Vive La France – Surfing Trip Part Two

Now it’s already two weeks ago since I’ve posted my post about part one of my surfing vacation; I wanted to share part two with you last weekend already, but the flue had me spending all weekend in bed. Feeling much better this weekend there were a lot of things to catch up with plus my dad’s birthday and now it’s already Sunday evening and no new article online yet – time to grab it by the horns, here you go:

If you’ve read my first part you probably remember that a surfboard hit my rips after a few days of surfing and that I was hoping to get back on the board on maybe the second day in France. Well, let me tell you already; I didn’t even had one surf in France and the rips are still hurting a bit today – the pain as well reminded me to finally finish up this article.

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I left the hostel in Spain Friday morning, thinking that I’ll make it to the airport in Bilbao within two hours to pick up the rental car and drive for another two hours across the French boarder to get to Capbreton/Hossegor early afternoon. Of course this plan didn’t work out! Some guy from the hostel gave me a ride to the bus station where I found out that the busses to Bilbao were all booked out, but I could take one to Laredo and then another one to Bilbao. Half an hour later I was sitting on a bus which took me straight back to the hostel but luckily it continued out of that town towards Laredo. It was already noon when I arrived and the bus to Bilbao main station wouldn’t leave for another hour and half. So I had plenty of time to enjoy some great café con leche and bocadillos  in a close-by cafe. Eventually it was time for me to get on the fully-booked bus only to find out that my assigned seat was already taken! Luckily the seat next to it was not occupied so I sat down next to a lady with a German tour guide book in her lap – a German book. I used that chance to start a conversation with a little bit more depth than my “Hola, cómo estás?” and the one hour bus ride went by too fast to enjoy the scenic Basque coast we were driving along. Only one more bus ride later and I made it to the rental station at the airport – my reservation was for several hours earlier, but luckily they still had a car available and surprised me with a free upgrade! Yay…. No! First, I was excited to get one of those cute little Fiat 500 and second I knew how tiny those roads in the French towns are and that my super-spacious Citroen would be the ideal car for a family of five driving through the countryside, but not for a single person having to park in downtown Hossegor.
Anyways, I was happy to finally get out of Spain and start the second part of my vacation. I only got a few kilometers out of town until I realized I won’t have enough cash on me for all those toll gates along the highways – there’s a toll station literally every 20 kilometers plus another one at the boarder. So after stopping for another coffee and the ATM I was soon getting closer to the French boarder. The weather didn’t really improve on the other side, but driving into France automatically lifted my mood. It was my first time that I can remember (I’ve been to Paris when I was a little kid) and even though I hated French in school, I felt great!

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The owner of the place I was staying at are British and before coming to the Atlantic coast they ran a chalet for snowboarders in the French Alps. Not only do they know how to please their guests with great home-cooked foods, but James is also a great surfer who knows every single spot along the coast of Hossegor. He picked me up with a bicycle at the church in downtown and then I followed him through a labyrinth of one-ways to their place – I would never find my way back to his house was my first thought!
DSC_1470Once we arrived I was greeted by six other surfers and James wife Annie. I immediately felt comfortable, almost like I was coming home and over dinner (duck with au gratin and clafoutis for dessert with several bottles of red wine) I got to know the other folks – surfers from Australia, the Netherlands and Spain.
The tides made us get up early in the morning to be at the beach by 7am so needless to say that I didn’t get much sleep those four nights. At 6:30 in the morning James had the breakfast table ready – with warm croissants, fresh yoghurt and granola and espresso – but at that time none of us felt like talking to much. Since the pain in my chest made surfing impossible I became the photographer for the other folks and (more or less voluntarily) got up with everyone else before the sun was rising. We took the VW bus (imported from the UK which makes driving on those tiny roads even more fun) to the beach to check out the best spot for the early morning surf.

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At this time of the day not many people are out and everyone had a decent surf – the waves weren’t the greatest which was rather a bad timing for the Swatch Girls Pro Championship that started the day after I left. Nonetheless did I take nice pictures with the rising sun shining from behind, but even though I wasn’t in the water I was freezing – some morning the air was just at 12°C (54F) and the sand felt much colder. So everyone was happy when we got back on the bus to drive back to the house where Annie was awaiting us with home-made cakes and fresh espresso every day for lunch.

Most of the afternoons were spent around the house, shopping for surfing clothes (Hossegor is the #1 surfing town in France and many big brands have their HQ here) or relaxing at the beaches which were much more crowded by then. Several old bunkers along the coast made for some great pictures.

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Unfortunately my rips didn’t get better soon enough so I was not able to go surfing in this famous region – not yet, but I will definitely come back next year to make up for it! I still enjoyed the second part a lot and the scenic towns of Capbreton and Hossegor are well worth visiting even when you’re not into surfing: The houses are really pretty and countless cafés and bars as well as great restaurants (we went to one by Gordon Ramsey for lunch the one day) need more than four days of exploring.

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