We’ve moved on quite a long way since we last posted, heading for Northern Spain & Portugal. The only events in our calendar where we know where & when we’ll be are both in July – a wedding in Derbyshire (we’ll fly back for that) then the big 2cv meet in Orleans two weeks later. So it seems to make sense to have a look at Iberia before it gets too hot & full of flippin’ tourists.
Hot. Ha. It was 31degC here yesterday… So where’s here? Right at the foot of Europe’s biggest sand dune, the Dune du Pyla, a little south of Bordeaux. 100m+ tall and 3km long, it totally dominates the view from this campsite… And we climbed it! We’ll admit to a certain degree of cheating – there’s a ladder most of the way up. In our defence, it’s very necessary, since this side – the inland “rear” – is much, much steeper than the coast side. It’s far closer to vertical than horizontal in places, with the rungs of the stainless steel ladder almost completely hidden under the drifting sand. At least, that’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. Descent is, umm, considerably easier (and much more fun) than the ascent. Today, we cycled into Arcachon, about 10-15 away. Not exactly a flat route, and somewhat wearying – but we did the shopping we intended to (I didn’t think the first mechanical failure of the trip’d be the bikes, but new gear selectors are ready to go on Ellie’s ex-Peak Park cycle hire machine), and the guy in the SFR shop weaved his magic on the MiFi mobile-internet-to-wifi router. I’m losing my magic touch with technology. That’s both my phone & the MiFi that I’ve just not been able to get on the ‘net at all, then had both suddenly work completely as soon as I go into the shop with ’em… Shame there’s no signal here on the site. When they set the price at €5 for 1 hour WiFi (€9 for 2hr, €20 for a week!), they obviously knew they’d got a captive market. Hiho.
Then I went back to Arcachon on the bike to retrieve the MiFi, which I’d managed to leave in the shop. And got lost. I can report, though, that the “Ville d’Hiver” (Winter town) is very nice indeed – big villas, sat on top of a large hill… And all the signs to Centre Ville seemed to go further up, up, up… We’ll see whether the plan to climb the dune again this evening for the sunset comes off or not. Right now, it’s looking dodgy, as my knees have utterly locked into place and this gin’s going down very well. (BTW, it didn’t.)
But enough of that. What’ve we been up to in the interim?
We left the Carnac area what feels like last year, bimbling gently south on the back roads, and ended up near Guerande – where sea water’s been evaporated for the salt in the same way since before Roman times. More on that in another post. After a night in a camp site right above the beach, with a fantastic view of a wind-blown sea, up and down through the Charentes, to another site just south of La Rochelle. A short walk brought us to the beach, with a fantastic view of the sunset from long wooden benches deliberately erected at the top of the sand. Anybody’d think it happened regularly there… Then onwards again, through Pineau de Charentes vineyards and the most beautiful villages seemingly grown out of the landscape rather than built. Then the vineyards remained, but their intent changed – past Royan (where I had a couple of childhood holidays many moons ago, in the neighbouring resort of St Georges de Didonnes) – with a ferry over to the Medoc. We thought about crossing, but didn’t – the fares, at €40 for a 15min crossing, seemed just that bit too high for comfort – so down the mainland through the Cotes du Blayes. At Blayes, we looked again at the ferry – €20-odd seemed better – so we went for it. Then we found out about the fare for the second adult… Thick end of another €10. Hiho. Can’t get off now. A trip through some of the most exalted wine territory in France, and past Chateaux whose names might’ve been familiar if our budget stretched more to quality than quantity, and the municipal campsite at Pauillac. The banks of the Gironde estuary were lined with small ramshackle fishing huts, with nets on the end of long poles.
From there, the Medoc descended into farce, as a road closure, then a missed turning due largely to astonishment at the sheer volume of stationary traffic heading the other way meant we failed completely to avoid the suburbs of Bordeaux. I think we left St Aubin de Gironde seven or eight times before we found the right road. We knew instantly it was the right road, since the traffic was absolutely stationary. Eventually, and after a small detour to the northern edge of the bay, to see the dune from a distance (obviously greater than we thought, since it looked fairly disappointing), we arrived here.