Nice on €10 a day

Nice on €10 a day

Nice on €10 a day - 01

Every time we come here, the same thing happens:

Me: Keith?

Keith: Yep.

Me: Why don’t we live in Nice?

Keith: Don’t know, love.

Nice on €10 a day - 02

We bloody love Nice. We’ve been here quite a few times and it’s always just brilliant. I can’t put my finger on what it is that we love so much about Nice. It is quite a lot like Brighton with sun, but surely that can’t be it? Can it? We have come to the conclusion that we like everywhere that’s like Brighton with sun, so maybe that’s part of it, but Nice is just small enough, cool enough, sunny enough and interesting enough to keep us entertained. This visit was at the end of a weird and very busy week so I hadn’t had time to get my head around the fact that we were going away.

Nice on €10 a day - 03

Nice on €10 a day - 04

We set off at 4am to Gatwick and halfway through the afternoon, I found myself laughing out loud shouting ‘We’re in Nice’ as the reality finally hit me. I once had a minor mental breakdown here on my own (after Keith had caught an earlier flight home than me to go somewhere for work) and almost didn’t come home. Still wonder if I made the right choice. By now I would have fitted right in with the leathery elderly gents and ladies who frequent the beach during the day and probably sleep under a sunbed at night just to get their fix.

Nice on €10 a day - 05

Who could not love a place where you can swim in the sea and get horrifically sunburned within an hour in October. Idiots.

I first came to Nice 18 years ago in a time when it had a bad reputation. Guidebooks warned of pickpockets, dodgy happenings on the beach and a general sense that you needed to watch your back. It was a place where no one really wanted to go. Seedy, sleazy and full of dog shit. Since then, Nice has cleaned up its act and is now a very nice place to be. The city has had a whole bunch of money pumped into its redevelopment including a tram network, multiple public pieces of art and most recently, a fantastic new park in the middle of the city complete with squirty fountains and enormous wooden creatures for kids to climb all over.

Nice on €10 a day - 06

Nice on €10 a day - 07

This time we’re here on a budget as this is our new existence. This trip was booked when we still had jobs and cash so is a big of a hangover from the ‘Old Life’, but it was paid for so we had to come. In actual fact, we never spend much money in Nice. Buses to anywhere along the whole Cote D’Azur only cost €1.50. There’s something really joyful about going to Monaco on a bus for €1.50 and buying nothing more than an ice cream in the most stupidly, tackily affluent place in Europe. Once we went to the Casino at Monte Carlo and spent €5 on the slot machines. Living dangerously and hoping that some multi-billionaire would decide that his ‘Lady Luck’ for the day was a scruffy, slightly overweight sunburned middle-aged woman. Let me dream.

Nice on €10 a day - 08

This weekend we went in the other direction west to St Paul de Vence, made famous by none other than Bill Wyman in his classic hit, Je suis un rock star. It goes like this:

Je suis un rock star, j’avez une residence,Je habitez la dans la south de France,Voulez-vous partir with me,And come and restez la with me in Vence.

I knew the words without having to look them up because I remember reading and learning them from Smash Hits in 1981, and despite not remembering what I’m supposed to be doing tomorrow, I do know all the lyrics of Je suis un rock star. Thanks, brain, most helpful choice of data storage criteria applied there.

Nice on €10 a day - 09

Actually St Paul de Vence is made more famous by the likes of Chagall, Picasso and Matisse who all shacked up there for quite some time and have now turned the place in a crumbly bunch of expensive art galleries and posh restaurants. It is a really pretty place perched on top of an outcrop of rock an hour on the bus from Nice.

Nice on €10 a day - 10

Nice on €10 a day - 12

It is fair to say that house prices in St Paul de Vence are what you might call ‘bloody ridiculous’. This little number is up for sale for €450,000 and you don’t even get the shop underneath in order to sell overpriced Matisse prints in order to pay your astronomical mortgage. Worthing suddenly looks like excellent value, despite the lack of sun, romance, character… I’ll stop there before I depress myself.

