Wave after Wave: The Surfing Challenge

The first two surfing lessons went pretty well, both for Linda and me. After a day off (filled by cycling to Hossegor), we continue on Saturday with our third lesson and with incredible optimism. I even talk our teacher Florice into going “au large” (into the open).

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This year, part of my surfing practice is learning that day 3 never works out. If five in a row or three in a row or with one day off in between, none of this matters with the general rule of “day three – no way”. If I only had known…

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While the waves make me tumble with unknown athletic moves, I use the time under water for reflexion: Maybe I should become old and boring someday (like: now)?! Stop the action and just wear the wetsuit for bragging and for well-shaped features…
Instead, I have made a decision some years ago: Whatever a place offers => try it! Go for it and see where it gets you. Make life colourful and widen your horizon. In case of doubt, always go for the most challenging aim. It is all about detecting the world and about touch and feel and taste and experience.
Hence, I raise my head above the water and continue. From what I can see, the other mid-level surfers in our group struggle just like me, so probably this is just a phase to go through. Or a day to leave behind.

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Days 4 and 5 are with Vincent and slightly better. Until I feel a stitch between my toes and wonder what I have stepped in… Although it hurts, I think of upcoming challenges, clench my teeth and hobble through the sand up to the surf school. I present my foot to Clément who becomes my personal saviour of the day. At least I renewed my nail polish just yesterday, so even with a swollen toe I still look like a lady.

It turns out that I have become acquainted with a greater weever (“une Grande Vive”) whose venom causes the waves of pain that now wash through my foot. Ten minutes and a basin full of warm (almost hot) water later, the wound is closed and the pain starts fading away. Time to return to my surf board!

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Survived!

The last of our five surf lessons is dedicated to stability: With rough water, we keep to the whitewash and practice not-falling-down-even-in-rushing-waves as well as steering the board rather than being carried away. Although my progress has not met my (ambitious) expectations, I am fine with the development. Perhaps I should use the last week of my holidays for further surfing days and see where it gets me…?!

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Sporty Holidays: Cycling, Muscles and Courses Landaises

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Equipment for today’s 40 km Bike Tour

Besides the surfing practice, camper girls are always up for sports. Consequently we take our bikes and go straight south to Hossegor, for all I have heard of it must be full of well-defined muscles that cling to experienced surfers. Sounds like our place to be for the day!

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At Hossegor

 

The main beach and its promenade are edged by by a line of basque-style houses. With warm light at sunset it might look splendid, but in full daylight it is too little too ratty to be much of a beauty. And very, very touristic. Not, that there would be more people than in other places (which in fact are), but the place is above all: commercial.

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Homemade Food at it’s Best in Vieux Boucau: Yaya Café

In Vieux Boucau, we got used to a steady communication line with our surf school and our favourite café (reserving preferred meals for hungry surfer girls) and even with the bike rental we achieve individual agreements. In Hossegor, it is all quite anonymous. Not to mention the combination of mid-level-quality with elevated prices, at least when it comes to lunch.

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Waves at Hossegor. And Surfers. Quite Some…

However, Hossegor is famous for the waves rather than food and yes, the beach and the waves look nice enough. Tempting, even. And not only for professional surfers, it also seems pretty fine for beginners and all kinds of people – a fact that is proved by the constant crowd of wet-suited figures in the ocean.

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Back to Vieux Boucau, we take advantage of all that the village offers: The colourful sunsets. The daily market. The cycling paths. The endless beach. The fantastic restaurant “Côté Sable” on top of the beach (eat down the menu with all that contains fish in any way!). And, being very special and very regional, “Les Courses Landaises”.

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Stars of the “Arène”

The Courses Landaises is a kind of bullfighting show but without the fighting. And without the bulls. Cows are preferred, all presented by their names and honoured by the matadors and further game players.

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Presentation of Lucy – Crew / Crew – Lucy. Pleased to Meet You.

It is impressive to see how men and biests work together with the climax of men jumping towards and over the galopping cows. As the cows seem less happy then the human actors and the spectators, I will not make Course Landaise my new top No.1 hobby, though.

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Course Landaise

Days fly by with wonderful sunset dinners at “Côté Sable“, lazy hours at the beaches. And, of course, with THE SURFING CHALLENGE: we will see how this will turn out in the very next post…

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Vieux Boucau – Surfing Challenge

Tuesday is a big day when it is all about the arrival of the second campergirl: Linda arrives at Bordeaux and Hector is up on all four wheels to pick her up.

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Now the two of us – Linda + myself – are up for the surfing challenge at Vieux Boucau. Been there, done that, and still… The urge to get more out of it, to widen my possibilities. Thus, we are back where I started surfing two years ago, now with Linda for even more fun along the way.

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Will We be Some of Those Sometime?

