Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a firm believer in holidays. In the Summer of 2012, we decided to take the entire month of August off and do a three-week European road trip. Highly recommended!
The first few days of August we spent just relaxing and sorting stuff out. I had already tested the tent, so that was good. I also picked up a new surfboard just a few days before the holiday, so on August 3, we were all good to go! We picked up our car at the airport in the morning, it turned out to be a 2-month old Volvo estate, with all the gadget (satnav, leather seats, iPod connector, you name it, it had it). We first stopped at my parents for a day or so, to pick up some more camping essentials such as a cooking hob and say hi to everyone in the south. On the 5th, we set out to our first stop, Paris where we would hang out with Paul’s parents for a few days. Just as we crossed the border with France, I realised we had left our rain jackets at home. Well, it’s a summer holiday after all, let’s hope for nice weather…
Kudos to Paul for getting us to Paris safely, and also getting us into (and out of) without any harm done to the nice new car. Paris was splendid, as always. We had a wonderful time skipping the Louvre and d’Orsay queues with Paul’s parents (tip: buy tickets in advance at FNAC!) and sampling some fabulous food (new discovery: L’Apibo in Rue Tiquetonne, in the 2ieme arrondissement, really really awesome food).
On the 9th of August, Paul’s parents went up north to visit some friends in Hamburg, while we went south, all the way into Basque country. Originally I had wanted to stay close to San Sebastian, but as the campsites near the sea were already full when we booked, we ended up in Mundaka. Which was really quite far away from Paris. Luckily the roads are super nice (OK, you pay a fortune in tolls, but it’s worth it). Since Paul had driven there, I set up the tent (easy-peasy) after which we walked down to the little village to explore and find some food. Mundaka is really super small, but really nice though.
We spent most of our days relaxing in the little town, taking walks, reading books, surfing a bit (the waves weren’t amazing, but it was still nice to try out my new board), eating tapas….you know, the good life. We also took a trip to Bilbao, which was very cool, although lots of shops were closed because it was a Sunday.
On August 16, we went back north again, destination Contis-Plage, with an afternoon stopover in San Sebastian. San Sebastian is just the nicest little town ever, lots to see, lots to eat, and only a short ride from the French border. Contis-Plage is one of the few less spoiled French beach towns, where we stayed at a huge but quite nice campsite. Our spot was quite big and there was shade. Most mornings, I went out for a little surf (as the winds tend to be offshore in the mornings and turning to onshore in the afternoon) and on the way back I would meet up with Paul in the little town for breakfast. There was just the most amazing bakery in town, where you could look into the area where the loveliest baguettes were made. The interesting thing is (maybe that’s the normal way of doing it but I never knew) was that they use cloth that is folded in a sort of wavey pattern to shape the loaves.
We hung out around the beach, rented a tandem and biked through the woods to the next town over (Cap de l’Homy, which is even smaller than Contis-Plage) where we took a splash in the ocean (of course staying right in front of the lifeguards, you don’t mess with those in France, actually, you also don’t mess with the ocean there, one morning I sort of got caught in a rip, and it was a long paddle back to the beach, but I stayed calm and the heli didn’t have to lift me out, as it did with less lucky people most other days, phew!). We also visited Bordeaux, which took ages to get to because of a traffic jam due to roadworks. Fabulous town, only waay to hot, maybe a place to plan a city trip to sometime in the future.
Foodwise, this part of the trip was very different from our week in Spain, no tapas, but some super awesome salads at this nice beach bar whilst watching the sunset (they had a DJ who would play some heavy classical music to accompany the sun sinking into the ocean, and everyone would applaud when it disappeared, funky but cool experience).
We also barbecued on the beach in Mimizan. Mimizan is only 15km from Contis-Plage and it’s the place where I first encountered surfing in 2004, so when we were nearby I just wanted to pop over. To be honest, I hardly recognised it. When I was there, there was maybe one ATM, and some streets weren’t really paved and it was quite small. Now there was a huge big boulevard, filled with families, lots of wafel stands. Good thing we didn’t stay there, although some shops were still there. And the beach was still good 🙂
On August 22, we packed up our tent again and headed to Brittany, to a little place called St. Cast-le-Guildo. This place is sort of halfway between Contis-Plage and the Netherlands, it’s near Le Mont Saint Michel and I had a really awesome holiday there with my parents when I was about 16. The town hadn’t changed much, neither had the campsite. The Brittany coast is really gorgeous, lots of little bays, dramatic cliffs, lots of little fishing towns and the accompanying hearty food that keeps everyone going. My new favourite are the buckwheat pancakes (“galettes bretonnes”) that come piled up with lettuce, eggs, sausage or whatever else you would like really. We also visited a little restaurant where everything was cooked on a big charcoal fire in the restaurant, very cool (it was called Le P’tit Breizh).
One of the highlights of our holiday was our trip to Mont Saint Michel, the little island off the coast of Normandy with the big monastery from which it lends its name. It’s a true engineering feat, considering people have been living there for over a millennium. Even though it was summer, the winds coming from the sea and just the general humidity make it not a very friendly place. Easy to defend though. The narrow little streets, even though littered with tourists and souvenir shops really give you a hint of what old towns really used to look like. If you have a chance to go there, really do, you won’t regret it.
We also hung around St. Malo (also some awesome fortifications), shopped at one of those fabulous big French supermarkets, and on the morning of our departure, I also got a last little surf session in. After the surf session we visited one of the awesome French bakeries to buy some baguettes to take home to my parents for dinner that night.
More pics at:
Road Trip Part I
Road Trip Part II
Road Trip Part III
Road Trip Part IV