Nice on €10 a day - 11

In St Paul de Vence, I think I found my calling in life. Two of my best favourite things in life are French villages and tidying up. So, what better job could there be than a French village hooverer? That was his real job. I would bloody love that. I wonder what qualifications you need. I would have got a better picture, but the fella saw me following him pretending to take photos of the surrounding houses unconvincingly. He could probably tell I was after his job.

Nice on €10 a day - 13

 

St Paul de Vence also progressed a new hobby which we started in Somo, near Santander on our bike trip: Life imitates art. I think this could catch on and go viral. I am wondering how best to set up a platform for other contributions to this fascinating new trend.

Nice on €10 a day - 14

Nice on €10 a day - 15

Once we returned to Nice from St Paul de Vence we found that we couldn’t stop.

Nice on €10 a day - 16

Nice on €10 a day - 17

We also have a favourite jam shop in Nice which sells a particular Lavendar jam that Keith is somewhat partial to.

Nice on €10 a day - 18

The shop is run by the owner and jam-maker himself who revealed himself on this visit as what can only be described as ‘a bit right wing’ on this occasion. I have read that the French do not balk at the topic of politics in polite conversation as we Brits might and quite enjoy a rousing debate, feeling no compulsion to agree out of good manners with what is being said. We discovered that Jam Man had no problem with contributing to the payment of welfare benefits to the unemployed, as long as they didn’t drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. He was positive about Sarkosy and had nothing but ‘boffs’ and disdain for Hollande. He didn’t mind the Polish, but wasn’t so keen on the Romanians or the Arabs, but none of these were as bad as the Russians, who were mafia and had too much money and no manners. If we’d have stayed longer I think we could have a jolly old time finding out his views on gay marriage. Oh, and he thought David Cameron was a good bloke. He does make lovely jam though. Keith has asked him for job in his jam shop twice but he either thinks we’re joking or is ignoring us.

Nice on €10 a day - 19

We always have ice cream in Nice. Our usual summertime dinner is take-away pizza, bottle of €1 fizzy wine, bottle of cassis and two chocolate moelleux puddings from the Lac Chocolatier shop in the old town, whilst sitting on the beach watching the sun go down, with the option of an evening swim while you’re at it. It’s an expensive night out for €17, but sometimes you just gotta push the boat out.

Nice on €10 a day - 20

Early sunsets in October mean no beach dinners this time but we managed an ice cream from our up-until-now favourite ice cream shop, which we will never visit again because the woman behind the counter wouldn’t let me take a photo of the ice cream in the shop, even though I was buying one, and even though publishing it on this blog would have rocketed her profits by at least €2 a year for the rest of her life. So, screw her. We shall go elsewhere. Yes, I am that churlish, don’t mess with me. Here is a photo of some cakes from the lovely Lac Chocolatier who did let me take a photo. Shame they don’t sell ice cream, but loads of other places do in Nice, it’s a bit of a thing (near to Italian border).

Nice on €10 a day - 21

We also came home with a new addition to our family on this trip. Sitting on the pavement all alone, we found Guillaume.

Nice on €10 a day - 22

He wasn’t called Guillaume when we found him (or was he?), but he didn’t look like his rightful owner would come back and get him, so we rescued him. Is he a lamb? Is he a dog? The jury is out, but he is Guillaume and he now lives in Worthing. Considering he used to live in Nice, I’m not sure we’ve done him any favours now I come to think of it.

Nice on €10 a day - 23

Nice is the kind of place that doesn’t have a ton of must-sees, it’s perfectly fine to just wander. There’s the Vieux Ville (Old Town), the Promenade des Anglais, the beach, the port, the cheap bus rides to anywhere along the coast in both directions, the food, the markets; really just the general laid-back ambience of a warm seaside city.

As someone once said: ‘If you’re tired of Nice, you’re tired of ice cream’.

I think it was me.

