A Travellerspoint blog

France

Not so sunny Biarritz and Bayonne

Atlantic Coast France

storm 12 °C

Our lift to Bordeaux worked out well, we arrived at the train station in the pissing down rain at 12.30am. And wowwee what a trip. We left Villeneuve Loubet on the French Riviera at 12.00 midday in a jam packed Astra station wagon driven by a French couple Beck and François. At 3.00pm we stopped at Beck’s sister’s place in Marseille. Boy were we in for a surprise treat.

We were invited into the family home and were served dinner and drinks. Francois was the only one to speak French and a little English. Our first real taste of French provincial food consisted of stuffed olives and French sausage for an appetiser, then a scrumptious salad and then the main course. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. It was mash potato with the texture of clouds accompanied by slow cooked casserole style succulent beef cuts marinated in garlic, wine and herbs. To die for - especially if you have been eating packet soup for the past 3 weeks. To finish off we had a delicious but smelly cheese and matched red wine from Corsica with fruit. Very special.
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At dark we packed back into the Astra for the red eye run all the way to Bordeaux with a stop every 2 hrs for coffee and wees. From Bordeaux we needed to catch a train to Bayonne which did not leave until 6.30. We had 6 hours to kill. Which we did in homeless bum style walking along and hanging out on the platform cooking soup and coffee with our camp burner.

6:30. Train, bus, Bayonne. Finally. 10.00am we walk out of the train station and find Hotel Paris-Madrid right next to us. The manager Patrick is extremely friendly, speaks great English, and gave us a cheap sweet room for $25E. Ow my goodness a bed. 3 weeks sleeping on a yoga mat sure makes you appreciate the comfort of a mattress. Collapse.
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We were going to camp in Biarritz/Anglet/Geutary area right on the beach and surf but as you can see neither activity was possible due to the bucketing down rain, 30kmph onshore winds and messy 15 ft storm swell. Welcome to sunny Biarritz. Not.

On our first public appearance from the Hotel Paris Madrid we attempted exploring Bayonne between heavy rainfall. The venture was not particularly successful as we got saturated but we did get a taste for this gorgeous traditional Basque town with picturesque townhouses sandwiched together along stonework canals.
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We did have 1 rain free overcast stormy day which allowed us to walk from La Barre (river mouth next to Bayonne) 4km along the ocean to Biarritz taking in the raw messy power of the Atlantic and imaging where these fabled fantastic French surf breaks would be located.
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We spent a night and day couch surfing in Anglet with the friendly Frenchman Allan and his girlfriend. He took us out for some ’French Mex’ and a beer, then generously let us sleep in his apartment while he slept in a friends apartment. The next day we ventured out into the storm to look at Saint Jean de Luz, a Basque town near the border of Spain. Even with the back drop of black clouds this place is beautiful.
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Back to the Hotel for another couple of days spent drying clothes and tasting the wonderful French delicacies available from the supermarket. Jan would not believe her eyes, the cheeses are numerous, affordable and delicious.
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And finally the day before we leave the storm finally passed and the sun came out. We were blinded by the light, went crazy, and Steve scored his much anticipated 1st surf in nearly 3 months at right hander called Lafitenia.
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So plan B was to head to the French Atlantic coast to camp and surf with the hopes of saving some of our endangered Euro species. Due to the atrocious weather the opposite was the result as we needed to stay in a hotel the whole time. This is when Plan C was formulated within a minute one stormy depressing night - Operation Morocco - affordable living with sun and surf. Phase 1 of Plan C was to head into Basque Country Spain. MUNDAKA, MUNDAKA Steve insisted.

Posted by jessnsteve 04:46 Archived in France Tagged hitchhiking Comments (0)

Cote D’Azur

French Riviera

sunny 17 °C

Plan A - Get a job

OK, we were told of these jobs one can get working and cleaning on rich peoples boats. So we caught the high speed train from Paris to Nice - the capital of the Riviera. We were also heading south because the European Autumn was kicking in.

