Dune du Pyla


Over the summer, Camille and I were able to head to Bordeaux for the weekend for his cousin’s birthday. Bordeaux is a city you never want to drive in or around during peak traffic or holidays, unless you’ve got superhuman patience and a bladder of steel, to get you through the hours of traffic jams. Luckily on this trip we were entering Bordeaux and the people of the city were escaping for the weekend, so we watched the kilometers of still traffic on the opposite side, thanking the road gods for our good fortune.

It was another hot and humid weekend and for Camille’s cousin’s birthday , we were off to the Dune du Pyla. This giant sad dune is the tallest in Europe and is able to be climbed. The only downside is, with tourists able to walk up it, it’s shrinking quite rapidly and may eventually be closed, apart from the stair access. For now though, there are many people who walk up and along the dune to enjoy the views and in some cases, jump off for parasailing over the Atlantic coast.

We had our first glimpse of the dune as we walked down to the beach, while we waited for our restaurant reservation time. My first impression was that it didn’t look quite as impressive as I had expected. After lunch I got to see how big it really was. Our reservation time came around and I found myself in the fanciest restaurant I’ve ever stepped foot in. The restaurant was situated in a hotel that costs around 800 euros per night! Safe to say I felt very out of place… There was a beachy theme, with white umbrellas over every table, an infinity pool for hotel guests, waiters dressed in white and…lots of dogs…aparently it was a very pet friendly, fancy restaurant, so for me, that was a highlight!

One of my secrets to surviving ‘The Long Fench Lunch’ is to not drink any alcohol, so I’ve taken up drinking virgin mojitos, that being said, this beachside retaurant is the only time a mojito seemed like a suitable drink choice in France. But the different ways each restaurant and bar have made them have been so creative, some with edible flowers and berries, another with elderberry syrup and this one with raspberries to compliment the mint.

For lunch I chose to get an entree and main and then we all shared a dessert (on separate plates, don’t worry!). I ordered a caprese salad, with fresh mozzarella, a stack of tomatoes three ways, including a jelly, sweet relish and confit and on the side was a slice of grilled zucchini and anchovies. The for the main, Camille and I went halves in a whole cod, with a side of sweet potato and grapefruit puree. It sounds weird, but was the perfect way to make the dish lighter and more summery. We also shared an asian styled dish, with sushi, octopus, slaw, sesame puree and an anchovie foam. There were some flavours you wouldn’t expect and I’m not a fan of octopus, but it was the perfect hot weather choice.

After luch, I was once again too full to move and in a serious food coma, but we couldn’t leave without walking to dune, so we hung out on the beach for a while, cooling down in the water. Eventually Camille and I decided it was time to climb up the dune and that’s when I realised my first impresion that the dune wasn’t really that big, was incorrect. We both had to take off our shoes, since they kept falling off anyway, but the sand was too hot to stand for more than a couple of seconds in one place, so our only option was to push on up the slope, until our legs felt like they would fall off and our feet were numb enough from the heat to bury them a bit deeper in the sand to have a quick breather. The sun on the sand was blinding and we were absolutely melting, I would say the temperature that day was around 35-40 degrees and humid, yet the top of the dune was covered in people sunbaking and standing around talking. We managed to stay up there for about ten minutes, enjoying the almost 360 views of the ocean, forest and town. At the top you can also fully appreciate how steep the dune is on the opposite side to the beach. If you slip, you won’t be stopping until you’re at the bottom!

The rest of the weekend was spent in the pool and a Sunday morning having a quick walk around the central Bordeaux. It was obvious where the inspiration for some of Bendigo and Melbourne’s big old buildings came from. Another highlight was the water garden, (miroir d’eau, designed by Michel Corajoud). It is a section of pavement that is constantly wet, from alternating water vapor jets and fountains, which perfectly reflect the buildings ornemented with carvings and gold behind it.

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