Nice on €10 a day - 24

Cost of trip:

Flights cost us £79.00 each – British Airways out, Easyjet back. We walked from the airport to our accommodation- Nice airport is about 4 miles along the beach from the centre. Bus ticket in costs €6 each (saving of €24). We decided to save the money and got somewhere to stay mid-way between airport and centre so neither felt too far in one stretch. We got a studio at the Adagio Access Nice Magnan which wasn’t the cheapest at £70.00 per night (Airbnb had studios for €34 a night when I looked later). Advantange of the apartment was that it had a kitchen including fridge, hotplate and microwave. This saved us a whopping fortune on hotel breakfast (saving of €34.60 in our aparthotel) and dinners out. We spent a total of €60 in 3 days. This bought us 2 x breakfasts for two people, 3 x lunches for two, 2 x dinners for two, bus tickets to/from St Paul de Vence, 2 x ice creams. We ate granola, yogurt, juice, coffee, rotisserie chicken, Dauphinoise potatoes, salad, Camembert, ham, tomatoes, bread, chocolate pudding, chocolate, soup and fromage blanc. We always take plastic cutlery and a tupperware box for storing, carrying and mixing stuff. Fill it with pants and socks in your luggage and it takes up no room.

The Cote D’Azur, where even the toilets have charm.

Nice on €10 a day - 25

Day 14: Biarritz – San Sebastian. 52km.

Day 14: Biarritz – San Sebastian. 52km.

Photograph of Sarah standing next to a sign saying 'Espagne' on a bridge.

We made it to Spain. 826km. Cue all manor of hilarity at the border whilst one of us remains in France and the other in Spain.

‘It feels like we’re countries apart’.

‘You and I speak different languages’.

‘Men are from Spain; women are from France’.

And so on until tedium set in.

I’ve always wondered about people who live on either side of a border. Some people must have next door neighbours who speak different languages to them and have a different postman. That must be so weird.

It rained solidly all morning. This is my third visit to Northern Spain and each time it has pissed it down. Touristically, they call this region ‘Green Spain’, which is of course a euphemism for ‘pisses it down’.

After the baking hot, colourful palette of Southern France, Northern Spain wasn’t tempting us in. The landscape is deciduous, verdant and mountainous. It is hard work and, in this weather, not even rewarded with vast Pyrenean vistas. The ups are long but the payoffs on the downs worth it. We get up to 53km/hr today which is a bit hairy on a fully loaded bike on a wet road, but it’s got to be done.

Photograph of rainy bridge which marks the border between France and Spain at Irun.

 

We managed to get in to San Sebastian with no problems despite web-based cycle forum concerns about the route and arrived to a wet city in the middle of its annual La Semana Grande festival week. We were expecting a soggy afternoon wandering around in the gloom.

Photograph of rainy, crowded street in San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, Spain.

 

Things don’t always turn out like they seem. A couple of hours after the above shot was taken, we took this one.

Photograph of Sarah laughing on the promenade at Biarritz, France.

The sun came out, people swam in the sea and we fell in love with San Sebastian.

Photograph of cloudy skies over Biarritz beach, France.

Photograph of Old Town San Sebastian.

Photograph of beachfront San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain.

 

 

 

Set around a huge sandy bay, La Concha, the city has an old town with a reputation for pintxos (big tapas mostly on bread) and a strong Basque feel to the place. You get a sense that these people know how to have a good time and a good fight for a cause. There are more dreadlocks per sq.km here than I’ve seen for many a year. Only a few hours cycle from Biarritz, but a different atmosphere completely.

Tonight’s intrepidity takes on the purchase of pintxos. With careful observation of the ‘deal’ prior to making my move, I boldly manage to pertain two plates of pintxos and wine in two different bars. I am now Queen of all things Spain. Keith just doesn’t do this kind of stuff. He isn’t brave and struggles with languages (even English). He would just go without. I hate to be beaten by a bocadillo (sandwich). The food is excellent, home-cooked and delicious. Mostly we’re not entirely sure what it is. We’re just glad it’s not another sodding cheese and ham sandwich.

Photograph of Keith in a bar in San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain, eating pinxos and drinking copa vino blanco.

 

Keith, of course, has no compunction about sharing the spoils of my hunting expedition, although I usually have to taste it first and declare it ‘free of gunk’. ‘Gunk’ being mayonnaise, vinegar, relish, ketchup, etc. My beloved is an (autistic) princess with a few specific food preferences. It’s fine; he’s my wing-man and coach who sits in my corner and waits for me to return from the fray of the big world out there. He looks after me in many other ways and I get to eat more, so we have no complaints. The atmosphere is friendly and helpful towards our obvious foreignness. All ages are out, from families to older people. Many people seem to know each other. It feels nice.