The highly informative and friendly tourist office in Nice is right next door to the train station. We load up on maps and info, the staff were very good and proud of their jobs. We called several camp grounds near Antibes, where we were told the work is, but all the camp grounds were closed for the Autumn/Winter. Not a good start. Next to Antibes was Villeneuve Loubet Plage. After 6 phone calls we had 5 camp grounds to choose from. Great, we were deciding with maps unfolded everywhere. So if we stay here it would be a this far from the town centre but closer to Antibes, and if we stay there it would be closer to the bus and the beach, and if we do the weekly discount at this one bla bla bla……half an hour later and while the tourist office staff giggled at us it was agreed - Parc des Maurettes - a 3 star camping ground open until 15 November, situated 4km from Antibes, 10km from Nice, and 400m from the bus/train and beach. Sweet, and it was one of the cheapest at 13.45Euro a night.
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Parc des Maurettes is a REALLY cool camping spot. Even has its own Jacuzzi/spa/sauna!!! With mickey mouse bathroom/toilet facilities, internet, washing up and bbq areas etc etc loads of trees, squirrels, doves, sparrows, and SUPER friendly and helpful staff. Yes this place gets a wrap! It became our home for nearly 3 weeks.
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Plan A - Get a job. Yep next day after arriving we were up at the first sparrows fart for our first day of job hunting. We were so excited at the prospect of working on, and maybe living on and caring for, big beautiful yachts. At the prospect of up to 100Euro a day cash who wouldn’t be excited! The harbour at Antibes is LOADED with them. YIIPEEEE. So we brushed up on some French for 10 mins under a tree, discussed tactics and set off determined to earn some money. But 4 hours later all we had was some not so good advice that the industry had changed over the years, the recession had hit it hard as well, and to put the icing on the cake the season was over by about 3 weeks. Missed the boat one could say.
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We hit the local English speaking pubs, as advised, to try and have a beer with some captains and 2nd mates and deck hands etc. Right, I think we can do better if we operate alone. Meet back here in 45 mins…. How’d ya go? Jess ends up getting tuned by dirty language sailors and someone from a swingers club, and Steve gets hassled by a drunk guy. Then, we meet this Australian couple, Chris and Jenny, who came here for a month holiday and 6 years later are still here loving life. It was good to finish the day/night having a yarn to a couple of Aussies and we walked home with upgraded knowledge on how to tackle the job hunting.
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After 6hrs sleep we got up early and hit Antibes harbour again, or the ‘walk of shame‘ we find out it‘s called. No luck. This sucks. We also inquired about glassy and bar jobs at the 2 local English speaking pubs - something we forgot to do the previous night??

Day 3, Sunday, we take it easy, regather, and prepare for Monday which turned out jobless too. The guys in the dockyard gave us some hellish attitude. There was no jobs available. Three weeks ago there was. Damn.
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We do day trips to Cannes and Nice to do some sight seeing, fun, and job hunting, not fun - the English speaking/Irish pubs are too quiet this time of year and turns out the authorities have come down hard recently on tourists working without visas. No jobs on boats, no jobs in pubs. No work. Time to shift to Plan B.
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Plan B - go to the Atlantic Coast near Biarritz and camp and SURF!! Problem - the train there cost $140Euro EACH! France has trains only and no long distance buses except Eurolines who have a no surfboard policy. All right lets look at hitching, which can be done via organised rides through websites such as hitchikers.org. Back in the ol days the travel beauro right?? Anyway, we find another webiste, a French website, Allostop. BINGO a French couple were driving from Nice across Languedoc and Quercy to Bordeaux (2hrs north of Biarritz). With the help of the Ellen and Michelle on the front desk (THANKS SO MUCH GIRLS!) we organise this trip for $35E each, sweet, but it wasn’t until 4 November so we had 1 n half weeks to chill.

