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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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]


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


A very special landscape

Castle, Wine, Picnic – France’s Wonderful Facets


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


19.000 Years of Cultural History– Montignac, Lascaux, Bergerac [2.730 km]


Hector is more swimming than driving through heavy rain direction East, but finally we arrive at Montignac in the early afternoon. The small, attractive town is located in the Vallée Vézère and is the main base for visitors to the famous Grotte de Lascaux.

The last rain shower of today leads us inside the beautiful church at the Place Carnot.


Peaceful and inviting: Church at Place Carnot, Montignac

Right beside the church (take the perspective of the photo above, turn left for 15 meters and enjoy) the Salon de ThéUniVert” offers wonderful tea, perfect coffee and a choice of homemade cakes. With restored forces, we cross the brownish water of the Vézère and follow the signs to the office de tourisme. We buy tickets for one of the English guided tours next day, gather further information about the region and its camp-sites and stroll around some more.


La Vézère

Montignac village itself is not even mentioned in most travel books. Only recently, art exhibitions and little cultural events try to lure tourists for more than just the ticket sale. With the camp-site in walking distance, additional camper van parking and a nice mixture of restaurants, cafés, bars and galleries, the village is inviting enough for a stay and today’s football match “Allez les bleus!” against Albany.


With Linda in the alleys of Montignac

The next morning, we leave Hector at the huge parking beside the construction site of “Lascaux IV” (opening Dec. 2016) and walk up the hilly forest to Lascaux II. When they learned that masses of interested tourists destroy the 19.000 year old paintings just by breathing in and breathing out, scientists and artists worked more than 10 years on the perfect copy of the historical cave.

The facsimile is only 200m away from the original, located in a natural cave somewhere in the forest. Once inside, we lose any feeling of “this is only the copy”, but are stunned by the sensation of fantastic pictures that fill walls and ceilings.


The tour guide presents some background of the paintings, evoking vivid images of the ancient artists. 4.000 years lie between the oldest and the newest painting, some of them layering one above the other on the cave walls, up to a height of 6,5 meters. Before we came here, I had some ideas of the oldest paintings worldwide (wrong), showing every-day-life themes (nope) that had been created by the inhabitants of some stony cave (wrong again: the cave has never been inhabited). In fact, the cave of Lascaux was reserved exclusively for art and ritual gatherings over numberless generations of the Cro-Magnon people.


The paintings show several different, identifiable styles and I am overwhelmed by the evident skills for perspective and expression. Suddenly, I understand Picasso who saw Lascaux and said: “We have learned nothing new.”

Later that day we make a stop at the Château et Jardins de Losse. After the impressive visit of the Grotte de Lascaux, the castle cannot keep up with the prehistoric art, but the tour guide’s constant repetition of “Jean II (deux) de Losse” with the sound of “dö-dö” over and over again comes up with a certain fun factor.


The garden of the castle is nice (but much smaller than expected) and the tour through the building reveals that success, money and taste may fall apart significantly.


During the afternoon, we follow small routes around the D45 to Bergerac. The first thing we see at Camping La Pelouse is the sign “complet” = full. Lucky us, when we ask for a pitch for the night, they still have three to offer and we choose the best site at the shore of the Dordogne.


Just in time for today’s match Germany – Poland, we cross the bridge to the historical centre of Bergerac and look for a nice bar with a TV screen.


Cyrano de Bergerac (strange enough that the movie had been produced at Uzès…)

The compact vieille ville is a beguiling area to wander through. We pass by medieval houses, protestant churches and two statues of Cyrano de Bergerac, with inviting restaurants on every step we take. Thanks to the helpful advices of some locals on our way, we finally drop into a relaxed bar between the Eglise Notre Dame and the Place de L’Europe. It must have been a strange appearance: 2 girls walking in, talking English and aiming to watch the German Mannschaft in today’s European football comptetition…


Filled with today’s impressions of prehistoric art, medieval buildings, modern football and romantic poets, we follow the lights over the bridge to our luxurious home. For a second, I think of painting bulls and mammoths on Hector’s ceiling, but within the blink of an eye I fall asleep.



