Lovely Holidays in France – Facts & Information

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France: Beautiful Country

4.181 km. 2.381 €. Uncounted grains of sand in my hair. That is what happens when you are more a traveller than a resident camper. And Hector? Hector has been great, as always. Full of options, reliable as a rock while flexible as a yoga star. And always offering plenty of space to me and to Linda and to the wet suit and the skateboard and the barbeque and the outdoor cooker and the bike and the outdoor furniture. If I ever find a man with such a wide range of possibilities, I might fall for him.

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France holidays are always chilled: Living is easy with good food and wine, so much wine, ah! While Hectors consumption reaches 11 litres per 100 km, I never manage to drink as much as they offer in all those beautiful vineyards, bars and restaurants.

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Hector en route

I tested quite some overnight possibilities. The first night has been at the Camping Rhodes, Étang du Stock. Simple and solid for 18,33 € (1 Hector, 1 person), less idyllic than it appears on their website and with friendly people and mosquitoes. The latter wait until sunset and are easily fought back with a bit of no-bite.

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One of the rare Rain Showers, here: View on the Étang du Stock

At Saumur, I enjoyed wonderful wine and endless vineyards at the Domaine de la Cune. Despite the friendly vintners I only bought 6 bottles of their tasteful products. Note to myself: Think of the wine I want to enjoy during the upcoming months and make up a certain volume. Then double it! Hector offers space beyond the wine shelf, why should I go home with less than 3.5 tons?

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Happy Hector at Domaine de la Cune

The camping Les Terrasses du Périgord is nice, but boring. I paid 27,- € and went on the next day, moving closer to the medieval centre of Sarlat. There always is a certain run on the rare places of the Aire de Camping Cars at Sarlat, but the 7,- € are worth the 10 minutes walk to the city.

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Camper Parking at Sarlat

At Saint-Émilion, I was lucky to catch a spot at noon. If you fail, come back in the evening: by then, all ignoring regular cars will be gone and less than a handful of campers remain – all for free and only 300m away from this wonderful little town. I will always come back whenever possible, probably in 2020 or 2021…

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To the Left: St. Émilion downtown. To the Right: Free Camper Parking.

The Camping Maubuisson is not my first choice, but I was too lazy to look for alternatives. The pool, the showers, the spots, the people – whichever detail I turned to, it made me light-hearted and happy that this place was not more than an overnight-stay between beach and airport.

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2 Days before the Canvas Blind lost 1 Leg…(here: at Camping Les Sablères)

Camping Municipale Les Sablères, Vieux Boucau : No pool, no stress. I like the mix of surfers, pensioners and relaxed families. If you prefer high prices, choose any other campsite.

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Around Lac de Biscarosse

The Lac de Biscarosse and further lakes around are worth a stop-over. At least that’s what I heard and probably more true when combined with better weather.

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Camping Les Grands Pins, Lacanau Océan

After our first week of surf lessons, Linda and me wanted to spend timeless days on the beach, rent a surf board and take adventurous pictures in our favourite bikinis with fantastic waves and bright sun. The plan was pretty good, but failed due to constant rain and led us to the luxury campsite of Lacanau Océan (31,- €/night). Although we spent relaxed hours on Hector’s couch, drinking tea and reading good books, it was not quite what we had in mind.

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Camping Le St. Martin, Moliets et Maa

At Moliets et Maa, the only campsite worth a stay is Le St. Martin. Avoid July + August, all other months are fine and offer nearly reasonable prices (ca. 37,- €/night). The main disadvantage – endless walks on the endless beach towards the one and only surfspot – remains. The main spectacle is for free: Breath-taking sunsets!

Sunset_DDOn my way home, I made a stop at the public parking of Montlucon, offering places (and even electricity, if required) for camper vans. The walk of approximately 3 km towards the historic centre should be done by bike, though. Anyway, I love those simple and free parkings that offer all you need for an overnight stay: come as you are, leave early if you like, no stress, no fees. No picture, as I had simply forgotten to take one.

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France Southwest 2018: 4.181 km, 473 l Gazoline, Wonderful Surf Holidays

The resumé is: three and a half weeks are merely nothing. Yet, every place and every km, every trial on the surf board and every sip of wine, it is all worth it!

