Aire/Stellplatz: HENDAYE Gare des Deux Jumeaux (Aquitaine)
GPS Decimal: 43.37012 N -1.76464 W
Aire Location (static):
Aire Surroundings (interactive) NB - not compatible with all phone models:
(Best viewed with Google Maps App for mobiles - details here)
Per night: Free (2010) - maximum stay 24 hours
Hang on a minute - why was this review also labelled 'St Jean de Luz' on the guide index page? Here's why - we originally planned to stay at the St Jean de Luz Aire, and kept this one nearby at Hendaye in reserve. However, on arrival at the St Jean de Luz Aire we found a number of things to put us off, Firstly it's not that easy to navigate to in heavy traffic - you have to approach it from the South West so you can make a tight right turn into it. There's a a very low tunnel close by which is a major distraction when driving around the area, and the Aire's entrance is situated on a busy bridge. Secondly it looked too tightly-packed and full to manouevre around if we pulled in and couldn't find a bay. Finally, it had a railway on one side and four lanes of traffic on the other, so we had serious doubts about our chances of a quiet night. You can see for yourself in Google Streetview here, and remember that in this view the Aire isn't packed with campers parked on both sides. We visited it on foot later in the day and it looked like this:
St Jean de Luz Aire - crowded and noisy
Basically, given that the potentially much quieter Hendaye Aire was only two stops down the same railway line it made more sense to go there instead, so that's what we did.
As you can see from the panoramic photo at the page top, the Hendaye Aire is bang opposite the Gare des Deux Jumeaux, which is only 10 minutes (and 2.40 Euros per adult) away from St Jean de Luz. Campers are parked on a slope (correctable with chocks) in a set back row facing the station building across a side lane that runs the length of the Aire. This is worth noting if you have youngsters with you - cars pass up and down the lane. Yes, there are similarities with St Jean de Luz, what with cars and trains passing by, but of the two Hendaye is the quieter location.
Trains are reasonably regular to and from this station, but more are available from the main Hendaye station which is within cycling distance.
St Jean de Luz ticks all the right boxes as a tourist destination, with a working port, a variety of shops, artists touting their wares in the town square, a neat and well-organised beach area, and an unusual beachfront shopping mall on the edge of the hotel zone. The Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste is well worth a look inside too, as (despite its very plain exterior) its traditional Basque architectural style is quite unusual. It is here in this small church in 1660 that Louis XIV married Marie Theresa, Infanta of Spain - an event still commemorated locally today. If the altar looks gloomy, you have the option of illuminating it by putting a Euro coin in a pay machine on the right hand wall. It's worth spending the Euro. It was interesting to visit St Jean for a day, but being a confirmed tourer I personally wouldn't plan to stay there for much longer. The 24 hour Hendaye Aire was thus ideal for a day trip.
The service point offers the standard emptying and filling facilities, but there are no electric hookups here. There is however, a hookup point for battery top-ups at St Jean - if you can squeeze in.
We didn't stop overnight at Hendaye as we finished our trip to St Jean earlier than we expected, and decided to move on to our next destination. This review thus ends with the daylight hours, but we would have had no qualms about stopping overnight here.
On the plus side: Pleasanter than St Jean de Luz Aire, free, and close to station for day trip to St Jean.
But: Quite small, sloping, lane passing through, fewer trains than main Hendaye station. Early arrival recommended.
Alternative Aires: St Jean de Luz, with a 24 hour limit and free, but also with the reservations outlined above. Otherwise, the nearest coastal Aire is Biarritz Avenue Milady.
Around St Jean de Luz: click thumbnail for bigger picture:
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