Lazy Days: Lacanu Océan [2.478,8 km]

The Aéroport de Bordeaux Mérignac is willing to change Hector into a camper-convertible: all parking spaces have height restrictions of 2,20 m maximum. Supported by friendly police officers, we find a compromise between some airport company’s parking and the stop over lane that passes by the departure hall. After my chat with the policemen (“Where is your car parked right now?” “I can’t tell you – it’s illegal.”), Linda jumps in and our common holidays begin.


Facing instable weather predictions, we decide to look for a comfortable campsite at the coastline and count on sunny hours between short rain showers. Even though the airport is located on the western side of Bordeaux, it still takes 1,5 hours to pass by myriads of roundabouts that must have been built by the founder of the legendary rabbit hole, aiming for disorientation rather than constructive traffic guidance.


At Hourtin we stop for a late lunch and drop into one of those inconspicuous places where all local workers go for their déjeuner. The waitress has a very rough charm, but the meal is delicious and we even get half a bottle of wine offered by the man next table. Full of energy, our first try is the campsite La Côte d’Argent: expensive, dark beneath a cloudy sky and a dense forest, low-quality-sanitary installations and a water-playground-something instead of a reasonable swimming pool. Consequently, we invest some more 30 minutes of our precious holiday time and go next to the yelloh! camping at Lacanau Océan. All aspects are way better here, starting with prices at 20,- EUR per night, continuing with luxurious sanitary houses, less dark trees and 2 pools, with one of them for adults only and with 18 meters suitable for real swimming. Last but not least the sea is right around the corner, surf boards are available on the camp site and the next village is only a short walk away.


The next day is water day: The morning starts with a swim in our favourite pool and relaxed breakfast. A wonderful beach walk, accompanied by neat surfers out in the rough waves, brings us to Lacanau Océan downtown for lunch.


The constant rain during the afternoon is the perfect scenery for the campsite’s spa: we enjoy all indoor and outdoor pools, massage, hammam, sauna and jacuzzi for hours. Being slightly above 20, we are well aware of the responsibility for shaped bodies and smooth skin, you know.


The next day comes up with sun, but also with unpredictable rain showers, preventing us from a bicycle tour around the lake Lac d’Hourtin. However, we are easy with relaxation, sunbathing at the pool and, without knowing it before sunset, head for a spectacular evening anyway.


Around 9:00 pm, our sunset drink at the open air bar of the camp site gets interrupted by uninvited rain. Just seconds ago, the animateur tried to persuade us to join the soirée dansante = local dancing event, at first try with no big success. But now, with the rain pouring in our drinks… We look at the stage: it has a roof. It is dry. It looks cosy with the coloured spotlights. Sure enough, it now is our place to be.

And here we are, once more dancing without shoes but with lots of joy – holidays with Linda surely mean fun!


Princess Château Hector: St. Émilion [2.272 km]

A bit more than a week has been enough to make Vieux Boucau my home base. It needs a slight push to leave the lazy beach routine behind and move on to new destinations.


After a final view over “my” surfing beach, Hector takes a turn and off we go direction St. Émilion. Around noon, he gently slides into the most central parking slot at the heart of the fortified medieval town. Having ignored the “Payant” sign, I will make the local authorities my new pen pal and look forward to written information about the exact location of our perfect parking place.


All along I knew Saint Émilion for Grand Cru wines of the expensive kind and thought that it might be a nice spot to drop by.EmilionE In no way did I expect this stunning beauty: old stone houses straggle down the steep south-hanging slope of a low hill, with the green froth of the vines crawling over its walls. Roses grow in many corners and small courtyards are to be discovered when walking around and settle down in one of the inviting restaurants, cafés and bars.


The monolith church is another peculiarity: simple and huge, the entire structure was hacked out of the rock. For those that consider the guided tour of 1 hour being too time-consuming, l’office de tourisme offers a charming alternative. For 1,50 EUR I receive the key to the spire on top of the church. After climbing up hundreds or dozens of stairs, I am rewarded with a fantastic 360° panorama view.



