The day started with a pleasant surprise: breakfast was more than the French hotel standard bread, butter, jam and coffee. There was an egg cooker for soft boiled eggs, fresh croissants and baguette, yogurt, cheese and various jams, as well as muesli and cereal, juices and milk. And naturally café au lait. Quite the spread for a very reasonable priced 2-star hotel.
Today’s goal was an important one: feet in the Atlantic. With that in mind, we set out in the morning and took our bikes with us on the train to Arcachon, the coastal resort that lays about 40 miles to the west of Bordeaux.
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As we arrived in Arcachon the Saturday market was in high gear, occupying the stretch between the train station and downtown, which made bicycle navigation a bit of a challenge. We stopped at the tourist information office and picked up local maps and then made our way through the shopping district to the sea-front promenade. Well actually bay-front, since Arcachon is technically on the Bay of Arcachon and not the ocean.
We spent a while soaking up the atmosphere on the promenade and then set off on the way to the beach. The bike path was well-marked and led us through town and towards the ocean. Once we reached the seafront there was a lovely trail several km long that paralleled the beach. Fantastic!
At Le Mouleau, where the trail met the main road we decided to stop for lunch. There was a small beach-front plaza and we chose the middle of the 3 restaurants. Ah, sun, sea and sand, the perfect location to enjoy moules frites. Ummm… and they came, steaming and aromatic, with just enough delicious broth at the bottom to get soaked up in the last bits of baguette. And why is it that fries are served with steamed mussels? I don’t know, but they sure make the perfect accompaniment. These were perfect: hot and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Yum!
After our leisurely lunch we took our first walk on the beach and ceremoniously waltzed our feet through the Atlantic surf. Part one of our mission for the coming two weeks accomplished!
Our main goal for the afternoon was to get to the big Dune du Pyla , which was just a couple of kilometers down the road from where we were. As we were heading out I made a stop at an ice cream stand and had my first scoop of Caramel au Beurre Salée of the trip. I just love the combination of the caramel flavor and the distinct taste of the salty butter.
The last stretch on the way to the dune headed up a fairly steep hill and at the top of the hill there was a convenient railing where we could lock up our bikes. We walked down the long stairway and in a few minutes we were on the beach looking up at the big dune.
The dune of Pyla is the tallest sand dune in Europe. The height of over 100 meters is quite impressive when you’re standing at the bottom of it. For a while we just perched on a couple of rocks and watched the ocean. Vera wanted to climb up the dune to check out the view and while she did that I spread out on our beach towels and relaxed. It was heavenly!
Before we realized it, it was late afternoon and we decided to head back into town to eat dinner before heading back to Bordeaux. We arrived back at the Promenade just as the restaurants were opening for dinner and found a table at one of the many restaurants.
We made a pretty good choice – Vera was very happy with her Moules Marinieres and my seafood brochette was perfectly cooked and served with a flavorful curry sauce.
After dinner we soaked up the last rays of the beautiful evening sunlight until it was time to catch the train back to Bordeaux. Back in Bordeaux, we headed straight for bed - we wanted to get enough sleep for our first day on the road!