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Keep On Surfing

It is around 10 in the morning at Bordeaux airport and there are quite some options for another week of holidays. Once I fancied that I could take my time driving days and days through France, stopping here and there. Now it turns out that I have not counted on Hectors obstinacy and the fact that his metal coachwork reacts magnetic to waters. Before I can enter any destination into the navigation device, I am already en route heading south-west towards the Atlantic Ocean.

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When Einstein detected details of Gravity – did he think of the strong pull between Hector and the Sea?

At noon it is all set: Hector offers his full indoor + outdoor capacity and upcoming surf lessons are agreed for the next three days. While Nepal had been all about walking, these weeks are all about beaching. At the office, I would be bored to death with hours full of nothing, but it is different at the coast. I forget about time, I forget about money and I forget about almost everything that exceeds imminent needs such as food or sunscreen.

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The surf lessons during my last week are like the waves, full of ups and downs. The good part is that I am on top of the beginner’s level. The annoying part is that I have not reached the next level yet. Frustration takes the lead on day 3 (what else?!), when Vincent is busy helping some surfing neophytes on their boards while I am left alone with strong current and aggressive whitewash, thanks to the new moon. I look at the sea and think back: Only months ago, I have passed an altitude of 5.416m. These waves may be nasty, but they are not higher than 1,50m – absolutely hilarious!

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Getting better with the right Perspective: These waves are nothing compared to the height of the Himalaya

After a last evening at my favourite restaurant of Vieux Boucau, it is time to move on. I transfer Hector to the Camping Saint Martin at Moliets et Maa and learn that an endless beach means endless walks through the sand before you reach the best surf spot. Good that I am such a sporty girl, all able to cope with the surrounding – and well supported by Hector who has settled down only 30m behind the huge sand dune that separates the campsite from the beach.

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Moliets et Maa: Spectacular Show when the Atlantic swallows the Sun

With a rented board I try out the local waves on my own. It is a pity that the conditions are not inviting enough to try out the open (no real waves behind the sand bank), but at least I am queen of the whitewash. Take every wave that comes along, jump on the board, immediately turn left and follow the diagonal course of the wave’s shoulder right until the end, that’s what I practice over and over again. Meanwhile, my outfit does not match my abilities: being less under water and more on top of the board, my long-sleeve wet suit gets far too warm for sunny 30°C. Sometimes it is tough to be me…

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Queen of the Whitewash

Within a blink of an eye, 3,5 weeks are over and I have to think of the way back to Munich. Even in fast-and-furious mood, Hector will probably need more than one day for the distance of 1.500km. However, it might be a bit annoying if I start early in the morning, so why not celebrate departure day with a final surf lesson?

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It is always good to have surfers on speed dial and within minutes it is set. The next morning, I store everything properly in Hectors various compartments, check out at Moliets et Maa and reach Vieux Boucau 20 minutes later. After successful one and a half hours in salty water and with gentle (later: a bit too gentle) waves, I get out of the wet suit and straight into the driver’s seat, taking some grains of sand with me along the way. Although I love my life and my home-town, one or two months more for travelling would be very welcome… With a heartful sigh I turn around, knowing that I will not see another sunset at the beach for months.

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Goodbye France / Atlantique / Surfing…

Wave after Wave: The Surfing Challenge

The first two surfing lessons went pretty well, both for Linda and me. After a day off (filled by cycling to Hossegor), we continue on Saturday with our third lesson and with incredible optimism. I even talk our teacher Florice into going “au large” (into the open).

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This year, part of my surfing practice is learning that day 3 never works out. If five in a row or three in a row or with one day off in between, none of this matters with the general rule of “day three – no way”. If I only had known…

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While the waves make me tumble with unknown athletic moves, I use the time under water for reflexion: Maybe I should become old and boring someday (like: now)?! Stop the action and just wear the wetsuit for bragging and for well-shaped features…
Instead, I have made a decision some years ago: Whatever a place offers => try it! Go for it and see where it gets you. Make life colourful and widen your horizon. In case of doubt, always go for the most challenging aim. It is all about detecting the world and about touch and feel and taste and experience.
Hence, I raise my head above the water and continue. From what I can see, the other mid-level surfers in our group struggle just like me, so probably this is just a phase to go through. Or a day to leave behind.

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Days 4 and 5 are with Vincent and slightly better. Until I feel a stitch between my toes and wonder what I have stepped in… Although it hurts, I think of upcoming challenges, clench my teeth and hobble through the sand up to the surf school. I present my foot to Clément who becomes my personal saviour of the day. At least I renewed my nail polish just yesterday, so even with a swollen toe I still look like a lady.