I thought I come here for some wine, but first I spend hours admiring the town itself: old houses with classy wine shops, art galleries and some decent but luxurious hotels. There is not a single building that disturbs the special flair.



If you want to learn a bit about what France and its wine / food culture is about: here it is. People come together at the bars and cafés, they sit and drink and talk and laugh. Even though you will see quite some tourists, on second glance you will find the origins being there as well.


The French “Savoir Vivre” comes along easily: I buy the best “Macarons” ever at Les Caprices d’Amélie, drink a coffee at the glossing hideaway of L’Absolu and end up slightly overstrained with the enormous choice of wine shops.


Having my own travel agenda, I leave St. Émilion behind and drive 15 km through the most attractive wine region until I reach the Domaine de Grand Homme at Blasimon.



I really love staying overnight at a vineyard: the local dog and the vintner give me a warm welcome and Hector settles down between the swimming pool (yes, they offer their pool to guests!!) and the grape-vines. After a swim and dinner in the setting sun, I take a look around and chat with the other campers. No wonder that this time I am not alone, the place is surely tempting: the swimming pool surrounded by vine and forest, the walking trails through prospering nature and last but not least the wine tasting – what else do you need?


The Domaine de Grand Homme offers places to camper vans, guest rooms Chambres d’hôtes and (seasonally) dinner – check out the possibilities on


Hector is accompanied by a Dutch and a French camping car, both inhabited by a dog plus two persons. Around sunset, we all come together with the winegrowers and taste our ways through the white “Entre deux mers”, the rosé and the rouge “St. Émilion”. It turns out to be an enjoyable evening with a mixture of hosts and guests, different nations and languages, travelling stories and oenophile information. I like these unforeseen gatherings when you get little insights into the life of strangers that become friends for common hours.



The next morning starts with coffee and wine with the latter being packed in cartons, destination “home” for future occasions. Again, I found a wonderful place to be, but it is time to move on: in only a few hours Linda will arrive at Bordeaux airport and will join me for the next 9 days.

Although I am not aware of it yet, I will most probably come back to southwest of France any other year – and then I will spend more time at St. Émilion with even more wine tasting, architectural highlights of the monolith church and pastel coloured macarons.

Saint Émilion really got me…


Monolith church, spire, 360° wine, thousands of old stones



First time at St. Émilion: still there is so much to see and so much wine to taste…

The Surfing Challenge


You cannot camp at France’s west coast and ignore the hundreds of surfers. So far, I have been fine watching them admiringly, enjoying the views at well defined muscles and that was it.

This will change now.


When sharing my holiday plans with Jan (thank you!!), he advised not only several spots and villages but additionally came up with the surfing question. And slightly, the question became a plan: If not now, when else? Furthermore, it is such a logical next step, after the skateboard lessons that I took in spring time.

So here I am, forcing myself into my old neoprene wetsuit, facing my first surf lesson. Without rational reason, I am even nervous before it starts, but this will pass as soon as we begin. Vincent (sprich: “Wönssong”) does not only own the Alternative Surf School at Vieux Boucau but also happens to be one of the top 5 surfers across Europe and is willing to nudge me into the waves. Oh, I love working with the elite.


For a well reasonable price (5 lessons, 90 minutes each = 155 EUR) Vincent shows me how to face the waves, how to handle the board and how to change between lying / face up for the cobra / standing and falling on and of the surfboard. He knows well how to structure the training and works like a wave dompteur.





We start slowly with little waves and I enjoy it instantly. It is fooling around with the waves like children do, but then advancing to the next fun level, using the green-blue water for acceleration towards the beach. I hardly notice what happens, but suddenly…


Slightly an hour has passed when I have the first, totally unexpected success: I manage to stand up on the board and ride with the wave for at least 3 seconds. It is so cool, that I jubilee a loud “yee-ha” over the beach, being instantly less cool probably. I don’t care, it is just soooo great!!


