Thursday, 7 August 2014

France 2014 - Part the last

Les Chevreuils was a a bit of a wild card. I had scoured the Landes countryside for a site that wasn't too big (I was pretty sure I couldn't take the vast favela of Le Col Vert again), too small, too isolated, too far from the sea, or too far from Santander. This one had pretty much no reviews any where but seemed suitably placed and had the hint of something special with a cryptic note on the website suggesting that they might be renovating their swimming pool in early 2014.

It all paid off. It was like camping in Endor!

We had a pitch at the far end of the small site, right next to the perimeter fence which separated us from miles and miles and miles (and miles and miles and miles.....) of mostly unbroken forest. Our pitch was on little plateau carved into a gentle slope with trees on four sides, which meant we could look over the rest of the site at mid-tree trunk level. And no-one camped next to us for a couple of days so it all seemed very spacious. It was a quiet site - during the day you could hear pretty much nothing (we kept shushing the poor kids!), and in the evening, there was the quiet sound of people opening their bottles of wine with a hearty supper! We liked it.

Thea's enjoyment of beer has not decreased!

And the kids were impressed too, because they had been doing renovations to the swimming pool and had created this:

Much fun was had!

They were also pleased to find another bouncy item (a jungle?), and although getting very frustrated that they couldn't climb up onto the roof structure like the older children (Thea was too small and Nathaniel still hasn't worked out how to bounce in such a way as to increase the height of his bounces), they bounced cheerfully for some time.

The sun was shining mostly, the wind was gently whispering through the leaves and it was warm but not hot. Then one morning, Ian watched a cloud get thicker and thicker and then start to rain on us. I foolishly declared it wasn't very wet and went off to the toilets only to discover that it was going to rain properly. It got heavier and heavier and heavier. And just when we thought it was as wet as it could get, it got heavier. Water started pouring down the hill and running across our plateau - we had to pick everything under the awning up because there was a wide and shallow stream running through it. I went into the tent to discover a window open just by the guy rope that was at the wrong angle (which is what happens when you pitch on a hill), and a proper puddle on the floor. So big was the puddle that it totally waterlogged a pair of shorts and several towels.

And then it stopped and the sun came out and we sat and looked at the puddles and wondered if it would do it again (it didn't), and what we'd do if it did it while we were out on bikes.

Although we had been enjoying our mainly car-free existence, we did fancy seeing a bit of a town, so we pootled into Cap Breton to see the fish market. Unfortunately, we had no town map, or any idea where to park, and after a tedious crawl past over flowing carparks in almost stationary traffic we were just about to give up when we spied a map on a sign post and a line of on-street parking that did us very well. I'm still not entirely sure where everyone else was going! We took a stroll along the estuary and admired the yacht park and many speed boats (Nathaniel was impressed with the ones with three or four giant outboards hanging over the back), until we got to the fish market and looked at the hauls of the many fishing boats.

It was then lunch time so we played at tourists and launched ourselves into the cafe next door and embarked upon an epic feast.

Nathaniel and Ian ate the most humungous pizzas known to man and I had a vat of moules (and some frites which Thea devoured).

We were there for a long time! Eventually Nathaniel declared that he had expired and we sat very still for a little while until he was able to consider his ice cream needs!

We took leisurely drive back, finding the route that we should have taken, and marvelling at drags of grot shops and surfing factory outlets. I'm not sure we'll ever spend much time in the Hossegor/Cap Breton metropolitan area in the future!

The next day we decided to go to the beach. The bike ride there was very pleasant - a hop along a bike track followed by a quiet road down to the sea past the most horrific looking campsites sizzling in the sun. The beach was lovely - just a section of the long beach that sits on the Atlantic coast all the way from Arachon to Biaritz. We were only a few miles further down it from where we had been last year!

The tide was quite far in when we arrived and we had fun playing around the giant waves smashing into the steeply shelved beach - just as strong and exciting as they had been in Oleron. And then the digging started. Thea requested a mountain and then a hole, and once they had been created, proceeded to play with them very happily.

Nathaniel dug a hole, got in and filled himself in.

Entertainingly, he did this alongside a French boy of about 9 who was the spitting image of him - same lanky limbs, same blond curls descending into frizz!

Once the tide was further out, a flat area of beach emerged and we swum and paddled and ran from waves and collected shells and pebbles with less concern than when the waves had been trying to beat us into the sand.

And then that was that. We packed everything up and set off to Spain, along our favourite motorway inhabited by crazy Spanish lorry drivers, surrounded by mountains (but shrouded in clouds this year), traversing the most alarming viaducts and containing the longest and wiggliest tunnels (which concerned Nathaniel greatly until we assured him of the level of complexity of engineering that went into their construction).

Onto our ferry we got and much fun was had rearranging our cabin and playing on the bunks.

Thea and Ian tried out the pool - this year with increased swell and a bus-load of Spanish students - and we drank orangina, ate weird english cum spanish breakfast foods and collected yoghurt pots. It was calm again, but it did make me think very carefully about how much fun it would be with more swell.

And then off to Abingdon and then back to York and that was the start of the summer holidays. Not bad. Not bad at all!

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