It turns out that I have become acquainted with a greater weever (“une Grande Vive”) whose venom causes the waves of pain that now wash through my foot. Ten minutes and a basin full of warm (almost hot) water later, the wound is closed and the pain starts fading away. Time to return to my surf board!

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Survived!

The last of our five surf lessons is dedicated to stability: With rough water, we keep to the whitewash and practice not-falling-down-even-in-rushing-waves as well as steering the board rather than being carried away. Although my progress has not met my (ambitious) expectations, I am fine with the development. Perhaps I should use the last week of my holidays for further surfing days and see where it gets me…?!

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Vieux Boucau – Surfing Challenge

Tuesday is a big day when it is all about the arrival of the second campergirl: Linda arrives at Bordeaux and Hector is up on all four wheels to pick her up.

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Now the two of us – Linda + myself – are up for the surfing challenge at Vieux Boucau. Been there, done that, and still… The urge to get more out of it, to widen my possibilities. Thus, we are back where I started surfing two years ago, now with Linda for even more fun along the way.

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Will We be Some of Those Sometime?

This time, high season is still on a vivid level on the West coast. Yet, Vieux Boucau is a place far too relaxed to ever get stressful. The beach and the waves are dominating touristic life and we are here to be part of the show.

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We arrive well in time in the evening, just before the night is taken over by thunderstorms and rain. Secretely, I wonder if the waves might be too aggressive for our beginners’ level… I do not know where all these worries come from, but I catch myself thinking about waves that might be too strong, sporty actions that might be too extreme and any other obstacle that might jump in my way unexpectedly.

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Trying hard not to Worry too much

As it has been with the skateboard training, all it takes is getting started: Once you begin, you are into it and you stop worrying. You just do whatever you are up to. In our case: start with body surf, then lead the surf boards into the white wash and then… My body remembers more than my head and instinctively I push my board into the sea, get hip-deep in the water and lay on the board. The wave in sight, I start paddling, paddle stronger and there it is: push up, put the left foot on top, follow with the right (rear) foot and there I am, all back on the waves!

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Still Standing!

Linda, having some fishes among her forefathers, gets into the whole surfing system quite quickly and we have our fun playing “surfer girls” in the Atlantic Ocean. Supported by good teachers (Alternative Surf School once more proved to be best!) and a gentle beach, we build up quite some routine right from the start.

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Not bad for a Start

After our successful first lesson, we stumble over the best eating place in town and turn back to Hector with cookies in our pockets and salty water in our hair. Meanwhile, my little van plays it luxury with the outdoor carpet, the sun roof, comfortable chairs and tables and all kind of perfect equipment. Some of it have not been used for almost two years, but now with settling down for more than just one or two nights (a full week, in fact), we take advantage of all the stuff that miraculosly comes out of the deepest storage compartments.

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Holidays at the Atlantic Ocean – Always so full of Clichées

Days go by with surfing, strolling on the local markets, fantastic food, sunset at the beach and all this kind of holiday action. Blessed we are to live a wonderful life!

Surf-Prep: Skateboard Training

Quite some people have asked me about the skateboard lessons I joined, so here you go:

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Aiming (naturally) high, I decided to get trained by the Bavarian Skatemaster TomCat. Even though the target group is about kids from 5-12, age does not matter much when we all gather together for sports and action. I can only recommend: go for it, send your child, join yourself, have fun!

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Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I may be wrong, but most probably I pushed my surfing ability with the skateboard training I passed before the holidays back in 2016. Hence, it is like surfing your home town (only less wet, that is)…

 

Resumé Part II / Finish

Physics say, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. What physics might have ignored is the sensation of a single-lane road, surrounded by heavy trucks and with construction sites speckled every few kilometers. The travelling part of the trip was mostly great, but next time I will look out for alternative routes rather than the Route National N70, even though it was the straight way from Bordeaux to Lörrach.

Start of the Western part of the trip was St. Jean de Luz and then I followed intuition and the sun. Drawing the map of the main destinations was a lot going back and forth, but as I love that spontaneous way of travelling, I am totally at ease with some km more.

