This week started with the much anticipated vet visit in Bordeaux to assess our dog Lizzy for cataract surgery. Our vet Dr. Vet. Goulle was just as excellent as he was recommended to be, friendly, professional and reassuring. His assessment though was that Lizzy was between 0 and 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 0 was completely blind 🥲. She does though manage incredibly well with what bit of peripheral vision she does have, but it reassured us that the operation was worth the risk, as she will only be 8 years old in May.
Therefore, she is now booked in on Monday for a retinography to check her retinas are working behind all the cataracts and it is therefore worth the effort to remove them. We are confident she has some vision and therefore this should be a formality. After that she has 4 weeks with some pre-treatment drops before her cataract op at the beginning of May, plus we need to be around for a succession of follow up appointments. Therefore, when we finally got back from the vets early evening on Monday, we had yet more replanning to do.
We had decided to stay at a campsite in Bordeaux on Monday night that we had stayed in before, as it was only 10 minutes drive from the vets. Hitting the rush hour as we returned, we were pleased not to have to travel further. We booked in for 2 nights and most of the next day was spent, rebooking ferries, arranging for our house to be looked after for longer and rearranging numerous other appointments etc we had planned. However, as we have other holidays with friends and family and the Rugby World Cup in France this summer in France, it only really worked out to do this operation here.
We did manage to get a walk around the Bordeaux Lacs, in what became a very pleasant sunny afternoon. A sign of the times sadly to see a tent community living in the woods around the lake though. When we returned, we had a nice chat with our new Scottish neighbours and a German lady with a border terrier, it seems that as Easter draws closer the visitors are heading out.
The next few days we spend exploring further north on Arcachon bay, first to Andernos-Les-Bains, then on to Arès. Andernos-Les-Bains was the bigger town of the two, with a central street of shops, restaurants and bars. We stayed in the Aire on the edge of town behind the many colourful oyster shacks, many converted to restaurants as well.
We had a lovely walk around the bay and out onto the pier. Although, as it was low tide, Lola saw a bird to chase and went belly deep into the mud in pursuit 😳🥴 We had to beg the use of the outside shower at the sailing club to unceremoniously hose her off and Lizzy too after she jumped all over her in the celebration of her hunting! 😂 That night we slept to the sound of a cacophony / orchestra of frogs in the woods and wetlands behind us.
At Arès we had a lovely spot right on the beach and had a lovely walk and then a fantastic lunch at the oyster shacks just beyond the town. The great French offering of a menu of the day of three courses which was only €20 including a chunky piece of tuna for main is so much better value than we get at home.
We had thought to head to Cap-Ferret next after a tip from a French neighbour and because we like the name. Although we did see a boy with ferrets in his pet-carrier backpack one day, it does not however seem to be the home of ferrets. However, when we stopped at the woodland park up near Cap-Ferret seemed to be swarm of flea like larvae falling from the trees. Several fell on the windscreen as soon as we stopped. It did not feel inviting, so we headed north up the peninsular created by the great Gironde estuary.
It was a longer drive than we expected down very long (10km+) straight roads through yet more pine woodland. According to one sign we saw further south, these woods did not exist 200 years ago and have been planted to protect the dunes. We stopped in an Aire in Montalivet-Les-Bains by the beach to the Atlantic, despite the howling winds. We attempted our usual beach walk, but we were heavy sandblasted. Lizzy was the best equipped as we have bought her goggles to wear for her post-op recuperation and she was on her first day of acclimatisation. However, we decided to move on after the wind did not die down as forecast in the evening and we woke to opaque windows due to the salt encrustation which Montalivet-Les-Bains provide,.
Belatedly and possibly ignorantly, we only realised we were in the Medoc wine region when we looked for our next stay. We therefore chose our first vineyard stop amongst the vines. We chose Chateaux Pierre de Montignac who provide a motorhome Aire under the French Passion scheme. We did not want to drive there too early, as obviously wine tasting would be required. So we stopped off for a carwash, diesel and supermarket then on to the banks of Gironde at Port Richard at the lighthouse there for a picnic lunchstop.
The Gironde is as vast as you imagine from the Google earth images. The lighthouse was a little modest, being an inland marker. However the row of fishing huts with their nets extending on booms into the water were interesting and looked like something out of Thailand or similar rather than France.
The family run vineyard of Chateaux Pierre de Montignac were very welcoming, but then across their hotel, Aire and vineyard they have over 6000 visitors a year and sell most of their wine (surprisingly) to USA and Switzerland. Romain, our host gave us an informative tour of his impressive cellar, with Cabernet Sauvignon in oak barrels and Merlot interestingly in concrete. The biggest wine seller of this region being a mixture of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and another local grape variety, two of my favourites. As we are now delayed in France for another few weeks we took the opportunity to add to our stocks before retiring to the van for the Heineken Cup rugby.
Last night we sleep to almost perfect silence with just an owl breaking the peace. This morning being the creatures of habit we have become we retired to the Aire in Taussat and La Plantaine restaurant for Sunday lunch, where we were greeted as locals. However, after 5 months of travelling out of season, this week when we arrived at the Aire we are finally “in season” and we had to pay €10 for the night, which seemed entirely reasonable having been here 3 weeks running.