It seemed a good idea at the time. Leaving Bordeaux – grey, uninspiring and rather too linear for my ragamuffin taste, for a visit to Arcachon on the Atlantic coast. We were rather hoping to pick up a boat at Thiers jetty and see the houses on stilts,admire the architecture – very New Orleans and chill suitably in a harbour café. But, no. The traffic into town was worse than Fahaheel on a Friday night. Customarily, we find pallets on which to lay a weary head very much along the lines of banging on the door and demanding entrance. I stopped the car outside a quite chic three star establishment. A concierge self-importantly informed me with a thin smile that there was nothing available in Arcachon. I made the mistake of not believing him and spent the next hour pleading importunately at hotel desks. “On a rien, monsieur” – the litany turned into a mantra. It seemed that the entire tourist population had descended on the town for purposes unspecified, traffic was choking and my temper was shortening by the minute. Short of stuffing a cushion up Gipsy’s front and asking if they might have a garage to spare, I was rapidly running out of ideas, and perhaps for the first time in my life felt a little like another weary traveller who got into town a bit late one night with nowhere to sleep. Eventually, even stables being unavailable I headed back towards Bordeaux and spotted a construction of glass and steel which turned out to be a four star spa resort hotel.
OK. The hell with the cost. King size beds, a thingy to plug your iPhone into and some very impressive facilities. Nine separate shower heads and a pool with aquabiking and jacuzzi. Nice…
We were close enough to town to see The Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe, formed during the eighteenth century from sand accumulated by west winds off the Atlantic. Feeling a little like taking coals to Newcastle, we climbed it, fortunately on a sunless morning; in the heat it would have felt like the Sahara. Surrounded by forest, nearly three kilometres long and five hundred metres wide, it’s an impressive slice of silicon dioxide, I have to say. Stairs take you to the summit, over a hundred metres in height. The view over Arcachon Bay would perhaps have been pleasanter at sunset, but, much like Joe and Mary, beggars could not be choosers.