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On the way South and a bit West, Uzès was great for 2 days in between (980km from Munich and 560 km from Bordeaux). At the West coast itself, I missed a lot of all possible places to go and things to do. There is no way NOT going back someday, continuing the tasting, the surfing and for sure: never stop travelling.

What we missed = yet to come:

  • Canoe trip: between the étangs (lakes) and the sea, beneath the pont du gard, …
  • Bicycle trip: from the European bicycle infrastructure, the main part is available (so far) at France’s West coast with hundreds and thousands of kilometers – all waiting for sporty girls…
  • Bastides = defensive villages from medieval times, such as Sarlat, Domme, Beynac, Castelnaud
  • More of St. Émilion and its wine and eating culture
  • Places like La Roque-Gageac (micro-climate with unexpected palm trees) or Arcachon (oyster cultures) or the region of the Béarn.
  • Les Courses Landaises = ancient form of bullfighting (without killing the animals)
  • More food! More wine!
  • Flying at the dune du pilat: tandem paragliding

Well, we are young, we are beautiful and we will come back (Hector, me and Linda or any choice of it).

Resumé Part 1

How often can you live to see a perfect holiday trip? This for sure was one of them.

The combination of travelling and relaxing, time for myself and common days with close friends, sightseeing highlights and new experiences – what else can you expect?

I learned a lot about regional particularities, about myself and about Hector’s breaks still working fine when 100% of their pads are used up. I learned surfing and how to cope with an Australian accent. I enjoyed wonderful days with Linda and delicious food. I got lazy taking pictures and routine for regular sports. And, last but not least, most of the time I got good weather!

While the most artful aquarelle of the route will follow, here comes the entire trip summarized with local highlights, prices and everything:

 

  1. Aeschi / Thuner See, Switzerland

Beautiful landscape, inhabited by Swiss people with all their willful attributes. Camping Stuhlegg, Krattingen, is totally ok, for 1 van + 1 person I paid 29,40 CHF = 28,13 € by end of May 2016. Included in the price is the free bus to the close villages plus further rebates for local sightseeing.

Highlights: “Feldschiessen” and lawn gnomes.

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  1. Uzès, France / Languedoc-Roussillion

Romantic old town, surrounded by dulcet landscape. The entire region, especially in Uzès and in St. Quentin-la-Poterie has enough restaurants with delicious food to stay for weeks. Camping Mas de Rey is clean, relaxed and quiet, 2-3 km away from Uzès (parking close to the centre-ville Uzès is easy for any size of camper van with only a 5 minutes walk to the very heart of the town). I paid for 1 van + 1 person 15,60 € per night (still end of May).

Highlights: Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and fantastic dinners at Bec à Vin and at the central place beneath the arcades.

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  1. Carcassonne / Département Aude

Everybody tells you to go here, it is supposed to be fantastic. In fact, it is above all crowded and touristic. I left within 15 minutes and that was not only due to the heavy rain.

No highlights, no pictures.

 

  1. Isle du Tarn

Sort of a wallflower region, located North of Toulouse. Hilly landscape with a lot of wine and farms and some old cathedral nearby. I only did a stop-over for a night on a vineyard with my France Passion pass.

Highlights: Big calm, friendly people.

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  1. Pau / Pyrénées-Atlantiques

Pau is a nice town to drop by. Close enough to the pyrénées to give an idea of the cold, rough mountains, especially when you see snowy peaks from the Boulevard des Pyrénées. You can park any size of car for free on the Place de Verdun.

Highlights: Castle and mountain view.

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  1. St. Jean de Luz

It looks like Pays Basque, it feels like it and it tastes like it: St. Jean de Luz is only 16 km away from Spain and shows the typical basque houses, regional food and relaxed atmosphere. The coastline is hilly and green with sandy bays scattered here and there. The typical basque churches may be plain white from the outside, but full of dark wood and galleries in the inside. Two campsites are available, one beside the other at the beach Erromardie: the better view offers camping le bord de mer, but as I missed its tiny entry, I spent two nights at Camping de la Ferme Erromardie. Both are less than 20 meters away from the beach (with no-swimming when the current is at full strength). In the first days of June, I paid for 1 van + 1 person 15,60 € per night, mini pool and okay sanitaries included.

Highlights: Church St. Jean Baptiste de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, aperitif at the beach bar + dinner at the Bistro du Mata (both beach Erromardie) and the beautiful coast line.

