A Much Improved French Week! The Southwest Coast
After our slightly fraught journey across France, we were happy to stay put for a few days and not find ourselves on the roads, fighting our way through blockades and traffic hell. We stayed for a few days in the sleepy but perfectly pleasant town of Rochefort (no not the cheesy one) before moving onto the major city and center of all things wine, Bordeaux.
Rochefort was sleepy but gave us a chance to get some laundry done and eat some epic crepes. Plus, there is a very impressive replica of the French naval frigate Hermione to see. We learned this was the ship that took General Lafayette to the US to help in the American Revolutionary War. For me, then all I could think of was the song from Hamilton: cue earworm for the rest of the day “LAFAYETTE … I need my right hand man back!”
Bordeaux had a whole lot more going on. We could have spent longer there if we weren’t so eager to press on to Spain. We’ll have to come back for another visit. We took the tram into the center from our campsite on the edge of the city. Bordeaux had everything we love about cities. A pretty old quarter, a hipster part where we picked up a few craft beers and paid too much to drink fancy coffee and a bustling neighborhood near the market teeming with North African eateries and lots of smells and sounds that were a treat for the senses. The soggy weather cleared up and we got to sit outside for lunch and enjoy some of the local wine. Hmmm….. I think this French wine stuff might catch on.
Knowing we could continue to find Bordeaux wine pretty much anywhere on the planet, we continued down the coast to Contis plage which was pretty much closed up for the winter and then onto Capbreton. There’s a fabulous aire right at the beach in Capbreton where we could stay among the dunes. The town still had bars and restaurants open and plenty of people around. We cycled into the town along the coast and around the harbor. It’s a big surfing area and it all seemed quite familiar. We were feeling that Southern California vibe; we could easily have been in Dana Point or San Clemente.
After a couple of days we moved onto another aire at Corsairs part way between Biarritz and Bayonne. Another great area made even better since the sun was still shining. We were still getting those SoCal vibes here but this area was much more like Newport Beach. Think mansions and people displaying their wealth more obviously, although I didn’t see as many “plastic” body parts on show. Biarritz seemed very lovely, although mostly closed while we were there. Clearly this is the time for restaurants and hotels to get all their refurbishments done. Still the cycling was fun with fantastic views and we found a lovely cafe run by an American woman where we enjoyed some excellent food.
We really liked this Southwest corner of France and I can see why it’s popular. The sun shone just enough for us to enjoy it but I would really like to come back at a different time of year. I wouldn’t want to be here in the height of summer since I am sure it’s a little crazy. However, a shoulder season when there would be a little more life and a few more places open would be great.
So France redeemed itself in our second week after not thrilling us at all during the previous seven days. We look forward to being back soon and exploring more but the time had come to get to Spain, the country we had decided to spend the rest of the winter. What are we waiting for?… ¡vamos!