The town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is lovely in its own right, but this charming port city and fishing village on the Atlantic has other claims to fame.
In 1659, Cardinal Mazarin spent several months in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, from where he would embark on almost daily trips to the island of Bidassoa for Franco-Spanish meetings that resulted in the Treaty of the Pyrenees. One condition of the treaty was the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain, thus making both countries great friends. Saint-Jean-de-Luz and its church were chosen to host the royal wedding on 9 June 1660.
For the month before, the King stayed in one home, and the Infanta stayed down the street in another. The house the King occupied remains in the family’s possession which hosted him then and the current line still lives in the building. The main historic rooms are open for tours, but no photos allowed. But as nothing much seems to have changed since 1660, the rooms are amazing museum pieces and it is very easy to imagine the king in the drawing room and his chambre, with his new bride. Stunning. Following the wedding, the bride and groom appeared on the balcony and threw coins to the crowds. I can see it now…
The church, Saint-Jean-Baptiste, is a very short walk away, and it must have been something, watching the wedding party arrive. The building is considered the most exceptional Basque church, founded in the 15th century. It is very plain in the outside, and very dramatic on the inside, with the rounded nave, the three gallery tiers, and an ornate altar. The door by which the King and his new Queen left the church was immediately walled up.
We strolled the rest of the town and admired the sea walls installed by Napoleon, and the charming streets already teeming with tourists. I succumbed to the lure of their espadrilles, actually finding two pairs to fit. We shall see if they help get me through the summer. We had a more Spanish-style lunch and then, while all the shop keepers were still lunching, headed to our new home of Biarritz, which is on the sea. Tomorrow is supposed to be very hot, and the pool/beach will be calling.