A Travellerspoint blog

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)

Destination Denmark

Fun in Copenhagen

REWIND: Only a month or so into our around the world extravaganza, back in late March, we bump into two cool cats in Oaxaca, Mexico. Oscar and Ellen. A nice mix with Oscar from Venezuela and Ellen from Sweden. Both reside in Denmark after finding each other n getting it on when working in a restaurant Oscar was managing.

1 wk later we bump into them and again in Palenque eating breakfast out in the jungle. Fate? Who knows but what I do know is that so much fun was had by all that we crossed the Mexican border together and travelled Guatemala. For 3 weeks the fun I describe could be summed up by the description of rambling through (2) Mayan ruins singing the Indiana Jones theme song, sampling a wide array of local delicacies such as Mezcal and rum, and searching for parties along pitch black roads through the jungle until the music got louder and louder and we could see the lights.

FAST FORWARD. We flew into Amsterdam as you should know if you are a diligent blog consumer, and if you know your geography better than we did before we left, you would know that we were mighty close to Denmark.

We call…… ‘Ey Oscar’……‘Ah ello’…….‘Oscar it’s Steve’……’EY ESTEVE!’

And it was decided right then and there we were flying to Copenhagen to reunite with Oscar and Ellen. WOOHOOO we arrived at 10pm. Ellen was not going to meet up with us until Saturday but Oscar was with good mate Nelson, a Kiwi builder/sailor who had been living in Denmark for 15 years.

Both of them had just done a red eye run from the other side of Denmark. Nelson had an accident and slipped over onsite at one of his and Oscars jobs. Knocked himself out cold and twitching. He hospitalised himself with a huge head gash. They came straight from the hospital to the airport.
No time was wasted. Oscar had organised a hotel for us and we went straight out to sample the Danish beer and pub life. For just 1 beer right we were dead tired, and they had just done a huge trip to meet up with us. Well, beer after beer, none the same shape or colour, we ended up stumbling in the hotel at 6:30 cigarettes hanging out of our mouths promising to get up and meet at 10am… I’m glad we didn’t take a group photo right then.

While in Copenhagen we visited Nelson’s pad in Roskilde. Then, we went sailing in Denmark with a Kiwi, a Venezuelan, and a huge bag of wine and delicatessen food in a replica 1800’s fishing boat!

When Ellen arrived the PARTY STARTED!!
We did a day trip to the Louisiana Museum, in which a collection of Jacob Holdt,s photos of America were on display, WHAT A LEDGEND look him up.
And we also did some sight seeing around Copenhagen including the very eyrie grave yard, Radhus (City Hall), Rundertarn and Nyhaven Canal.
GOOOODAMN it was good to see these guys again. Oscar is such a generous, knowledgeable and funny guy, and Ellen is one of those cool funny chicks who doesn‘t mind the odd fart! It was a very happy 5 days but also a very sad goodbye as we waved hooray to Ellen as her train left back to Sweden (where she studies) and then to Oscar as we boarded our Eurolines bus back to Amsterdam. We all get along really well and promised to catch up again. Maybe Berlin. Maybe Japan. Maybe Australia.

Posted by jessnsteve 04:45 Comments (0)

EUROPA - first stop AMSTERDAM!!!

Architecture, bikes, coffee shops, Heineken and freindly hospitality


What a flight!!! From Rio Airport (the most incompetent airport we have seen - good luck for the Olympics!!) we flew with Iberia to Madrid on an old plane, with old abused seats and old sleep deprived air hostess’s. The service was bad, lucky the food (and wine) was good =o)

From Madrid airport (WOW dig this joint recent upgrades gives it 5 stars!) we had a little wait until our connecting flight direct to Amsterdam. Touch down in Amsterdam, no customs?? We pick up our bags in record time and meet Maaike out the front of the exit gate who has come to meet us! The Holland traditional greeting - 3 kisses!!
During our stay in Amsterdam we were kindly hosted by the friendly bogan couple Niels and Maaike whom Neil and Jan (my folks for those who do not know these 2 technological luminary legends!) met in Sri Lanka many moons ago. It had been a couple of years since we had seen them last, 2006 I think, when they stayed in the dungeon at Redhead for a couple of weeks over xmas and celebrated a Belmont yacht club new years with us.
Niels and Maaike are both born and bred Netherlandians about to give birth to their first little bogan boy. We were very appreciative of them letting us call their Oosterpark (10 mins riding stoned or 5 mins walk from central Amsterdam) apartment home after months and months of dorm beds. Plus a recent freaky hostel incident in Brazil sent us over the edge - story to be told at home over a coldy.