This time, high season is still on a vivid level on the West coast. Yet, Vieux Boucau is a place far too relaxed to ever get stressful. The beach and the waves are dominating touristic life and we are here to be part of the show.

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We arrive well in time in the evening, just before the night is taken over by thunderstorms and rain. Secretely, I wonder if the waves might be too aggressive for our beginners’ level… I do not know where all these worries come from, but I catch myself thinking about waves that might be too strong, sporty actions that might be too extreme and any other obstacle that might jump in my way unexpectedly.

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Trying hard not to Worry too much

As it has been with the skateboard training, all it takes is getting started: Once you begin, you are into it and you stop worrying. You just do whatever you are up to. In our case: start with body surf, then lead the surf boards into the white wash and then… My body remembers more than my head and instinctively I push my board into the sea, get hip-deep in the water and lay on the board. The wave in sight, I start paddling, paddle stronger and there it is: push up, put the left foot on top, follow with the right (rear) foot and there I am, all back on the waves!

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Still Standing!

Linda, having some fishes among her forefathers, gets into the whole surfing system quite quickly and we have our fun playing “surfer girls” in the Atlantic Ocean. Supported by good teachers (Alternative Surf School once more proved to be best!) and a gentle beach, we build up quite some routine right from the start.

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Not bad for a Start

After our successful first lesson, we stumble over the best eating place in town and turn back to Hector with cookies in our pockets and salty water in our hair. Meanwhile, my little van plays it luxury with the outdoor carpet, the sun roof, comfortable chairs and tables and all kind of perfect equipment. Some of it have not been used for almost two years, but now with settling down for more than just one or two nights (a full week, in fact), we take advantage of all the stuff that miraculosly comes out of the deepest storage compartments.

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Holidays at the Atlantic Ocean – Always so full of Clichées

Days go by with surfing, strolling on the local markets, fantastic food, sunset at the beach and all this kind of holiday action. Blessed we are to live a wonderful life!

The in-between: Approaching the West Coast

I wake up around seven with the moon shining low over the vineyards of St. Emilion.

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Soon enough, the sun spreads first rays over town, bathing the surrounding in warm golden light. At this time, the alleys are all empty and peaceful, waiting for another thousands of tourists’ feet to make their way over the old stones.

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Standing in the little park that separates the camper parking from the heart of St. Emilion, I find myself at half distance between the Hotel du Palais Cardinal and Hector. In the long run, Hector is much more tempting due to its flexibility, but for today I decide to invest the saved money (free overnight stay, yeah!)  in luxury breakfast. Minutes later I load my plate with mini-Pains-au-Chocolat, fruits, eggs and endless refills of coffee.

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Right after breakfast, Hector speeds off straight west, next stop at Carcans Plage. It is a shock to find the campsite entirely full with no pitches left – high season is not over yet. Time to change plans once more: I leave Hector at the regular parking (no overnight stay allowed, though) and spend the afternoon at the beach.

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Carcans Plage

< Finally! >, I think when I dip my feet in the warm sand and let my eyes wander from South to North, seeing nothing but blue water and bright sand.
As for the seasonal crowd on the coastal campsites, I spend the night on an irrelevant camping at Maubuisson. I take a look around and find that it has not much of an athmosphere. I congratulate myself for not spending weeks of holidays in this place. Yet, it unravels a myth that had kept me wondering since long: What do the stars stand for on a 4-stars-camping? Now I know and finally can tell the secret of the stars system:
1. * Existing campsite
2. * Offering places to tourists
3. * Bring your own toilet paper
4. * Extra charge on WiFi

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OK for One Night

I think of tomorrow’s destination, Camping Les Sablères at Vieux Boucau. Four months ago, it seemed a hillarious idea to reserve a pitch for the end of August, but today I am more than happy that in fact I did reserve a spot for 1 Hector, 2 camper girls and 5 surf lessons!

Saint Émilion – Pure Wine Culture

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I have passed by St. Émilion already in 2016 and made it one of my favourite towns in France. Although not big, it has a wonderful athmosphere due to the fact that none of the houses and buildings – not one! – is younger than some hundred years.

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My last visit was sort of trying it out just a bit, like sipping the first mouthful of a new wine. This time, I want to stay downtown overnight and see what it is like in the evening. I detect a camper parking (free of charge!! really: free of charge!) right at the edge of the city and instantly skip the original plans for an overnight stay at the Hotel du Palais Cardinal (not knowing yet that I will end up right there for breakfast).

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Between Hector and the Hotel du Palais Cardinal

Although most of the camper places are blocked by ignorant regular cars during daytime, I catch a perfect spot and let Hector come to a rest. It is quite comfortable to come back to a place you already know, hence I go straight to the Office de Tourisme and get a ticket for the Monolithe Church within a minute.