 

  1. Biarritz

If you look for a town that is not too big and not too small, with culture and history but with beach life and nature as well, with restaurants and surfers and with further sightseeing destinations around – then you will probably end up in Biarritz. I passed it by for only a couple of hours but enjoyed it instantly. Better than going straight downtown is the choice of a suburbian parking (eg parking floquet) and to hop on the free shuttle bus “Navette”.

Highlights: Hotel du Palais, the Grande Plage and the walk to the Rocher de la Vierge

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  1. Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains

Vieux-Boucau is much calmer than Hossegor, but with everything you need: endless beaches, 5 surf schools (best: Alternative Surf School), 2 camp sites and a small town. Here you are at the straight coast line with all kinds of surfing waves, the beach is inviting and clean, the water is clear. The village offers a choice of restaurants and shops and the lake is okay for a short bike tour. The Camping Municipal Les Sablères is much calmer (and in a better overall condition) than the expensive Camping Le Vieux Port. At Vieux Port, I paid 25,- € per night + 5,- € instable WIFI, located on steep / uneven ground and with a non-swimming beach due to the strong current. After I relocated Hector, I had stable WIFI for free on even, grassy ground and paid 16,70 € per night at Les Sablères. Best restaurant was La Plage with a nice view and friendly waiters, serving me delicious dinner.

Highlights: The market (low season: Tuesday + Saturday), the beach and Surfing!!!

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  1. Saint Émillion

The most adorable town of the entire trip 2016. It is fine by me that so many tourists prefer Carcassonne or other touristic hot spots, leading to less crowded streets at St. Émilion. The town bears the risk to get lost in wine shops, but that is okay. If only for wine + food, I would suggest to split 4 weeks up into 50% Uzès and 50% St. Émilion + vineyards around.

Highlights: The town itself, the monolith church, macarons and wine. And the warm welcome at the vineyard Domaine de Grand Homme (for free due to France Passion).

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  1. Lacanau-Océan (+ Hourtin)

“Chez Marie” at Hourtin turned out to be the best place for lunch – despite the quirky way of the waitress. Forget about Hourtin Plage and rather go to Lacanau-Océan: not the most exciting spot worldwide, but okay due to the surrounding with lakes, cycle paths and the Camping Les Grands Pins with the most modern and definitely most proper sanitary rooms ever. Plus restaurant, bar, 2 pool areas, wellness + massage, rental surf boards, skate park, rental bikes and whatever else you could ask for. We paid 21,20 € per night for 1 Hector + 2 girls with daily 2x 30 minutes WiFi included.

Highlights: Dancing on stage with Linda, lunch chez Marie and massage appointments during heavy rain.

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  1. Montignac, Lascaux, Château de Losse

Nice town with the Vezère flowing through and the camp site Le Moulin du Bleufond only a 5 minutes walk away from the centre. Lucky me the most inviting art gallery was closed when I admired some fine paintings, otherwise the holidays would have cost some more. For 1 van + 2 persons we paid 21,80 €. The camp site’s restaurant and the pool are inviting, the rest is okay for a night. When eating out, the regional specialties based on duck or goose were best. The Château de Losse was okay, with more stable weather the café surely is enchanting. The caves of Lascaux are worth every penny of the ticket prices of 10,50 € (assuming that all guides are as good as ours).

Highlights: The paintings of Lascaux and seeing some more of the region Dordogne.

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  1. Bergerac + Monbazillac

Take some time and focus on the small roads through the Dordogne – it is a lovely part of France and offers you food, wine and old towns. Bergerac has restaurants spreading out all across the historical centre and may be worth a stay for 1 or 2 days. However, we passed it by for just one evening, meeting nice and helpful locals and the central camp site La Pelouse. We paid 19,66 € for a night with modern showers, local ducks and a place directly at the bank of the Dordogne. The château de Monbazillac was a pretty sidestep on our way.

Highlights: Picnic on the road, Bergerac, Monbazillac, relaxed travelling.

 

  1. Dune du Pilat / Pyla

We checked out 3 camp sites around the famous Dune du Pilat but only one has this fantastic panorama and direct access to the Dune: yelloh! Panorama du Pyla. The staff is not interested in their guests or in their comfort, but the location is unbeatable. We paid about 25,- € per night in June which was okay (sincere recommendation: never go there in high season!)

Highlights: Girls in a sandbox and the gorgeous view.