Happy & proud after my first surf lesson

Afterwards, I am full of adrenalin, endorphins and all other positive chemicals that flow through my vanes. Obviously I spread around good mood, for when I get back to the camp site, still fully dressed in my neoprene suite, the workers from the construction site next door give me some admiring whistle. Everybody that crosses my path will be told about how fantastic it is to learn surfing. I welcome the muscle soreness and look forward to my next lesson tomorrow. Out of the blonde nothingness, a song line comes up:

The tide is high but I’m holding on
I’m gonna be a number one
I’m not the kind of girl
Who gives up just like that


Did I mention that I might welcome the muscle soreness? Stupid idea… On the second day the water playing fun continues, now more and more often on top of the surf board and riding along towards the beach. However, I have the slight doubt that the steering wheel has some kind of defect with an obvious tendency to the right part of the beach. Might be due to uncontrolled weak muscles from my side anyway, but who am I to discuss such technical topics?

I am happy that Vincent slightly takes over the hard parts like pushing the board against the waves, offering me water taxi service and whatever else it takes to ease the training. Consequently I can focus on the core exercises like jump on the surf board and find my inner and outer balance on top of the ocean.



Today, my shoulders and arms feel much better. As long as I do not try to lift the arms, that is. The sky is bright blue, no wind disturbs the sun and the perfect beach day comes up with gentle waves of just the right size fort today’s practice.

Already the first round is good enough for pictures of the 2016 surfer queen: I manage to get on top, stand up and ride the wave until I reach the beach.


Looks like I have fun? I surely have!

Further highlights follow when I manage not only to stand on the board and let the waves carry me towards the beach, but also to control and change directions left or right. If I trust Vincent’s statement (and sure enough I do trust my surf teacher), this is not very common on only the 3rd day.

Meanwhile I become more and more familiar with my surrounding: Vieux Boucau is less famous than Hossegor, but it has a pretty good atmosphere: the surfers all know each other and respect each other, people are friendly and beginners will receive encouraging smiles from other surfers. Moreover, the village contains some older / original parts and thus the place is more than just a tourist hot spot with a beach (once your are here, be sure not to miss the markets).


A warm welcome at Vieux Boucau


Perfect beach weather welcomes us back at the ocean with neat little waves. Today we will go “outside”, in French: au large. It means that I do not start on the sand bank, but beyond in deeper water. From there, the hardest part is to estimate the right wave and the right timing for standing up. All the rest is crawling and paddling and waiting for the perfect wave. And a quick jump. Theoretically.

Due to perfect conditions, we stretch today’s lessons up to nearly 2 hours and I enjoy the sensation of speed and playing with waves on a slightly longer board (however, no real long board yet, but approaching higher aims). Minute by minute I look less silly on my surf board than on the pictures we had taken on day 3, while Hector now claims to be a “Surfmobil” just as all VW Bullis around.








At least one surf day is yet to come, but already now I am proud and enormously happy. I enjoyed every second of the new surfing experience and, last but not least, it proves once more that you can do whatever you want to – any time, any place. Just do it.


Into the great wide open / under a sky so blue…



Biarritz / Vieux Boucau [2.051 km]

Before the rise of St. Tropez / Côte d’Azur as hot spot for celebrities and royals, Biarritz was the place to be. Consequently, 1930s grandeur embraces the Grande Plage with the Hôtel du Palais, the Casino Municipal and mansions that have their roots back in the era of Napoléon III and the enthusiasm of his Spanish wife Eugénie.


Biarritz: La Belle à la Mer

By happenstance the part of my wardrobe with clean clothes today is limited to the best pieces, being just the right outfit for the glorious places of Biarritz. With style and dignity I enter the park of the Hôtel du Palais, knowing that once upon a time the empress of France resided in the palace that stood here before fire, rebuilding and golf courts took over.


The waiter is courteous as a British butler and tries with extensive care to fulfil my special wishes. Presenting him a challenge seems the right approach when falling out of the camper van into a fairytale castle.


