in France we are in a 'not so flash' Aire de Service between San Sebastian and
Biarrritz. San Sebastian was a bit of a disappointment. Granted we did not stop
and do a walk about as itís towns/cities like this when the only disadvantage
to the van - its size - makes itself felt. Parking was impossible and, as all we
could see was one nice stretch of beach in the midst of an industrial port city,
we did a couple of 'drive-throughs'. We did have time to notice that the
entrance to the 'Civil Guard' headquarters was protected by a couple of heavily
armed men and had two redundant and rusting armoured Landrovers jammed across
the street entrance. - This is Basque territory!
in downtown San Sebastian were between 25 and 27C today. We just checked and it
IS 12 December! The warm wind
howled and buffeted the van most of last night. We suspect that what we are
experiencing is what the French call 'le Mistral'. From what we can recall from
our days as geography teachers... the Mistral blows off the mountains and for
some reason... which we have forgotten!!! it brings unusually warm weather to
one side of the alps and very cold weather to the other?? Or something like
that?? Whatever the cause, the change was sufficient to coax swimmers into the
surf at San Sebastian beach!
France was a bit of a disappointment after Spain. Many parts of France have
become what we have been calling 'anywhere-land'. They have no particular
character and could be familiar parts of any Australian, American or European
city. Car dealerships, light industry, petrol stations and supermarkets are the
same in anybody's 'language!' While parts of Spain can be similarly described,
there is still some of the 'old Spain' left to enjoy.
We met an
English couple (actually English-Welsh) last night who are part of the return
match for the Spanish Armada which launches itself upon Spain for most of the
year. They are starting a three month holiday campervanning it around Spain.
Given the weather it is little wonder that the Brits are finally escaping their
living rooms and moving about. As they pointed out, the UK is also somewhat of a
'rip-off'. These two had visited family
in Australia, Tweed Heads actually, and were amazed at how cheap things were in
Oz - half UK prices according to them. We can hardly wait for our first trip to
a UK supermarket and petrol station.
pleasant night in a motorway services last night. One doesn't even hear the
trucks anymore. And only paid 13 French francs for the tolls! (about AUS $3)
plummeted to 24C today from 27C yesterday! We walked the streets of Biarritz in
cotton shirts. The beach and town are very laid back this time of the year. We
'classical French speakers' are right at home in a small city like this when the
tourists are gone and the beach is ours. We were so impressed with Biarritz that
we checked out the Real Estate prices. Amazing. A 20 sq mts, three bedroom unit
close to the front will cost you AUS$95,000...!!! Sounds great.. (Work out how
big 20 sq mtrs is!).
We have a
bit of time to kill as we don't have to pick Lizzie up in Paris until the 22nd,
so we decided to poke around some of the countryside around Bordeaux. Everything
is closed! Whole towns are locked up: supermarkets, petrol stations, schools,
the lot! The countryside however is still very attractive. Small farms and
larger 'hobby farms' share the coastal plain with pine forest and marsh land.
We are not
sure whether there has been a large storm or whether the sand drifts that have
taken over the beach front towns are a normal seasonal happening? Some
beachfront villages are almost buried in golden sand many feet deep. One village
we visited was all but deserted with sand drifts up to a meter deep in the
streets. Much like a western ghost town. Our map shows this area as the Cote
d'Argent (Gold Coast). The local signs refer to it as the Cote Sauvage. The area
seems to be well and truly on the agenda of the hardened international surfer.
'The boys' were out in the Atlantic swells today and while the air temperature
was in the low twenties, the water temperatures are another question. This
is the North Atlantic, and it is
the week before Christmas.
A really interesting day.