Bordeaux and Europe’s Biggest Sand Dune

Catching the train from San Sebastian and across the border into France, a wave of slight relief rippled through Ben and I.  We had finally made it.  France.  If this trip had to have a ‘destination’ then we had reached it! Disembarking at the beautiful St Jean train station with patisseries everywhere, croissants, macarons and the famous Cannelés De Bordeaux.  I have to admit my heart sunk a little knowing I would not be able to sample the gluten-rich desserts, but we wondered into Baillardran anyway for an expresso and to have a moment to take it all in.

Caffeinated, we hopped on a tram and headed into the centre to find our accommodation.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) the wheels on our bags gave way on the cobbled streets of the “old” Bordeaux.  In that moment we weren’t too happy but considering they managed to survive getting us to every location without the use of cabs and what will always be known as the walk of terror in Lagos (5km on seriously the worst cobblestoned streets, uphill) – in hindsight I am pretty impressed!

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After a day of sightseeing, I was genuinely excited to hear that Bordeaux is called “The Little Paris”.  The neutral palette of the city with its elegant sandy facades and mansard roofs drew me in, and I was captivated from my first few moments in Bordeaux.  Ben and I had to laugh when we found out that there were no hostels in Bordeaux but with the advent of Airbnb, this place – for better or for worse – is now more assessable to all travellers.

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Being the famous wine region in France, spending quality time drinking the wine is as much necessity as it is mandatory!  Then there is the shopping – ok window shopping – in the Triangle d’Or, ‘golden triangle’ to browse French fashion at it’s finest and the more affordable 1.2km long pedestrian shopping street, Rue Sainte-Catherine.  We enjoyed the French cuisine, ordering tartare as soon as we arrived and of course, the cheese, which was made even better on a platter with Spanish jamon from our half French, half Spanish host.

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While there is a lot to do in Bordeaux, we could not resist a sunny weather forecast and recommendation from our friend, Christelle, to see Europe’s biggest sand dune.  We took the comfortable 1 hour train ride (which makes the Sydney to Newcastle train look like something from the stone ages) to Arcachon.  We had a short wait for the shuttle to Dune du Pilat and decided to get an ice-cream and check out this little quaint little coastal town. 

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Once we disembarked from the shuttle, we walked the short distance to the dune on a narrow path lined with tourist shops and cafes that looked out of place amongst the dense greenery.  Out of the forest, a huge soft sandy dune appeared.  The incline was steep, and we climbed it rather than take the stairs, which I think just about everyone regrets half way up!

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Heart in my throat (and here I thought I was getting fit with all our walking around) we emerged on top of the dune and realised just how enormous it was.  The photos really don’t do it justice.  The view was spectacular and the crystal clear water below looked like a mirage amidst the endless sandy slops.

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And of course, what goes up, must come down! Running down the dune to the beautiful crystal clear water below was just plain fun.  We joined others that had braved the climb, soaking up the European sun, in a setting that was surreal and beautiful.

The moment we decided to call it a day and walk back up the dune to the bus, was the moment we realised why not many people had made the trip down to the water! What a climb.  We felt like we were lost in the desert.  Every four steps you make, the soft sand sends you back two!  Would hate to join a sporting team around this area, pre-season fitness would be a nightmare.

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