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The guided tour in the catacombes, caves and the Monolith Church itself takes about an hour, but with the vivid tales of the guide time flies by. I learn about a guy called Emilion who came over from the Bretagne after his good heart got him into trouble. With some years of meditation in a natural cave, he became sort of famous and the founder of the city St. Emilion. Even though he was more into religion and meditation than into wine, this town (if any) proves that both topics can co-exist easily.

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Leftovers of a former Church, embedded in Vineyards

Despite groups of American tourists crossing this place off their lists, St. Émilion is a relaxed place. I enter one of the umpteen wineshops and am lucky to have chosen the wine caves of “Clos des Menuts”. The lady at the counter combines the right questions (taste preference? price range?) with precise advice for a mutual win-win-situation: Her, making good business, me, ending up with three wonderful bottles of wine – one for the upcoming beach, two for my basement at home, from now on called “The Wine Cave”.

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Somewhere to the left you will find the place of “Clos des Menuts”

After storing everything in Hector’s various compartments, it is time for the beneficial use of the evening. I make a start at The Wine Buff: Less formal than other places, yet with a natural cave in the rear part of the bar and a small outdoor terrace. Perhaps it needs an Irishman + his Spanish wife to come up with such a relaxed bar in this beautiful town.

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A Relaxed Evening at St. Emilion

Next stop is one of the restaurants, but this time my expectations of fantastic food, sophisticated sauces and luxury wine are not entirely met by reality. However, I get by pretty well, no severe complaints.

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I conclude the evening at the Place de l’Église Monolithe with a glass of wine of Saint Christophe Grand Cru. Ten minutes later, I fall asleep happily in Hector’s bed, parked on the nowadays almost deserted camper parking.

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Gut Ding braucht Weine (regular German saying)

Tomorrow I will head for the coast line, while tonight I might be dreaming of a Wine Christmas.

Sarlat and the Vallée de l’Homme

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I read about Sarlat and it must be absolutely beautiful. With the campsite being far from crowded, I start relaxed into the day and get down to the city around noon. Last night I found out about a camping car-parking close to the centre of the town and I want to stay there for the upcoming night. With my bed parked in walking distance, all possiblities are up for sundown promenades, candle light dinner and good-night-drinks in fancy bars.

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A Typical Image of Sarlat

First thing in the morning after freshing up Hector and his current inhabitant (that would be me), we go downtown and head directly for the camper parking. Queuing up, traffic jam, full parkings and not a free slot in visible sight… Ok then, time for plan B.

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Above the Houses: Natural Shelters at Les Eyzies

Without any idea in mind, I choose the street towards Les Eyzies. There are castles along the way, but none of it has a restaurant or offers anything more than old stones. Thus, I continue my way until I stumble over a sign “Restaurant – ouvert” and there we are. At half distance between Sarlat and Les Eyzies I stumble in “Les Combarelles”, in this case the restaurant rather than the caves, and the upcoming weeks will prove this lunch to be the best meal of the voyage. I receive caresses of the huge restaurant’s dog, dare to drink a glass of wine in the middle of the day and give my orders. The place is relaxed, the food is fantastic and only 90 minutes later I am in perfect mood for new detections.

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Prehistoric Traces of our Forefathers

Les Eyzies happens to be sort of Europe’s cradle of the homo sapiens: not only in the caves of Lascaux nearby, but all over the Périgord they have found traces of prehistoric humans. The friendly doormen at the entrance of the Musée Préhistorique convince me to step in and I learn a bit about long-gone eras, human development and those who have lived and chased here thousands of years ago.

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In the late afternoon I make my way back to Sarlat and sneak in the last and only free parking slot at the camper parking. 7 € (parking overnight fee) and 5 minutes of a walk later I arrive at the medieval centre of Sarlat.

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Sarlat, finally

There is a former church now used as market hall with an elevator that goes right on top. The whole city lays down at my feet with small alleys, a huge church with roman, gothic and whatever further styles; old monestaries, the “lanterne des morts” from 9th century, an old viaduct still in use (now by the railway to Bordeaux) and all these old houses. It does have a certain beauty and attracts thousands of tourists.

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L’Ascenseur

I stroll around quite a while until I settle down for dinner. It is hard to make the best choice in a place that is so much taken over by tourists from all over the world, yet it is okay and the prices are fine as well.

After dinner, I stumble over some street acrobats that give hell of a show in the main place of the city centre.

D_u1Of course, they get some Euros for their efforts and even me I am rewarded: I get back to Hector just in time before heavy rain settles in and congratulate myself to the perfect pitch of the day.

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Good Night…

 

Culture! Castle of Saumur

After coffee and breakfast in the vineyard, day 3 finally brings some culture into the holidays. The castle of Saumur overlooks the city and the Loire, majestic and a bit braggy with a huge golden symbol right on top.

