We took our time getting ready and eating breakfast and when we got to the station we realized that the trains to Arcachon ran every two hours and the next one was an hour and a half later. Not being ones to sit around and waste time, we decided to use the extra 90 minutes to pick up a new lamp for Werner’s bike – his had gotten broken in the train.
Our mini-morning bike tour of Bordeaux was rather fun. We sped through the empty pedestrian streets and got to the Decathlon (a big sporting goods store) just as it opened. Werner found a battery-operated lamp and we rode back to the train station, making a couple of picture stops, and arrived in plenty of time to catch our train.
It was nearly noon by the time we arrived in Arcachon, so our first stop was (where else!) for ice cream and to pick up sandwiches for a later lunch on the beach.
We pushed our bikes through the throngs of pedestrians to the beachfront promenade and when the crowd thinned, rode to the end of the pier and sniffed the salty air. Finally it was sinking in – “here we are at the start of a two-week adventure, let’s enjoy every second!”
It got too hot just to stand in the sun, so we climbed on the bikes and took off along the bike route that took us first through residential streets lined with stately villas and then for several kilometers along the beautiful beach / park. Our goal, the Dune du Pilat, was several kilometers past the beach, back on the city streets and up a long incline in the 90-degree heat.
Whew, was it hot! Little did we suspect that this would not be the hottest or the hilliest afternoon we were to experience… Fortunately at the top of the hill there was a water faucet where you could rinse the beach sand off your feet and refill your water bottles. We thankfully ran the water on our feet and heads and the cooling effect lasted for at least five minutes.
We made our way down the long wooden staircase to the beach and stood for a few minutes marveling at Europe’s largest sand dune. Although I visited the dune last year, for Werner the sight was bound with much older memories – he had last been on the spot nearly 40 years previously on his first major family vacation as a young married man.
We’d planned to picnic on the beach and swim but since there was no shade and little cooling breeze we nixed that idea and climbed the stairs back up to the parking area. After another round of cooling off in the faucet at the top of the stairs we rode back to the beachfront park and spent several hours alternately relaxing in the grass in the shade of the trees and “swimming” in the ocean.
I say “swimming” because the water was so shallow you could touch the bottom with your hands as you were doing the crawl. Oh well, it was wet, refreshing and fun.
Three hours later we broke camp and rode back into town, making our way to the Promenade where we choose a restaurant for dinner.
My first course was a theatrically-presented cantaloupe filled with Pineau de Charentes and for a main course I chose a “Salade du Pays” with Lardons, paté, canard and Bayonne ham. Nothing like a little salad with your meat!
The highlight of the evening wasn’t our dinner but watching the folks at the table next to us devour their spectacular shellfish platter. Oh my God… it was a two-tiered extravaganza of crab, lobster and every imaginable creature that lives in a shell. I especially loved that the daughter, who seemed to be 5 or 6 years old, at with as much relish as her parents.
As we were finishing dinner, the sun was sinking in the west and we made our way back to train station and within the hour were back in our hotel room in Bordeaux, getting our bags packed and ready for the next day’s adventure.