Perfect Tea Time

The hour on the terrace of the Hôtel du Palais with a can of finest tea and the most glorious view over Biarritz’ central bay has been the best idea of all. The surrounding is excellent, my sunglasses are Gucci and the swimming pool is enormous. If once I leave camping and Hector behind (unthinkable), I will go straight for luxury hotels, no compromises!


Could you fall in love with a pool? At least you could fall into the pool…

It is at Biarritz’ beach that I see the first surfers – finally!


The weather is gentle, the waves are in place and only some construction sins from younger decades prevent me from falling straight into a picture postcard world.


I follow the path along the coastline, eat some fish at the old harbour and continue to the Rocher de la vierge. During a chat with some local guys I learn that here only painters are allowed to sell souvenirs and I have to admit that the paintbrush work on decoration surfboards and boomerangs is a quite good one.


Once more the travel book “Südwestfrankreich” by Michael Müller Verlag offers the most useful information: I left Hector at the free parking “Floquet” and took the free shuttle bus (“navette”) to the centre. Thanks to Hector’s slim silhouette, I can leave him at almost any parking slot for regular cars – as long as there is no height restriction, that is.

After some successful shopping at Biarritz (oh, I hope my niece likes my present just as I do) I get back to Hector and in a shortness of time we arrive at the campsite “Vieux Port” at Vieux-Boucau.


It is one of those animated, water-playground-and-rental-home sites that have a perfect website, good marketing and high prices. I choose a place underneath pines and directly behind the dunes and plan to spend a week here, relaxing and doing sports and everything.


It does seem comfortable on first sight, but Friday evening crowds of Spanish families arrive, being above all: loud. And respect-less. And annoying. Within the blink of an eye they take over the entire camp site. It is not only the crowds of people, but also the mid-quality sanitaries, the extra charge on WIFI, the useless pool area, the non-swimming beach and the ignorant waiters at the tapas bar, altogether the decision is easily made: Change it, love it or leave it. Consequently, I change to the camping municipal “Les Sablères” with half the price but double comfort (with exception to the availability of toilet paper).


Directly behind the dune and wonderfully even at ground level: Camping Les Sablères

On top, the camping municipal is closer to the city and thus even better for flexible beach days. After the re-settlement to Les Sablères, I finally come to a halt and am willing to begin the second week of the holidays. The first one was full of moving on, thousands of kilometers and a variety of impressions. Now, the second one, will be dedicated to other contents.


South, finally: St. Jean-de-Luz [1.957 km]

The next day starts as rainy as the last one, but for a driving day this is just fine. After passing by the ARIANE skyrocket (much smaller than I would have thought), the plan is to continue south west until the ocean stops me. Kilometer by kilometer the sky gets brighter, the distanced clouds open up and leave me flabbergasted: The high mountain range of the Pyrennés sparkles with fresh white snow. I would never have guessed to see fresh snow in June that far south, but here it is.


I decide to take a side trip to Pau, the only urban centre in the Béarn / French Pyrenées. I leave Hector at the free parking on Place Verdun and take a look at the boulevard des pyrenées, the historical centre and the castle.


Pau turns out to be an attractive mixture of medieval roots and present-day life, old buildings and new functions. Money seems to flow into the infrastructure and into the historical heart of the city, but still it appears very un-excited.


5_Castle5For today, a stop of 2,5 hours is fine and then I continue my voyage. After 5 days and 1.953,6 km I reach the destination as far south-west as I will get: Saint Jean-de-Luz, only one or two inches away from the Spanish border. Beneath the rain clouds, the Atlantic ocean looks similar to the German North sea, but just as ordered, the weather improves significantly the next day.


Camping La Ferme Erromardie with 25m between Hector and the ocean

As soon as the rain stops, I take my wonderful folded bike and have a look at the centre of St. Jean-de-Luz with its typical Basque houses and Spanish flair. Even when covered by a grey and cloudy sky, the hilly ground, speckled with white houses and opening up to the wide ocean invites you to come here and spend some time.


