second, oriented towards the sea.

The construction of the Ferragus fortified castle was decided by the English, on the foundations of a Roman structure, at the top of the promontory overlooking the sea, named Atalaye, which served as a place for whale watching. This castle had a double crenellated enclosure two meters thick, a drawbridge and four towers. There is still reference to this castle in 1603 (letters patent of Henri IV). There will remain a tower, known as de la Haille, then de la Humade from 1739, when the Minister of Marine chose the place to establish a fire there to serve as a binder. The tower dimolished in 1856.


Modern times
We do not know what period dates the emancipation of the parish of Saint-Martin, until then a hamlet of Bayonne. In 1621, however, Louis XIII approved a change in management, from which the appointment of the first jurat - the term subsequently designating the mayor of the locality - of the town. We also know the names of the deputies of the parish in the biltzar of Labourd in 1517, Compainhet de Sandore and Marticot d´Etcheverry. Biarritz was part of the biltzar of Labourd until its disappearance in 1789. The year 1568 saw the election of a delegation from the parish to defend its interests, made up of eight mariners and four laborers. These few elements allow us to identify the period of independence of the hamlet.

The activity of Biarritz during this period was mainly maritime. Day and night a lookout is posted on the Atalaye promontory, scanning the horizon for the blazing stream, the whale's breath. As soon as it is harpooned by men on board whalers anchored in the Old Port, the whale is dragged to the latter to be butchered. In 1565, Ambroise Paré witnessed this spectacle. The capture of the last cetacean in Biarritz dates from March 2 or 3, 1686.

The disappearance of this important source of income is at the origin of a new activity. Mariners and other boatmen set sail on privateer vessels, but also for fishing in Irish and Newfoundland waters. In the seventeenth century, there were ten Biarritz captains and nearly 300 sailors on maritime roles, and around fifty captains in the following century. Thus, the Biarrot Jean Dalbarade (1743 - 1819), he was Minister of the Navy between 1793 and 1795, after having shone in the racing war.

French Revolution and Second Empire
From 1784, Biarritz's sea baths were fashionable and Napoleon bathed there in 1808. When Victor Hugo discovered the locality in 1843, he already mentioned the risk of seeing it become a seaside town:

"That a hamlet of fishermen, full of ancient and naive manners, sitting by the ocean (...) become fashionable, (only the) village with red roofs and green shutters placed on grassy ridges and heather whose undulations it follows (...) does not have a bad appetite for money (...) putting poplars on its hills, ramps on its dunes, stairs on its precipices, kiosks on its rocks, benches to its caves (…). "

The Empress Eugenie, who had come several times with her family, convinced her husband Napoleon III to make it their vacation. The imperial couple stayed there in the summer of 1854. Napoleon III decided to build a vast estate and built a residence known as Villa Eugénie for it. The presence of sovereigns brings crowned heads from all over Europe and makes the success of the seaside town that the emperor created from the existing village, such as Louis XIV in Versailles, by making "the queen of beaches and the beach of kings ". In October 1868, during the Biarritz regattas, the crews of the propeller-driven Avisos of the naval division of the West Coast of France Chamois (cdt Jules d'Ariès, 1813-1878) and the Argus (cdt Henri Rieunier, 1833-1918 , future admiral minister of the navy and deputy for Rochefort) welcome on board the Empress Eugenie and her son the Prince Imperial. It was in Biarritz that Bismarck came to meet Napoleon III in September 1865, in order to obtain the support of the French emperor for Prussian policy.

From this history, Biarritz has kept some characteristic buildings such as the Bellevue Casino, the Grand Hotel, the Anglican Church (current municipal museum) or the Orthodox Church to be compared to the visits of the Russian aristocracy before the Russian Revolution.

Contemporary period
The good times
It is from this period (laying of the first stone in December 1892 by Queen Nathalie of Serbia and inauguration in June 1893) that the salt baths of Biarritz date, on a project by the architect Lagarde. From the Briscous salt works, underground pipes of more than twenty kilometers then carry water with a saline content more than ten times higher than that of sea water. These establishments were closed from 1953 and razed in 1968.

Created in 1894, enlarged twice (1911 and 1926) and still alive today, the Biarritz Bonheur department store was at the time a temple of luxury and fashion. At the start of the twentieth century, the majority of its employees spoke English. The city of Biarritz is also a city linked to the history of French fashion, in particular the house of Chanel. Coco Chanel opened her third boutique there in 1915, located at 2, avenue Édouard-VII.


German occupation
In 1940, during World War II, the Germans dug the Atlantic Wall in the cliffs of Biarritz. On June 27, 1940, German troops occupied the Basque coast. The navy arrives at the beginning of July. At the end of 1942, Lieutenant-Commander Ludwig, commander of the 286th Marine Artillery Group, plans and designs with the Organization Todt, located at the Regina hotel, the command post of the Atalaye plateau coded BA 39-40 . He settled there until the Liberation.

To the north, avenue du Général Mac-Crosky, under a beautiful villa, the BA 34 fulcrum, dug in the Saint-Martin point, defends the Chambre d'Amour beach from a hypothetical landing. To the south, along Boulevard du Prince-de-Galles, position BA 41 offers its embrasures, visible parts of a defensive complex carved into the rock.

On March 27, 1944, the city was bombarded by the second wave of Allied air force bombers on their way to destroy Parma airport, the German DCA having shot down an aircraft during the first flight. 150 people died there among the civilian population, as well as 300 German soldiers.

After liberation, the city hosted for a few months the American University of Biarritz, inaugurated on August 22, 1945, which aims to train soldiers after the Allied victory in Europe. Its management is ensured by General Mac Crosky, who sets up his offices at the Hôtel du Palais. The university will have 10,400 enrollments until it closes on March 8, 1946.

The advent of surfing
In 1956, the American screenwriter Peter Viertel, passing through Biarritz with his wife Deborah Kerr for the filming of the film The Sun Also Rises, uses a surfboard that a friend flew in from California. The surf-club of Biarritz, Waïkiki was created on September 16, 1959, by Jo Moraïtz; on July 24, 1960, the first international competition took place on the Grande Plage, and on September 11, 1960, the first edition of the French championships, the winner of which was Joël de Rosnay.

In parallel with training and competitions, Dr Saury, doctor of the station's firefighters in the 1950s, was to set up a rescue chain for surfers and swimmers, whose organization served as a model for the future SAMU created in 1956.

In 1962, Jo Moraiz and Jacky Rott took part in the world surfing championship, which was held in Peru, and introduced their Biarritz spots to their American competitors. In 1963, Bill Cleary, editor-in-chief of Surf Guide therefore went to Biarritz and returned the following year with about thirty American students passionate about this sport and carrying with them the aesthetics of their country (rock, outfits improbables, etc.), participating in the internationalization of Biarritz as a place to practice surfing.

2019 G7 Summit
The 2019 G7 summit will be held in Biarritz from August 24 to 26, 2019. It brings together the permanent participants of the 2018 G7 summit (Canada), the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The IMF, the UN and the OECD are also represented. Russia is not present, due to its exclusion from the G7 since the Crimean crisis of 2014, an exclusion that became final in 2017.