Photograph of churros in a brown paper bag and chocolate sauce in a plastic cup on a wall overlooking San Sebastian beach and sea.

Pudding is churros y chocolat on the beach at 10pm. We have failed to shift into Spanish meal time and are eating dessert before most people have consulted the menu for dinner. It’s just too late to be eating; we can’t cope with it. This is the only thing worth eating which makes my eyes hurt (it’s a sugar thing, I have). We had two plates of tapas, four glasses of wine, a bag of churros and two hot chocolates for €40. We have feasted. Full bellies and very tired.

Not time for bed though. As part of La Semana Grande which features a week long day and night programme of free music on stages across the city, raft races across the bay and all sorts of other stuff, there is an International Fireworks competition. Each night, a competitor from a different country puts on a firework display and at the end of the week someone is awarded the Golden Conch. All prestigious stuff, apparently. Literally thousands of people line the streets at 10.45pm each night to watch these displays. It’s good natured, no hassle, no grief.

Photograph of fireworks in a dark sky, San Sebastian International Firework Festival.

 

I know it’s a rubbish photo. We only have a mobile phone to upload from (and write with – hence typos). It was pretty impressive. We have no idea how one judges a fireworks competition. It all seems quite random with not much of a plot, but marvellous all the same. Again, as in Biarritz, I found the stimuli overwhelming and felt totally drained and exhausted from a few hours in a busy place.

Photograph of the beach in San Sebastian at night with lights from buildings in the background.

 

San Sebastian has been a big and pleasant surprise on this trip. We weren’t even sure whether to bother stopping here. We’ve had such an incredibly happy day. It is a fabulous place and one we will definitely return to, although probably not during La Semana Grande next time unless I bring my headphones/ear defenders. Brilliant, but there’s only so much fun a sensorily sensitive girl can take.

Day 13: Biarritz. Rest day.

Day 13: Biarritz. Rest day.

Me: We should learn to surf.
Keith: I don’t want to.
Me: Why?
Keith: Because its completely bloody pointless.

Hard to argue with that, but I so want to be cool. Just for once.

Photograph of Biarritz beach and bay taken from top of cliff looking south.

 

It seems like everyone surfs here. Or pretends to. Unless you are an elderly lady who’s had ‘some work done’ who can’t surf because she has to look after her ridiculously small dog and her extensive collection of leopard print garments. Or one of the many gentlemen getting away with a specific shade of salmon pink trouser that would not be tolerated in Britain without homophobic comment being passed.

Photograph of surfers at dusk, Biarritz, France.

Today we had ice cream made by a ‘Champion du Monde’ in the ice cream field. As an ice cream maker myself, I was keen to see if his claims had any merit and if perhaps living in Biarritz could be achieved after all if I could open an ice cream shop to rival his (yet another use for Keith’s redundancy money). Suffice to say it’s back to the drawing board. We both had to concede that this could well be the best ice cream in the world. Rare and high praise not lightly given.

Photograph of two pots of Thierry Bamas ice cream on a Biarritz pavement.

 

The number of flavours were limited to about 14 – none of your messing about with fancy shit – and were just sublime. Keith had vanilla and blackcurrant and violet. I had raspberry sorbet and salted caramel. Divine. Biarritz is very much a French holiday resort as its not too easy to get to. Ryanair fly there from the UK. That would be worth suffering for a Thierry Bamas ice cream.

The other thing that feels nice about Biarritz is that alongside all the hoards of tourists, it’s a real town with real residents, even if they are a bit bonkers. It’s a bit like Brighton with sand. The market was packed on a Sunday morning. As not very brave travellers, we are frequently beaten by markets and other local establishments that have rules that we don’t know. We often queue for ages and appear to be overlooked only to discover that their was a ‘system’, despite the fact that it looked like the last thing that could ever possibly be in existence was a ‘system’. More often than not, we give up and scuttle off to a supermarket where we can pick up what we need without having to speak to anyone or get it wrong, but feeling like complete failures for our ineptitude at basic level intrepidness and bad about not supporting local tradespeople. If they would only form an orderly queue like civilised people, this wouldn’t have to happen. Perhaps we should move here and teach them a thing or two. Moving to warm, sunny places is a bit of theme in our lives.

