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Basque Country Travel Guide

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Cirque de Troumouse, Pyrenees ©

France's three Basque provinces are in the southwest corner of the country, near the Spanish border, and are steeped in folklore and ancient customs. Unlike their Spanish counterparts, the French Basque people do not harbour radical separatist views, but they do cling to their identity, unique languages and traditional way of life, which offers an interesting diversion for tourists who visit the area. Men can still be seen in the traditional costume of a beret and cummerbund, towns and villages all have concrete courts for the playing of the national ball-game, pelota, and bull fighting is a popular spectator sport.

Most visitors head for the Atlantic coast to the popular resort towns of Biarritz and St-Jean-de-Luz, or to explore the Basque capital, Bayonne. Hikers and nature lovers are drawn to the grand Pyrenees mountains to fish for fat trout, wander the trails, dunk in warm mineral pools, marvel at the glaciers, or climb challenging peaks. Another great attraction in the Bigorre region, close to Basque country, is the Roman Catholic shrine at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a peasant girl in the mid-19th century. Millions of believers have since made a pilgrimage to the Lourdes grotto in the hope of miracle cures for ailments and afflictions.

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