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  1. Carcans Plage

A relaxed place with a clear focus: Surfing. Cycle paths, lakes and forests exist, but most of the people come for the pretty beach and the waves – leading to the best surfer camp atmosphere of the whole travel. There is only one (real) camp site, but it is pretty okay: Camping de l’Océan is large, but not crowded (in June). I paid something close to 20,- € per night with stable WIFI for free (available close to the reception only).

Highlights: The surfing atmosphere among other travellers and Pete from Australia with his guitar and his poker face when being confronted with probably the worst coffee of his life.

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  1. Lörrach / Bad Bellingen

My step-brother’s home, or: the marble palace. One of the best dinners I had for weeks, a warm welcome and my new nephew from Kabul. All of this is a highlight, however, a very personal one. Concluding the holidays with a personal highlight is probably the best way to come back to normal life.

Surfing the West Coast: Carcans [3.145 km]

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Linda has to go back to the Netherlands while I still have three days left. We discuss our options: Me, staying on the current camp site feels too much left behind. Turn East and stretch the way back over five days feels like shortening the holidays. Finally, Linda goes to see some of Bordeaux centre, but gets handicapped by the European football championship: all baggage rooms and lockers are closed for safety reasons and Bordeaux with your luggage drawn behind is less fun.

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Although Bordeaux must be beautiful, I am drawn to the coast to see some more waves. The nice German surfer that I met in my second week mentioned a pretty good camp site at Carcans, so after a big hug and farewell to Linda I turn slightly North and head for the one and only camping at Carcans-Plage.

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I look for surfer’s atmosphere and in fact that is all that Carcans-Plage is about. Three restaurants, two snack bars and a ragtag music bar spread out over a hand full of tiny roads. Two souvenir shops, a supermarket and three surf shops, accompanied by a surf school and a camp site – there surely is a clear focus on touristic beach life. Even though the landscape with dunes und forest is a playground for further activities, I am fine with the beach and a rental surf board for the next days.

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Baywatch at Carcans

The beach and the weather work hand in hand with temperatures up to > 30°C. Due to yesterday’s full moon, the waves come up quite powerful and the current here is stronger compared to Vieux Boucau, but the beach surely is inviting. The afternoons fly by between warm sand and a swim (sort of) in the atlantic waves, while the morning hours are perfect for surfing practice.

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The days at Carcans motivate me to continue with surfing until I am good enough for the change to agile fiberglass boards. The “mousse” boards that I currently use are just too heavy for a girl like me and the distance of 1000 meters from the shop to the perfect waves. Well, I wanted to exercise more anyway, so for these days I am fine. With Vincent’s guidance running through my head I try to read the coastline and identify the ideal spot with gentle swell and harmless current. Soon enough I start with my routine of jumping on the board, steering left and right and get carried along by the whitewash.

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I always think, I should show more of the landscape. Well, this is my preferred one…

Between surfing and beaching, the camp site offers relaxed and basic circumstances: Hector is parked among other solo travellers, all surfers (what else). The Swiss guy chills in his hammock while Pete from Australia plays the guitar. Some clichés are just perfect when they hit real life!

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Pete: thanks for playing! And for ineresting conversations and, last but not least, for the wonderful surf-support!!

On Friday, I start running out of time: I have to go back to work and this is the only reason why I turn the engine and drive 1.000 km straight East. After 12 hours of driving, my step-brother and my sister-in-law welcome me with luxurious dinner and with my new nephew from Kabul. When I lay down in the guest room I slightly miss the wind rocking my bed and the humming sound of Hector’s control panel. 4 weeks of holiday have not stopped my travel bug at all…

Girls in a Sand Box [3.004 km]

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It is Friday, the sun fights its way back to the West coast and we have a couple of days yet to come. Girls like us should not be kept away from the sea for too long and thus we head for the famous Dune du Pilat.

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Dune du Pilat: 2.700m long, 110m high, quadrillion grains of sand

6 km away from Arcachon downtown, a choice of camp sites waits for Linda and me to check them out. The yelloh! Panorama du Pyla camping is the only one with direct beach access and sea view at least on some places. While most areas spread out in the shadow of high trees on hilly ground, a hand full of places is located directly on the shoreline. Based on detailed analysis of wind, sun, view and further comfort factors, Hector settles down a few meters from the edge.

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The perfect pitch

Not only do we have a 3-side panorama view on blue sea, blue sky and the enormous dune, we are furthermore surrounded by flying men.