After a couple of days recuperation from the RANKEST jet lag to date (surely nothing to do with the 2 day bender we had in Rio before boarding) we are ready to explore with our fun loving hosts. A short walk to a big windmill that brews its own “white” beer (sweet, thick and fruity) on site for a round with Niels and Maaikes’ friends. Things start to get a lil loose after 3 beers - WT are we losing it? Nope the beers are 7% kiddies!!! Thai dinner down the road next then time to board a friends boat for a night cruise of Amsterdam’s canals. Thanks Derrick and Andrea - Champions - WAS SOO GOOD! Magic. No traffic on the water, reflections of 1600’s buildings painted in yellow light and Friday night revellers danced across the water while our brains swam with Dutch beer. YIIPEEE!
We explored the city with Niels and Maaike via pedal power. EVERYBODY rides these classic old thin cruisers in Amsterdam! Except the hip guys that dig the coffee shops - cool cat struttin. Anyway the whole share the road on a bike thing took a little getting use to, look in every direction for scooters, bikes, cars, trams and each other! Watch the tram tracks too - they bite, trust me. Huey put on a show for us - the weather was unseasonably warm and sunny! Blessed.
We took the Valvonator (Neils pretty boy tv-less Volvo) on a couple of spins to nearby destinations. The beach for a glorious sunset and to a nearby park for a jog in an attempt to fight the Amsterdam bulge. The BULGE was contributed by spoilt Jess and Steve apartment glory - Maaike’s many amazing dinners and profitejes cook ups, including the incredibly cool fondue like things with mini concave fry pan thingies. The BEST cheese and bread on tap. Ridiculously cheap beer (AU$16.00 carton 24 Heineken, and Pilsen at AU$12), and who could forget the beloved Melk Chokolade on toast - shaved chocolate on toast - heaven! Jess smashed the back end out of about 7 boxes! Steve slaughtered the cheese, salami and Heinekens! BULGE!
Museums were also on the cards, including the highly cultural and mentally demanding Heineken Museum WOOHOO 3 free beers. But then Maaike fired up the valvonator and took us to the open air Zuiderzee museum, “Land of Water”. Located in the Zuiderzee area is over a hundred premises from the former Zuiderzee area have been brought together in the Museum Park. Some of them are completely fitted out in accordance with the old situation, with the original furniture and utensils. The visitor can also attend demonstrations of old trades in the Museum Park. Just think Holland’s version of Old Sydney Town. And what ever happened to OST - I loved that as a kiddie!
Note: Maaike is an exceptional driver unlike Niels’ erratic, lunatic, master bogan driving which made Jess carsick.
A weekend of relaxation was had at Niels’ parents home in Schagan. They had a lovely cat - Nelson. Dinner with Maaike’s parents was rather nice and so was Niels’ favourite Dutch delicacy by the beach - the slimy raw salty herring - wasn‘t bad!
And yes we did all the obligatory things in Amsterdam. “Relaxed” in the adjacent parks, partied with Maaike n Niels and their friends, loosened the hips up to do Dj Eric da man, rode bikes trying to avoid tourist collisions, fell in love with the architecture, and walked along the red light district.
Our Amsterdam experience was top shelf thanks to Niels and Maaike and their welcoming and hospitable friends (By the way guys how was fat freddys drop?? They’ve just been announced for Byron Bluesfest 2010 WOOHOO!).

Staying in a comfortable home with friends was delightful to say the least. To be spoilt with delicious food, kindness and generosity was the icing on the cake. A warm thanks to Niels and Maaike - for a couple of Dutch bogans you sure know how to make two Aussie boganoids feel at home - love Lord ‘red card’ Bogan and the Chopping Queen.

Posted by jessnsteve 04:44 Archived in Netherlands Tagged luxury_travel Comments (0)

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