Week 4 France – Landes, Aquitaine

Yes we are still here, no we haven’t even made it as far as the border yet (more of the border plan later). The problem is the coast in Aquitaine is made for ambling down, as we left somewhere we found another spot on the map less than an hour away that needed visiting. We arrived and parked up, had a walk or a cycle and before we knew it the day was gone. It’s really not as if we had been doing the ‘big tourist’ stuff, we haven’t spent time in any of the major towns and cities and we haven’t visited any major attractions. We do seem to have found a pace that suits 12 months on the road and allows us to stop and see things when and if we want to. We are learning fast that aiming to be somewhere on a specific date is not the best strategy as it never happens.

I really did have a plan to see Bordeaux on Friday, I had read about it, worked out what we should see, all planned out perfectly. But, the sun was glorious (68 degrees) and the thought of negotiating the city ring-road then finding a decent campsite was so not appealing, instead we headed for Mimizan Plage. Yes another beach but this one was slightly different in that its backed by the highest sand dunes in Europe, all 75 ft of them. We parked one side of the dune and climbed over to see mile after mile of Atlantic beach sweeping down from the dunes. When we climbed to top of it was fairly odd to see the amount of buildings on top, I guess the dunes must be stable but seeing houses and bars perched on the top was not what we expected. The dunes here at Mimizan are obviously slightly less protected than those a little further up the coast, having said that they allow ‘dune surfing’even at the highest points of the dunes.

(Photo below is to show the dunes in their glory, no I didn’t take it, it’s not that sunny but we do like to post a blue sky photo for Chris Flush 🙂 ).

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Of course the pre-requisite ocean surfer dudes were out in force, I could spend hours watching them surf, the whole idea of throwing myself into a freezing cold tunnel of water is not one I can comprehend so I am fascinated by others who spend hours doing just that.  After watching for a while and taking several hundred photos, hoping for one cool surfer pic, we headed off for a walk to Mimizan town. After walking for around 2.5 miles there was no sign of any town just houses, so we gave up and walked back. Then we checked where the town actually was, ah being 5 miles away would be the reason we never got there! We made do with the one tourist shop open at the beach and both agreed that we really didn’t need any further retail therapy. Sometime later we discover that Mimizan Plage has its own little town centre, just over the bridge from us! This was the type of thing we were looking for, cafes, surf shacks, tourist shops and more hippy and surf shops than you could shake your beads and boards at a on damp November afternoon.

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According to the sign on the barrier we are staying on the Helicopter Station aire, it’s pretty ace if a little reminiscent of an Aldi car-park. There are 85 parking bays, if someone parks in the one next to us our wing mirrors will be touching and we will be able to tap on their window without leaving the van. It is probably half full, every van other than us is French and every one is a mega top of the range van. The twin axle 8 metre monster next to us lowers all his blinds automatically with a remote control, the other side of us had so much white leather in their 5 Star Pilote our eyes hurt just peeking in their windows:). The French do motorhoming with so much more style than most, not only their incredible vans, the women are wandering around in catwalk outfits with leather trousers and high heeled boots, the tables are set for lunch with little checked tablecloths and bottles of wine – obviously we stand out like a sore thumb, enough said :).

It had to happen sometime and Saturday it did – it rained – it rained hard. From when we got up until early afternoon there were very grey skies and lots of rain. It wasn’t particularly cold or windy, just wet. We spent the morning in the van doing some housework, catching up on emails, writing blogs and researching places to see and stay in the next few weeks. The whole question on the best way to Greece came up again, tying to get a quote on the ferry company websites is nearly impossible, We emailed a few and had a response from one with what seems a good quote within 5 minutes, it may be we are travelling on Endeavour Lines  purely as they bothered to answer us.  Luckily as we were getting fed up with planning the sun was peeking back out and it was dry so we managed a stroll along the beach to blow the cobwebs away from the mornings confinement.

This morning (Sunday) was a total contrast, sun out and warm, so it was time to get the bikes off again. We are on the EV1 cycle path (Norway to Spain via GB) so it would be rude not cycle a little bit of it along to Contis, 15 miles down the coast. The path is fairly new tarmac, all off road and runs a mile or so inland from the coast through the forests. We came across something that has been a minor concern a few times in the last week; people with guns! We have regularly seen people in the various forests we have been to who are out shooting with rifles and dogs, this in itself doesn’t concern us; more that the shooters all wear florescent orange hats which we assume is to prevent them shooting each other by making them more visible. So if they need orange hats to stop them shooting each other are cyclists fair game? We survived the gauntlet of shooters and found Contis to be another tiny surfers village on the beach, all the usual touristy bits but it was a little different in more of a wild west wooden huts feel going on down the main street. Only one cafe open so we stopped for coffee before heading back to Mimizan at a leisurely pace.

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The big news to end the week is we have had a change of itinerary – we are no longer heading for Spain. Our main reason for going was to find some sunshine for three weeks and sit on a beach. We have re-considered this for several reasons;

  • a) its one hell of a drive to get there just to sit on a beach
  • b) we are currently already sitting on a beach here
  • c) sunshine in December isn’t guaranteed here or there
  • d) in the spirit of adventure Spain is not new to us
  • e) we really are a bit hooked on France

Thus we have a new pencil line on the map, it now heads inland above Toulouse, through to Millau  and then its undecided on whether to go to the Mediterranean coast or stay inland and experience winter in Provence on route to Italy. Our trusty atlas is very blank for this new route, in relation to the coloured sticker planning approach we adopt for routes (yellow dots for aires, green dots for campsites, red dots for anything else we should see). We will have to trust Snooper and Camperstop to find us some good places to stay on route as we think its going to be much quieter inland and a quick look in the ACSI book  and a scan on the internet doesn’t seem to show too much open in the way of campsites. The only definite on the route as it stands is one of the meccas for campervans -the Millau bridge, lets hope its a clear day when we get there as its one hell of a drive if we can’t see it for fog!!

After sleeping on the plan last night we both still think the cutting of Spain is a fairly good idea. Without a doubt the weather will change and be glorious down there over the next couple of days but we have made our camper-bed and will lie on it somewhere in Provence instead of the Costas.

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8 thoughts on “Week 4 France – Landes, Aquitaine

  1. Good to read that you’ve found a comfortable pace for your travels. Think you’ve made the right decision to enjoy what’s on your doorstep and not rush to get to a final destination. Flattered to know you think of me when you compose some of your photo shots LOL. Like others look forward to reading your latest update. Cheers to both.

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    • We are both enjoying the slower pace now that France seems to work on. How that will work for Italy we wait to see 🙂

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  2. So you’ve become Francophiles too! It’s really great just to go with the flow, enjoy.

    Don’t know if you plan on driving over the Viaduc, I did, cost €10 ish for my 23ft, it’s an amazing experience and you get a great view from the services and an exhibition on the building of it.

    Put the Pont-du-Gard on your to visit list too …

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    • ok, Pont Du Gard added to itinerary! thanks for that, looks amazing and we would have missed it without your tip x

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  3. Really enjoying your blog once again but am just a little jealous…we should have been in France right now but have had to put it on hold for a little while. Next week perhaps. So glad you are enjoying France as much as we do.

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    • weather still amazing for this time of year, never knew how much we were missing by not touring in France.

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  4. Better pictures of the Millau Bridge than I managed to take – and you have an etap card! We didn’t and moved on twice. Also missed the Kinghts Templar thing as a result. Well done. Keep it up. Roland

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    • We have 2 etap cards! We struggled for ages and ended up buying two, you can have one if we catch up with you sometime 🙂

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