If we stick anywhere close to the itinerary we should be in Spain this week, it currently doesn’t look that likely we will happening. We really could have stayed a few weeks around the islands but as the drizzle set in at D’Oleron we set off South in the general direction of Royan. We took the long route through La Coubre Forest, over 5000 hectares of pine and holly trees, a few resorts along the way, ghost towns on a damp November day, to be honest – just an awful lot of trees for many miles, not really worth the detour. We headed down the coast a few miles to Meschers Sur Gironde, and settled ourselves down at the the marina for a couple of days.
So far most villages we have visited have been pretty well deserted but Meschers seemed to have a fair bit of life about, plenty of people around the marina and the town. Town is possibly an overstatement, one main street with several shops and a few cafes. After a quick trip into buy supplies we met our French next-door neighbour, well his van and wife are French – he was very much Scottish. Good to speak to someone in our native tongue after three weeks of just each other to natter between.
We had planned to visit the troglodyte cave houses just around the coast from here, however when we checked out the visiting times we found they had closed for the winter last week, so that will be a good reason to return here. Instead of the caves we went on a hike along the coastal path. All along this estuary there are hundreds of wooden fishing huts, known as Carrelets, built on stilts with they have an enormous square fishing net at the front, which is pulley operated. When the tide comes in they lower the nets and raise them again quickly, catching whatever happened to swim past. The walkways appear very precarious but the huts themselves are really well kept, we fancy the idea of one for a weekend holiday home.
As we had decided to stick to the coast we had a choice of driving 60 odd miles down to Bordeaux and back out to the coast, or we could take short cut and use the Royan to Le Verdon Sur Mer ferry, We chose the latter, my thoughts were the saving in petrol would pay for the ferry, Iain’s thoughts were excitement on using a ferry! All easy enough, pull into ferry terminal, pop debit card in machine and off to the ferry. Not too bad at €44 for a 5.99 metre camper and 2 people – however its a standard charge for a camping car. If you have an 8.5 metre monster or a 5.5 metre campervan they don’t even look, one charge fits all.
Twenty minutes later we had crossed the estuary and heading down the coast. For the first time since we arrived in France there were no other motorhomes on the road, to be fair there was very little of anything on the road as it seemed very quiet, This all boded well for a trip down to Hourtin, a town that seems to have everything, a small area by the sea, the town itself and then another area out at Hourtin Lake, the largest lake in France. We decided this looked a good place to go and set out to find an aire or campsite – fail, all closed even the aire. Undaunted we drove a further 30 miles down to Lacanau, to find everything closed! Even the aire with 100 spaces at the Heliport was blocked off. We knew there was a campsite open in Bordeaux from the ACSI book or we could try the next aire at Andernos les Bains, only another 40 miles or so.
Arrived at Andernos, and we were feeling ok with the sight of the harbour and a payment machine for the aire. Tiny problem, the actual aire has been moved. The machine, water etc is still on the harbour but the parking has been moved 1/2 a mile up the road onto a bit of grotty wasteland. By now we didn’t care so we parked up amongst the Pilote mafia and walked back to pay, best news of the day, le machine broken so we get to keep our money :).
Andernos is on the Bassin D’Arcachon, and was yet another place we really loved. The harbour is still a centre for oyster fishing and is lined with huts where the catches are landed and sold from. Many of the huts also doubled up as restaurants selling the days catch and ranged from shack type cafes to some very expensive menus. After a long day in the van we set out for a walk along the bassin on a marked trail, but of course Iain knew a better route then the guy who had marked out this one. Nearly two hours later, in semi darkness we emerged back from the wilderness to the campervan 😯
As the forecast was good we wanted to do some cycling and knew that there were excellent networks all over the area. We drove an hour down to Biscarrosse, where everything was quite a bit livelier and open. We found a good spot on the side of the lake and got the bikes down off the van to dust them off. We feel sure the cycle paths in France have a Dutch influence, all off road and in most cases separate networks that are wide, well surfaced and well signposted. For sure its been chilly this week, but it was sunny, the smell of pine was everywhere, the trees still had a lot of autumn colour and for us one of the best bike rides we had been on for some time.