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The architecture is a wild mixture of different eras. I like this mixed-up style and even though I forget most of what I learned about it almost instantly, there obviously has been a long history of sovereigns, fights and gravity. The west wing does not even exist in these days, but it is all but well-adjusted by the inner treasures of the castle.

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A large hall in the inner castle is decoreated with a tapestry of the least talented artist I have ever seen. Or the most ironic one. Look at the guy a bit left from the centre: walking to the left, he turns his head a full 180° and looks at the lady behind his back. Plus, most of the women are gifted with naked breasts that seem to be drawn (more true: stitched) on top of their clothing. Standing right in front of the massive oeuvre, I am sort of overwhelmed.

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I get back to reality with a coffee in the “Orangerie” and once more change my plans (stay around here for one more day? More castles? More clouds??) and directly head for Sarlat.

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Huge castle? Or Hector? …, sure!

TomTom is in one of his best moods today, hence the navigation leads me on tiny roads through the Forêt d’Amboise and more or less straight south.

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In the late afternoon I do find Sarlat, but not the campsite I had in mind. So what, a hot shower is all I need for this evening while tomorrow I will have plenty of time to go and see the medieval town of Sarlat. At least, this is the plan.

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Calm. Very Calm. And outside of Sarlat

P.S.: Ah, finally I did learn what is about my fridge on gas cooling: It is just that it does not like to cooperate with the stove! When turning on the gas for morning coffee, the fridge reacts with blink-blink-out-of-order-blink-blink and the systems goes on error-mode. Even though it indicates that we have run out of gas, in fact it is no more than a coincidence. Solution: Switch off all gas functions. Turn down the gas pipe. Then re-open the gas pipe, leave the fridge out, turn on the gas for the stove and here you go: all fine, all working. After coffee, switch off the gas for the stove and on the gas for the fridge and everything works fine.

Wine-Culture!

After Hector ignored the “France Passion” opportunity of our first night, it now is time to move further West and head for a vineyard.

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A clichée of a vineyard? Perhaps, but a Good One: Domaine de la Cune, Saumur

I heard and read a bit about Saumur, e pretty town at the Loire, and even the idea of seeing some castles seems like a smart one. The arrival at the Domaine de la Cune in the late afternoon comes with the right picture: endless rows of vine up to the horizon, framed by green forests and spreckled with neat “chateaux”.

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Where does all the Wine come frome? Oh yes, from the Friendly Man Next Door…

With my TomTom navi and its tendency for interesting roads, I am happy enough that Hector is such a slim van. Only once a sharp correction is required when the road underbridges a maximum height of 2,5m, but that is nothing that a turn to the right could not fix and apart from this, I am fine and enjoy the beauty of narrow wine-villages.
The day ends with fresh salad and a freshly opened bottle of wine. The bottle accidetially happened to become part of Hector’s groceries upon the encounter with the friendly vintner. Of course I know that I am not obliged to buy some of the owner’s products on my vineyard-overnight-stays, but even when thinking hard about it, I do not find any reason against.

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The next morning will present dropped temperatures (< 20°C! Perhaps I should turn on the heating…) and a cloudy sky. The evening though is warm and the wine is gentle – good night, world.

2018: Start into France

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Bienvenue en France

Everyone knows that spontaneous holidays are best based on thorough plans and exact milestones. Hence, a “France Passion” address is driving my navigation system towards the Alsatia while the temperatures are driving towards 35°C.

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This is so Hector

It comes as no surprise when Hector decides to speed up and only stops at the shore of a lake: forget about fancy food “en Alsace”, welcome to the lake “Etang du Stock”! The campsite at the foot of the small church is simple, but just fine for our first holiday night. “Bien sûr”, with an immediate dive into the lake right away.

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I conclude that 18€ for camping are well invested while Hector concludes that he likes lake-nights best. Unless there is sea and beaches available, that is.

The hot summer weather proves the very first Hector owners right who had ordered a full 100% of the available extra equipment: eletric step at the living room door, electric windows in front, electric rear mirrors, double airbags and (tadaa!) aircondition – makes 5 out of 5 possible features. The latter is most welcome these days and eases the hours of driving.

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The first day has passed by easily and I am curious what the second day will bring. How about the fridge and the regular troubles with the gas cooling? How about vineyards in the region of Saumur? What about culture and castles along the Loire??

 

 

Surf-Prep: Skateboard Training

Quite some people have asked me about the skateboard lessons I joined, so here you go:

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Aiming (naturally) high, I decided to get trained by the Bavarian Skatemaster TomCat. Even though the target group is about kids from 5-12, age does not matter much when we all gather together for sports and action. I can only recommend: go for it, send your child, join yourself, have fun!

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Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I may be wrong, but most probably I pushed my surfing ability with the skateboard training I passed before the holidays back in 2016. Hence, it is like surfing your home town (only less wet, that is)…