Photograph of interior of Biarritz market with stalls and lots of people.

Photograph of vegetables on market stall in Biarritz Market, France.

But today wasn’t one of those days that we would be beaten by locally grown agricultural products. Today I win at markets. And it feels good. Small victories are claimed by cowards.

Today we also win at Basque cake. They come in three flavours: custard, chocolate and cherry, so we had all three. As Keith says in times of such deliberation: ‘It’s not an ‘or’ situation; it’s an ‘and’.’

Photograph of three Gateaux Basques cakes on a plate.

The cakes are ground almond based so super squidgy and moist. All were good, but custard just too sweet.

Biarritz being on the Atlantic is therefore tidal, so at certain times of the day,the beautiful golden sand beach of the main bay disappears.

Photograph of Biarritz surf beach on a sunny day with swimmers and surfers in the sea.
And all of the thousands of people have to find somewhere to tan their beautiful selves, so they pop round the corner to the town beach which doesn’t all get swallowed in sea. This was all a bit much for us (me, mainly). Too busy, too noisy, too visually overwhelming. Some of these people must have been before and know what it’s like, and come back for more year after year. This is puzzling. We do not comprehend such behaviour. We conclude that some people like to sit this close to other people and don’t get stressed about stepping on other people’s towels or losing their kids. They actually find it relaxing and fun. We are not those people. We have to live in a world populated by these people. This is harder than you may think. I am in awe of those people and wish I was that laid back.

Photograph of a packed beach in Biarritz, France.

We spent our final evening here watching CSI on telly and wishing we didn’t have to get back on the road tomorrow. Tomorrow means Spain, which means poor maps, poor planning, mountains and horror stories about how hard it is to get into San Sebastian on a bicycle.

Day 12: Hossegor – Biarritz. 49km.

Day 12: Hossegor – Biarritz. 49km.

Even I hate me right now. I’m writing this on the beach at Biarritz. Which, much to my surprise is quite reminiscent of Newquay.

We saw our first sight of the Pyrenees today. That’s where we’re heading after a week of being spoiled with virtually zero altitude.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 01

The ride into Biarritz wasn’t all great due to big, noisy roads through Bayonne, but it was a short day for us so felt good to get there not too shattered. Learned a lot on this trip about how far is enough to cycle in a day. Busy road through Bayonne but pretty flat and warm.

Lovely apartment (budget blown, it was all we could find), so lovely we decided to stay an extra day and commit to eating sand for a week. It was the fridge that did it. So, Le Grand Large becomes home for two days. They even have a clothes airer so no need for the washing line strangling you in the night when you go for a wee.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 02The view from our balcony. We are so happy. We would like to live here forever. Having done my customary search of estate agents (major interest and subject of expertise of mine. Just call me Jasmine), buying anything more substantial than a doormat for our nonexistent home is not going to be possible in Biarritz.
Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 03

As usual I have one leg covered in bike grease. No amount of swanky French seaside resort will change that. This means that I’m not finding a particularly warm welcome from hotel receptionists. Sweat, grease and an eternal bad hair day (no French woman would ever been seen in such disarray) probably explain it. Sometimes I send Keith in as they seem kinder to him. Sweat being manly and all that maybe. Keith is delighted for any opportunity to appear manly as, by his own admission, it is not an adjective that frequently features in any description of him. I’m considering having a tattoo if bike grease on my leg as memento, but then I would just look like I had a dirty leg forever.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 04

Spent the afternoon and evening wandering around Biarritz. Its an odd, ramshackle little town, smaller than I expected and more messy – alleys, tiny beaches and rocks sticking out the sea rather than a pristine, glamorous promenade. It is reminiscent of Newquay, as I said, or Ilfracombe, apart from the sun, house prices and leathery elderly ladies.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 05

 

