Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
I’ve posted photo blogs here following various trips and holidays in the past, so I thought I should also do so after last week’s family holiday on the Atlantic coast in France. There’s not much to report however, partly because we didn’t take many photos, but also because we did pretty much the same thing each day, i.e. go to the beach.
We picked the location by drawing a line directly west of Geneva, the idea being to find somewhere by the sea that wouldn’t be too hot in July. We settled on a campsite close to Soulac-sur-Mer, just across the Gironde estuary from Royan. We rented a mobile home at Camping le Royannais, a small-ish site that emphasises its eco-credentials. The owner, Pascal, is proud to be the only French campsite participating in the 1% for the planet scheme. Eco or otherwise, it was perfect for our needs: leafy and quiet with a swimming pool, a place to buy basic provisions, and a playground for Robert.
The biggest attraction us was the campsite’s proximity to the beach. A leisurely five minute cycle brought us to the foot of a tall, steep sand dune. The reward for scaling it was a perfect, almost empty sandy beach. Great for swimming at high tide; and with rock pools teeming with life when the tide went out.
I really enjoyed my daily dip in the ocean. It was perfectly safe for swimming, with waves that were more fun than dangerous. You can just about see me in the middle of the photo above, with Robert trying to decide whether he wanted to join me or not. (Not, as it turned out, but he eventually did a bit of splashing about in the shallows.)
It had been years – decades in fact – since I spent any time playing about in the sand. I had great fun reliving my childhood, carving moats around sand castles, building dams, digging big holes and all that. But what Robert enjoyed most, and me too if I’m honest, were the labyrinths I drew in the sand for him to navigate through. (In the photo above he’s just made it through one of them.) This will definitely become a thing for us on beach holidays to come.
Aside from mornings at the beach and afternoons at the swimming pool (not really my cup of tea) we did just a little exploring in the area, which lies at the top of the Médoc wine region. Another definite highlight, aside from the beach, was the tourist train that runs along the coast from Pointe de Grave, the tip of the peninsula, to Soulac. It chugs along at about 20 kmph, running through the forests and sand dunes and providing views of the iconic Cordouan lighthouse out in the bay.
Soulac itself is really quite nice as touristy towns go. The shops selling trinkets and tack are limited to a single street with plenty of other businesses to soften the blow. It’s worth a visit to see the hundreds of pretty little stone and wood villas (and a basilica that was completely buried by the sands in the 18th century).
We took two days for the drive both there and back as we needed regular stops for the kids. Actually, both Declan and Robert were great throughout the holiday and the cross-country drive wasn’t too much bother at that relaxed pace. On the way over we had a very pleasant overnight stay at Hotel le Chatel, just off the motorway about an hour after Clermont Ferrand in a village called Combressol. We’d recommend it if you need a stop-off point in the middle of France.
We followed a different, mostly off-motorway route for the return and ended up staying overnight in Aubusson, a thriving little town in the heart of the Limousin region. The tapestry capital of France apparently…but we were happy just to stretch our legs wandering through it’s streets built in a steep-sided valley. The Hotel le France looked impressive, but our room was quite noisy due to the cars labouring up the hill outside our window. Still, not bad given that we booked it an hour before we arrived in the town – we were lucky to get a room at all.
Oh, and Declan played with his toes a lot!