Our trip started at a lovely grassed lakeside Aire on the Le Petit Lac at Gastes. Although at 3400 hectares, it is not small. Although its near neighbour, the Grand Lac, which we drove by, is 5600 hectares and the second largest lake in France. Le Petit Lac is used as a training ground for hydroplanes to practice take-off and landing, which could have been quite exciting viewing, depending on the expertise of the pilots, but sadly there were no planes to be seen today.
The weather had brightened though and I gratefully got back out on my bike once more for a lovely local circuit of 18 miles through some neighbouring villages and along some of the many miles of cycle tracks in the area, although there were a few long straight roads were not my favourite for cycling. The Aire was a lovely and peaceful spot and it was great to be able to sit out a little later now as the evenings are really opening out.
We then moved south to Basque Country with the occasional multi-lingual sign and several delicatessens selling local Basque products. The architecture is changing too, to wood framed buildings, some almost Alpine looking as we also head towards the Pyrenees. Thursday had forecasts of 25 degrees (☀️!) so we decided it was time to hit the beach. There is a golden sandy beach all down the South West coast of France so we had plenty to choose from. We opted for a small Aire near Messanges at the back of the sun dunes, nothing around except the equally expansive mainly pine forests which also lines this coast.
We had a couple of lazy beach side days, enjoying the sunshine. We got out the deckchairs and the barbecue and enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle. The beach was absolutely gorgeous, definitely a surfer’s beach with the crashing surf, but the soft sand as far of the eye could see was stunning. We slept to the sound of the surf at night and enjoyed being in nature. Lola especially enjoyed it, as we found there was large rabbit warrens all around us.
By Saturday though the weather had turned again and we headed towards Biarritz. A very familiar name, evoking images of glitz and glamour, which if I am honest I would have placed on the south coast, but was actually tucked away in this South West corner. We had to go and investigate.
We took a place on the Aire just back from Milady beach on the outskirts of the town on Saturday morning and walked in to explore. Although there still existed some of the original elegance of Biarritz, it clearly has not maintained its original popularity and sadly some of the later additions were not very sympathetic concrete construction. I think the original Basque capital of Bayonne, which neighbours Biarritz would be better to visit next time, but we were drawn by the famous name. We wandered around the old port area and the Art Deco style beach area, the coast of northern Spain clearly visible across the Bay of Biscay. We had hoped to sample French pintxos (tapas), as this Basque Country area shares more of its culinary heritage with Spain than France, but those that offered this flavour of cuisine were still closed for the winter.
We did manage to enjoy lunch in the sun with views of the Atlantic before the rain forecast for the afternoon. We walked back along the coast admiring the huge crashing surf in time for the final Super Saturday of the Six Nations. The rain then hit so heavily initially we were watching at full volume as it bounced off the roof. A well earned Grand Slam for Ireland rounded off this year’s tournament. The next major tournament will be the Rugby World Cup in France in September, for which we are lucky enough to have tickets. At least England’s performance against Ireland has given us greater optimism for those games than we had before.
Sunday morning we have moved onwards to the Pyrenees. It’s an area we have wanted to visit for a long time having driven close by several times. So our next blog instalment will report back from there 😀🗻😎