We had a luxury dinner on our balcony complete with €2 fizzy wine (its usually €1 but this is Biarritz, dahling). We mostly picnic because it’s cheaper and doesn’t involve communicating with anyone. Our mutual list of food choices is fairly limited: Keith has a whole bunch of stuff that he won’t eat through preference – fish, anything with anything which may have come into any kind of contact with vinegar – and I am affected negatively by a load of foods – namely, caffeine, sugar, sweeteners, sugar/carbs of all kinds. You will see that I often ignore my issues with sugar and stuff my face with it, which causes several subsequent hours of mental and physical discomfort. Luckily for us, not only are we both perfectly happy to eat the same foods for weeks at a time, the few mutually available foods we have are all things that we love.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 06

 

We spent the evening wandering round town. It’s packed. So many people everywhere. Nice to be somewhere with a bit of life after roadside motels and rural houses. Getting our bearings and starting to like this place. Its has a bit of the feel of Brighton to it. Bit quirky, lots of crazy characters but small enough to feel at home in.

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 07

Day 12 Hossegor – Biarritz - 08

Our night ended watching a spectacular electrical storm over the Bay of Biscay with lightning flashes literally every few seconds. Delighted to be here. Feels like a proper holiday today.

Day 11: Mimizan – Hossegor. 81km.

Day 11: Mimizan – Hossegor. 81km.

Every morning, Keith starts his day by lifting each bike to check that he is carrying more weight than me. This seems to make him happy. I have convinced him that the weight of the responsibility of organising our route and food is equal to him lugging around an extra few kilos. He appears to have bought this.

We’re definitely in the Basque region now. There are places names that don’t belong in France: Kometeykoborda, Xapatainbaita, Larrerxeberria. Not a clue. My paltry French surrenders.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 01
Buildings and churches are more Spanish, more Alpine (or Pyrenean) rather than southern French.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 02

Today we got rained on heavily, saw plenty of lightning and got roasted on the beach at Vieux-Bocau, one of the many dune-backed Atlantic surf beaches along this coast.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 03

Finally managed to get Keith to come swimming today (Keith 1 – Sarah 4). He’s only went in the sea for the first time about 7 years ago (he hated the idea of it as a child) and forgets every time how much he loves it. Properly forgets and gets all uppity when I try to remind him. My Dad was a big sea swimmer (my Mum never went in) and I grew up mostly in the water on holidays. I try and persuade Keith over and over again, he eventually he gives in (although on the previous 3 swims I had on this trip, he didn’t) with a ‘do I have to say yes to everything you say?’ then spends the rest of the time laughing his head off and saying how lovely it is. I need to video him so he can remember.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 04

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 05

Had another food blog fail. Bought local Landais brioche which is traditionally flavoured with rum, vanilla and orange flowers and ate half of it before remembering we’re supposed to be documenting these adventures.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 06

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 07

Rest assured it was incredibly good, despite a serving suggestion of having it with custard, sand seemed to be more than an adequate accompaniment. On the subject of beach food, I resurrected a melted bar of chocolate by taking it into the sea to cool it hard again. This worked a treat despite water getting through the wrapper and leaving an undeniably salty taste to the chocolate. Not enough to stop us eating it though.

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 08

More storms predicted and looming this evening. We’re in a motel. Campsites and most hotels completely full. Luckily this room has space for 2 bicycles (and a washing line).

Day 11 Mimizan – Hossegor - 09

Tomorrow to Biarritz, to hang our pants with the glitterati.

Day 9: Arcachon. Rest day.

Day 9: Arcachon. Rest day.

Photograph of sand dune and blue sea beyond

This is the Dune de Pyla. Its just fantastic. About 117m high and almost as long. A great slab of sand on the Atlantic coast of France. It shifts inland every year. I know someone who came on holiday here as a kid and stayed in one of the campsites which back on to the dune. He remembers swimming pools which are no longer there having been swallowed by the sand. I’ve been on holiday here a couple of times and both my kids have had birthdays here. Jess got to leap off the top strapped to a complete stranger with a parachute canopy. Its a thing here.

Photograph of Sarah standing on Dune de Pyla with trees in the background.