We spent the days waiting for our lift hanging out at on the pebbly Mediterranean beaches and having lazy baguette lunches in the sun at our camp ground with the doves and squirells. We also visited the medieval village Haut de Cagnes and took a 2nd look in Nice and explored the old part of town, Vieux Nice, and climbed the Colline du Chateau. The nights were spent playing celebrity Uno. I’m Celine Dion, um, ok I’ll be Janet Jackson. Next game Elton John v Billy Joel. Louis Pasteur v Marie Curie. Pink v Gwen Steffani. Kevin Bacon v Ben Affleck. Steven Segal v Juan Claud Van Damn. Scooby doo v Rex. Ben Stiller v Owen Wilson and we played and giggled for hours.
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But then the time came to pack up the tent and leave the Jobless Riviera. It was HEAVING down with rain that morning.

Lucky the sun came out after we had packed up and we could dry everything by 3pm when our lift was due. It went 3:20, 3:30, 3:40, 4pm…Hmmm hope they are coming, lets call. Turns out they are still partying on Corsica Island with no idea what day it was and had missed their ferry back to Nice. HA! The lift was postponed till tomorrow and we were offered to sleep in the TV room so we didn’t have to set up and pack up again.
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Beck and François arrived on time at midday apologising. No worries guys. Yep surfboards fit (Astra Wagon), bags in, sweet, and goodbye to Ellen And Parc des Maurettes. We were off to Bordeaux!!! WOOHOOO!

Posted by jessnsteve 04:45 Archived in France Tagged hitchhiking Comments (0)

Grand Paris

Festival of the gawk

15 °C

Our Paris experience was kicked off in high roller style - bargain last minute deal 1st class seats on the Thaylis ‘light speed millennium falcon’ train. Prior to leaving Amsterdam we had acquired a new Decathlon super ‘2 seconds’ tent so we head directly to Camping du Bois de Boulogne - a giant forested park within the city limits with the camp ground approx 7km to the Arc de Triumph.
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We caught 2 metro lines from the millennium falcon station, then a bus, then a short 200m walk to the camp ground. Setting up the tent honestly took all of 2 seconds - the tent we bought comes packed in a disc shape with the poles permanently installed bent into circles and figure 8’s. To set up you just throw it in the air and it pops into shape. So cool, but so small. The camp ground is leafy and overlooking the Seine. The facilities must have been nice once upon a time but are a little smelly and worn nowadays. The ridiculously cheap supermarket “Leader Price” and McDoonalds (for wifi) is just 500m across the bridge.

We camped in a designated area for tents (most the ground is set up in slots for vans) which was occupied by various shoe stringer travellers just like us. Many a night was spent huddled together drinking 1Euro poppers (bubbly) discussing free things to see and do, where we had been or where we were going, or the other mysterious residents of the camp ground (will explain back home as it involves a group of people that it is probably not safe to slander on the net!).

On our first venture into the city Steve was so excited at the view of the Arc de Triumph that he dodged through 8 lanes of roundabout traffic to stand underneath it. Immediately questioned by the local authorities about his state of mind he managed to smile his way out of it.
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We spent 5 days gawking at the marvels of Paris. Jess the tour guide, Steve the idiot, as Jess had visited Paris previously in her marching band days. Blessed with sunny mild weather we attacked Paris by foot. A 5km walk through the forest, another 2 to the Arc de Triumph then usually another 5km or so through the city before walking back to the camp site. To conserve our endangered Euro species we walked everywhere and took a packed lunch (3-4E) each day consisting of baguette, tomato, mustard, olives, tuna or lentils and French cheese. This, of course, was all washed down with very cheap French wine and eaten in one glorious grassy park or another. The best area was right in front of the Louvre.
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Our starry eyed fun came to an end when we rose at 4am in the cold dark to make our early train south. The glory tent was not so glorious to pack up - you wrestle with it Steve Irwin crocodile tamer style to get it back into a disk and into the bag. But good news, we made our train, with our tent, and were headed to Nice, on the French Riviera.

Posted by jessnsteve 04:45 Archived in France Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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