Cue the weirdest week of my life. Daisy and I were supposed to be road tripping from Surrey to Biarritz on the French/Spanish border, which is exactly what we did. Although it didn’t quite go how we expected. Flexibility and a willingness to say “yes” were both invaluable qualities required on this trip!
Daisy picked me up from Farnham train station and we headed to our good friend, Christy’s 21st. There’s not much I can remember from this soiree, and therefore not much to say! Although I had a lot of fun. Big love to the Turnbull family for putting on such a bash! Needless to say the next morning Daisy and I woke up on the border of drunk and hungover and set off for Dover. We hit Dover with plenty time to spare. A McDonald’s and a nap later and we were ready to hit the roads on the other side of the channel with much more gusto. I will tell you this, the French country side is out of this world. Driving through yellow fields of sunflowers, wheat and corn my eyes were glued to the outside, watching as the land before us changed eventually to grapes! We pitched up in a small village called Radon. Locating ourselves on a back road in a forest meant we had the place to ourselves, we could even hear the trees talking, pure magic to our hungover, sleep deprived ears. Our battle with the 20 year old stove was not quite such a success, in the end we managed to create a hot dinner but unfortunately we wasted one whole gas canister! What can I say? I’m used to cooking with meths!
The next day we hit the road again determined to find the coast. And the coast we found, in La Rochelle. We were slightly disappointed with this industrial town, so continued south after a quick lunch stop. After hitting Decathlon for all those things we’d forgotten, namely a leash and wax for the board. But also a new stove! Next we hit the Dunes of Pilat, 60km south of Bordeaux. It being wet and also a sand dune I assumed the best clothing would be my swimmers. Little did I know that we were about to walk through a tourist village of shops and restaurants with about 6 school trips wandering through! A little embarrassed we carried on to the top to be rewarded by 360 degree views over the ocean, the forest and more sand than I have ever seen. However not with in walking distance of any ocean! I got over my embarrassment as we made our way back to the car.
We pitched up in Mimizan. This was my favourite night on the trip I think. That evening the beach was deserted with only the occasional fisherman for company. Our pitch was a thing of beauty, with our tent facing the ocean, a tree for drying utensils, a log for a bench, plenty of driftwood for a fire. It felt more like a tropical paradise than the west coast of France. A few beers and a sunset later and we were ready for sleep. We woke to a cloudy sky, and little did we know this was the day the weather was to turn against us.
But we made the most of it, once again heading south wards we stopped in a small coastal town. Given our aim was to surf and for the first time we’d found some surf, we struggled into our wetsuits and jumped in. The sense of homecoming was disarming. The ocean is truly where I’m supposed to be. Happily playing until we realised we hadn’t seen anywhere to sleep and the rain was not about to give up on us. In a brief break in the weather, we cooked ourselves a tasty meal over looking an estuary. A couple of drinks and a lot of rain later we resigned to sleeping in our car. Now this is fine if there is plenty of space in the back, but when the car is packed to the rafters and all there is left to do is sleep in the front seats, it’s not such a comfortable experience! Vowing never to subject ourselves to “car camping” again we headed for Hossegor before turning inland to the Pyrenees, where a warm bed and shelter waited us with a fellow seasonnaire.
And here begins the weird experiences. We knew our friend’s family owned a hotel but we didn’t know what kind of hotel. It turned out it was styled to the 60’s (or perhaps it had always been that way) with some interesting art upon the walls. It also turned out that the hotel specialised in looking after elderly people who visit the village for 3 week thermal spa retreats. We experienced nothing but hospitality and ultimately the most cliched seasonnaire experience I have ever witnessed, their gang smoking dope throughout the day and night whilst watching snowboarding edits, essentially waiting for winter to come. Now this may have been because of the weather as our host did tell me he would go mad living in England with this kind of weather all the time, but I got the sense it wasn’t all about the weather. On our last day, Daisy and I broke out and headed on a walk in the hills, bearing in mind all we had were beach clothes and I was walking in sandals, it wasn’t exactly an intrepid expedition. But we did enjoy ourselves watching cows, horses and marmots in their mountainous home. When we returned we were informed we were headed to our hosts mum’s house, which is inaccessible by car and about a 15 minute walk on muddy trails up the mountain. We arrived and were kitted out with wellies, raincoats and big socks. We were here to help out in the garden. A few hours of moving wood, chopping trees and some very strange conversations about mushrooms (not the interesting kind), pigs and horses we headed back to the hotel. The town it’s self was like walking into the 80s which quite frankly is just bizarre. So we said our goodbyes and headed back to the coast the night before I had to catch my flight home.
Having done our research this time about both the weather and the ease of wild camping around Biarritz we decided to get an Airbnb. As there really is no where to camp near the centre and it was forecast to rain… again! Our Airbnb was very cool, an African themed apartment with clean lines and lots of colour. But it was really Biarritz that took my breath away. After a week of small coastal towns with a relatively modern and industrial look, Biarritz’s basque influences, narrow winding streets and gothic architecture was a refreshing surprise. Although the surf still massive and the wind still gusting up to 25km/h, the gently peeling waves we had hoped for were not presenting themselves. So instead we window shopped and researched our venue for later that night. We headed out for a last supper and drinks which was ultimately fun, although Biarritz’s nightlife leaves a lot to be desired. We were informed perhaps a little too late that Bayonne is the better location for parties.
And that was that, the next morning I flew back to the UK to be greeted by the sunshine I had wished for whilst in France, the irony does not escape me. This trip just went to show that no plan is sometimes better than a plan. We were left with the flexibility to say yes and no when certain opportunities presented themselves. The confidence to leave the comforts of houses and villages to head for the wilderness and try a hand at Daisy and Sarah style survival. But also to know when to say enough is enough and accept a dry bed. We had no aims other than to surf when we could and we did. I mean a tan would have been nice too, but ultimately it’s the people who make a trip. Thanks Daisy for being a fabulous road trip buddy, I loved our podcasts, singing and giggles along the way. Daisy’s currently finishing off the trip down to Seville in Spain with her friend Hannah, so if you happen to see a small red car with a surfboard on top in Portugal or Spain be sure to say “Hi”.