The dune is extraordinarily steep on one side and brings out that innate human instinct to run headlong down things knowing that its only sand and won’t hurt. It has to be done and is worth every moment of looking like a squealing idiot. Rare moments of freedom of movement for the physically cronky and unadventurous are to be snatched without hesitation.

Photograph taken from top of sand dune at Pyla looking out to Arcachon Bay.

 

Keith being artistic with his sandals. I said artistic.

Photograph of brown leather sandals on top of sand dune.
The dune is on the edge of the Bassin d’Arcachon, a huge natural bay famous for its oysters. These photos don’t do the place justice for its scale and general stunningness.

Photograph of Pyla sand dune with the sea in the background.

Photograph of Pyla huge sand dune with people climbing up it.

Apart from climbing up and running down an enormous sand dune, we happily filled our fridge with food that has to be in a fridge because we haven’t had one for a week. Small pleasures are appreciated when they have been absent. Cheese that’s not sweating more than I am, for one.

We also took a trip to Decathlon for more inner tubes as I keep getting punctures. I’d like to say that Decathlons in France are one of my favourite shops. Where else can you buy a 14′ canoe, full horse riding kit and a fishing rod all in one place? English Decathlons are rubbish as we don’t have the environment to do all these brilliant outdoor activities just as a matter of normal existence. Loads of people in France have 14′ canoes. Why not? Plenty of rivers.

Photograph of Keith eating yogurt on hotel balcony in Arcachon, France.

And like the classy hotel clientele we are, we have dinner, hang up washing and change tyres (and explode tyres as Keith pumped this one up too far) on our 4 star ‘design’ balcony. Note the juxtaposition of the urban industrial metal with the organically arranged bamboo and the plastic washing line.

Day 8: Hourtin- Arcachon. 116km.

Day 8: Hourtin- Arcachon. 116km.

So, it turns out that I really can’t count distances on maps. Way too far today, we were wrecked.

Started the day with a measly breakfast of peanut butter and jam bread. We’d never had both together before, but today, in the spirit of adventure, we gave it a go. It was better than expected but I won’t bother again. How many times have I said that in my life?

Photograph of canal entering Lake Hourtin with small motor boats lining each side.

Pretty much all cycle path today. Most of it through pine forests.

Photograph of a long straight cycle path through a forest with a signpost to various villages.

Some crazy stretches barely wide enough for a bike and so rough we were bouncing about trying not to come off into the sand.

The paths are busy near civilisation but are virtually empty in between.

Sarah cycling along a narrow cycle path in Aquitaine, France.

Two punctures for me today. Mid-forest repairs by the resident mechanic. My job is to feed him biscuits while he works.

Photograph of Keith fixing a bicycle puncture in a forest in France.

 

Photograph of Keith fixing a puncture in a shaded forest in France.The route south ran along the edge of this inland lake (its not the sea) near Hourtin.

Photograph of Lake Hourtin river beach and lake in background.
It also runs parallel to one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline with some well known surfing beaches, such as Lacanau where we had chorizo and cheese sandwiches for lunch as a variation from ham and cheese coz we’re just crazy like that.

Photograph of Arcachon seafront with promenade.

The last part of today’s ride was horrible. We had blown the budget by booking into the last room in the whole of Arcachon, which was a 4 star nonsense affair on an industrial estate outside of town on the other side of a dual carriageway. Not fun. Arrived at 7.30pm after 10 and half hours on the road. Never have I been so happy to see a weird plastic moulded wall in my life.

Interior photograph of Best Western Arcachon hotel room wall which is white moulded plastic.

Don’t ask. The rest of the room is purple. We’re at the Best Western Design and Spa Hotel. I am always suspicious of anywhere that states so definitively that it is a ‘design’ establishment. It means its going to be tacky and have tried too hard. This place is no exception. Someone has written a review on Tripadvisor wondering if the owner had a plastic moulding factory that was low on business as the place is full of Gaudi-like wobbly walls. My first thought was what a nightmare they’d be to dust. I don’t know why, its not as if I ever dust.

Most excitingly, our new home has a fridge. As of this moment, we have nothing to put in it.