Saint Jean-de-Luz is a pretty town of perfect size: between fisherman’s harbour and beach you will hardly get lost. Small shops, restaurants and bars spread around the city’s heart and in one of them I am willing to try local specialities and ask for the Plat du Jour.



Go there, eat steak, drink wine – savoir vivre

However, the local guys next table are convincing enough that for unused palates this might be not the best choice… Finally I leave it up to the waiter and enjoy the first steak-frites with a glass of Bordeaux rouge.


After lunch, the sun comes out, accompanied by holiday feeling: yeah, south, finally! The sea has changed from grey to bright blue and the beach gets populated with people in white bathing gowns. The temperature rises and the life guards take their seats, overlooking the grande plage with cool dignity.


I am charmed by the surrounding and instantly full of energy: first is shopping for “Linge Basque”, then sightseeing in the church Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Inside, the building is full of dark wood, containing 3 levels of galleries and a sailing ship. The altar shows several rows of golden saints and the entire impression is warm and beautiful.


Later, the evening sun welcomes me for a relaxed drink at the beach bar that happens to be right beneath my camp site at the beach Erromardie. The majority of people around is local, the music is reggea and the sunset takes its time – yes, holidays are made for slowing down.


Despite the flair of St. Jean, I decide to continue my travel from here further North: Biarritz and the beaches close to Hossegor are just too tempting and one sunset does not kill my restlessness.


Further Southwest: Experience is the Best Teacher

You never know that your shoes are not water resistant until you get caught in the rain.

Moving on from Uzès to the Tarn region, I don’t mind bright clouds and some drops of rain every now and then. Consequently, I see no point in changing my plans when I arrive the early afternoon at Carcassone, the world famous medieval town between Nîmes and Toulouse. I still don’t get the symbols straight when I head from the bus parking to the city’s entrance and a group of nuns crosses my way, hurrying just in the opposite direction. Well… I should have followed them. It takes less than 500 meters until I reach the town walls soaking wet with my shoes making funny noise on every step I take.


The good news is that the atmosphere of Carcassone wins significantly once the tourist crowds have left the tiny streets. The bad news is that it was just too wet to dare more than one snapshot and anyway, I decided that it reminds me a lot of the Mont Saint Michel and that I rather change into some dryer clothes and move on.


In fact, the old town looks quite impressive when approaching it from a distance: there is a wow-effect, no doubt. But the closer you get, the more annoying get all the shops and restaurants and advertisement for souvenirs and tourists from abroad and the rain and everything. At ground level, no house kept its old form, old narrow windows have been replaced by large glass fronts for souvenirs and wide open doors for inflowing tourists. I think of Brügge / Belgium and how they achieved a more impressing picture: they left the buildings as they have been and just inserted shops or pubs or restaurants, but kept to the exterior and the façade just as it had been. Wise they are, the Belgians…

I leave Carcassone-Land to Walt or Disney or whoever is currently responsible and continue to some basic French achievement: I remarked a huge Carrefour supermarket and within 15 minutes have everything on board for offering myself a wonderful dinner. The only thing missing is a bottle of regional wine, but this is easily set upon arrival on today’s destination.


Probably beautiful with a ray of sunlight

North of Toulouse, the region around the river Tarn comes up with a pretty landscape of mountains and forests and: vineyards. Thanks to “France Passion”, I arrive the late afternoon at Isle de Tarn and make friends with the local dog. Already the route to sleepy, hidden farms is a wonderful experience, once more celebrating Hector’s slim silhouette. Upon arrival I am free to taste my way through the selection of wine that today’s host produces, learning that I love the full-berry-fruity wine best as long as it stays dry.

Although the rain does not stop, I am happy that it does not snow (here) and enjoy the calm night deep in the middle of nowhere. With gas, electric and water systems on board working just fine, I am warm and cosy inside Hector and finally oversleep my planned departure. Plans might be exaggerated, though.