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After all we have seen those last travelling days (several camp-sites, cave of Lascaux, two castles, two cities and a lot of landscape), we now enjoy regarding the sea for quite a while. During low tide the oysters on the next sand bank are visible, while during daylight paragliders pass by above our heads. Every now and then we spend sunny hours at & in the pool, get suddenly stressed for keeping up with the ridiculous opening hours of the camping’s supermarket and go down to the beach. With the city of Arcachon being some kilometers away and with the steep, hilly landscape in between, we are fine with the lazy mode that slightly took over.

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Relaxing days at Pyla

Right beside our campground, Europe’s largest dune piles masses of fine sand up to 110 meters. Thanks to our home-base, we do not care about parking fees or tourist crowds on wooden paths, instead we just take a side step and start our walk already on 2/3 level of the total height. With Saturday, sun and wind coming together, innumerable paragliders take off from the dune and fly up and down all day long.

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We walk straight to the top and enjoy the sensation of an endless desert horizon.

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It is a very particular surrounding, bringing both your mind to a rest and your head to the creation of funny ideas. While the sea-side already has a reasonable slope, the other side seems to fall straight down to the forested ground behind. One guy jumps down there and lets gravity take down his half-naked body for 30–40 meters. Due to the sand peeling, his chest is already shimmering red, but the smile in his face tells us that he does not care too much about it.

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downwards

It is wonderful here: the landscape is so special, the sea lays bright blue at our feet and the fooling around in this endless sand box is a lot of fun. Linda jumps up, sails down, obviously carried away by life, the universe and everything.

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The joy that brings a simple (but huge) quantity of sand is indescribable. We run down, step up, jump high and fall down again until we have a fling and change for a bath in the sea.

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Holidays change your perspective

In fact, there is not a lot you can do around the Dune du Pilat. You can wander the dune up and down and across, you can swim in the unruffled sea, spend time at the pool and that is it so far. Unless you are a paraglider, then it is sort of a paradise with the most gorgeous view of all.

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Fly another day

Finally, on our third day here, I remember my holiday mission: try out whatever is offered! Lucky us, the paragliders that offer tandem flights are right around the corner and we agree to fly with them later that day. Unlucky us, the strong wind decides to cease just that morning, destroying our flight plans. This eases our financial cash flow (most of the things at the camp-site have to be paid in cash with no cash dispenser being around) but is a bit disappointing anyway. We compensate it with perfect beach weather, delicious dinner, dancing at the beach and some profiteroles. And with the wonderful plan to come back some day.

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A very special landscape

Castle, Wine, Picnic – France’s Wonderful Facets

 

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The region of Bergerac is famous for shimmering yellow sweet wine. Consequently, our first stop in the morning is Chateau Monbazillac, a castle surrounded by vineyards. Fortunately, this time we may find our own way through the building and do not have to follow a guided tour. The admission charge comes along with a flyer that offers information about the castle and its rooms, so all we miss is the repetition of “dö-dö” that still runs through our head from yesterday’s visit.

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Rheingau or Médoc?

Lingering through the chambers, Linda and I fantasize how we will furnish our shared house in here. We agree on two large rooms and an oriel for each plus some common space in between. As we will probably take over the entire staff, I greet the gardener outside demonstrative friendly.

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My Home is my Castle

The morning proceeds and it is time for the tasting: Linda tries the very sweet dessert wine and buys a bottle of it (if you are friend or family of Linda, please be ensured: yes, she did buy wine). After I take a sip from her glass, it is clear that we will not need to fight about it, it is all hers. For the choice of local white wines, I can confess that the least sweet one would be okay with fruits flambé, sunset and an austere man. However, it is unpredictable when all those ingredients get together, and consequently I rather go for six bottles of dry red wine.

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In one of the villages on our way we stop for croissants, fruits and vegetables at the local market. Now fully equipped, we choose at random any of the Médoc vineyards for a picnic. Within a minute, we have our chairs outside and enjoy our culinaric prey in the sun.

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We surely know how to hit the road

After the sightseeing overflow of the last two days, Hector then carries on to get Linda and me to a beach. We pass by Bordeaux (4th time so far), aiming for Europe’s largest sand dune. Only there I will learn that there is no use looking for a camp-site I knew 20 years ago: the dune wanders quite some meters every year and my ancient memories are long gone.