Bayonne lies at the junction of Basque and French cultures. The Nive and Adour rivers meet in the heart of the town and divide Bayonne into three distinct areas. To the south the "Vieux Bayonne" (old Bayonne) or, "Grand Bayonne", surrounding the cathedral was built on the foundations of the fourth century Roman garrison town of Lapurdum. To the north, by the railway station the "Saint-Esprit" quarter developed particularly during the 16th century with the arrival of the Portuguese Jews fleeing the Inquisition. Sandwiched between the Nive and the Adour, "Petit Bayonne" has conserved its mediaeval traces. From Bayonne you can visit the fashionable resort of Biarritz, picturesqueSan Jean de Luz and Bordeaux.
Before the 10th century Bayonne suffered invasions from the Visigoths, the Vascons who were the ancestors of the Basques, Maures and Normans. Capital of the Labourd Basque province, Bayonne was attached to Gascony in the 12th century and became part of the Kingdom of Eleanor of Aquitaine. When Eleanor's husband, Henry Plantagenet, was crowned King of England, Bayonne and nearby Bordeaux, became English towns for 300 years. Later the town developed into a major stronghold and was heavily fortified during the conflict between France and Spain.
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