Where's Frankie?

En France

Friday 15th May

As last night wore on the weather deteriorated into scary time. We were on top of a mountain facing the sea and the wind was shaking Frankie about so much that Lucy wanted me to get up, move Frankie into some shelter and then get back into bed. She didn’t want to get up though so it would have been a bit difficult.

We decided to head for Bayonne, Biarritz seemed a bit up market for us but as we crossed the border into France the traffic started increasing to a point where we hadn’t seen so many cars (and motorhomes) since we left England. It was all coming towards us and we came to the conclusion that yesterday may have been a bank holiday and today was just another day they all take off to see them through the weekend. No idea if we are right but it was good enough for us and when we reached Bayonne (home of the Bayonnet) we could see all the car parks were full and quickly found an aire close by.

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And here we are at Ondres Plage, just north of Biarritz. We’ve got 20 spaces our side and we are facing another 20 spaces, all sheltered from the wind by high hedges. We’ve got electric hook up and the full range of services are available. There is a sign on the gate saying €7 per night but the machine is broken so free night – not. Parking warden came round about 7pm collecting money.

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There is a cut through in the hedge straight onto the beach with a restaurant, bar and ice cream man. We partook of a couple of beers (at €3 each for little ‘uns) mainly to get the wifi code but our iBoost aerial won’t pick up the signal back at Frankie.

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Just look at those waves, does it really need a no swimming sign?

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After being so spoilt with free and/or cheap aires we decided to head away from the coast and venture inland. All the beaches along this coast are lovely but once you’ve seen one…

We ended up in Dax. Our guide books told us nothing about the town but it did have two aires and our aire was just outside the city walls. It only held seven units and was soon full up but there was a long string of motorhomes arriving, looking and then departing. Some used the free services but they could easily have had an aire four times the size.

Dax has the remains of old fortifications, the Romans were here of course, but also Visigoths, Franks, Celts and Muslims.

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Luckily as it was Sunday most of the shops were closed but you could easily tell we were back in France, the prices were extraordinary. It may be that Dax is situated over hot springs and the many Spas bring in wealthy tourists. The building above is a Roman bath and at the front are some running taps with very hot water coming out of them.

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We did find the local market and bought some ham (how much??)

I got chatting with the French couple next door to us and asked if they could recommend any places in France to visit. I gave them my black marker and now my map is covered with circles and squiggles. I told them I only have 4 weeks left, they said I’ll need 10 years.

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Monday morning and we’re off again to a small village called Labastide d’Armagnac. The aire is on the edge of the village with a river flowing at the back of us, very quiet and by the end of the evening holding 14 motorhomes, 4 from the UK. 

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Next to the aire is the old wash house, far more sociable than a washing machine, I think they should really make a come back.

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As we walked into the town, which was completely pedestrianised we started seeing lots of very old buildings such as above.

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And covered arcades.

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And then we hit the main square. Next to the church is the Mayor’s office, but it used to be the prison. You’ve got grain markets, tourist office, bars, cafes and hotels but since it was a Monday everything except for one bar was closed. Everything was marked up with the history of the building so it seems to be a popular destination, possibly just at weekends.

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We met Monsieur Michelle le Monk and he showed us his garage full of the things he might need soon.

The weather on Tuesday took a turn for the better and it was glorious hot sun all day long so we took the opportunity to relax and get the Lafumas out. Tuesday night it poured down with rain and we thought that we might not get off the field but luckily all was good.

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Our next stop was Caumont Sur Garonne which had a super dooper star rating in All the Aires and I think most of the people here have the All the Aires book because it is full of Brits. This time the star rating is right, unlike A Corunna. We have all the services although water and electric have to be paid for but the site itself is free.

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We took a walk into the town and it is very nice but completely devoid of people. No bars or cafes just one Post office which only opens in the morning.

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To get round the lack of shops they have a Bread Machine, €1 for a baguette or €1.40 for a biggie. 

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On Wednesday we went for a cycle along the footpath, the first time our bikes have been out for ages. Lucy can’t do hills, either up or down so canal path is ideal and this path was brilliant. It had been tarmaced for the full length and with the trees either side sheltering us from the hot sun we zoomed off into the distance to the next town, Le Mas d’Agenais, where we had to stop because there was a hilly bit. This is their washroom and also our wifi hotspot. We haven’t been able to get online for days now and managed to log into a local SFR signal while Lucy watched the eagles over head.

And then we got the usual, “I need a wee” call so started heading back.

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Just as a major thunderstorm came overhead and dumped tons of very cold water on us. We managed to get under the shelter of a bridge where we eat our lunch and waited for the storm to pass.

Back at the van we’ve found out our neighbours, Graham and Jen, are from Hawes and we had to put the heating on because someone was getting chilly. 

 

PS – The following day I couldn’t find my sunglasses and after a short fruitless search I realised that the last time I had seen them was when I was wiping the rain water off them and laying them on my pannier frame. If you could zoom in you would see them just sitting there. Anyway, I went round the back of the van and there they were, still sitting there. In-between times I had ridden my bike a couple of miles, put the bike up on the rack and then driven 48 miles, talk about a smooth driver. Some of you who may have been a passenger in my car may be surprised!

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