Dropped Tod at Bordeaux airport yesterday and headed for the coast.
To the south west of Bordeaux there is an inland sea - the Bassin d'Arcachon - and the road past the airport leads straight to Cap Ferret which sits at the end of a long peninsula that partly encloses the sea.
On the east side of the peninsula there is the calm of the shallow Arcachon Basin. Cross to the west and there are the rollers of the Atlantic. Great to visit, but possibly not on a major holiday!
August 15th (The Assumption) is an important date in the Catholic calendar and the numbers already holidaying are swelled by those down for the long weekend. So driving down this long spit of land with its single main road, it's important to already be in holiday mood, with all the time in the world: window wound down, arm hanging out, eyeing all the bottoms on bikes that are going faster than you. This is bike country. Bring your bikes on the back of your car, squeeze your car into the last remaining parking space on the spit and forget about it until it's time to wend your slow way home back up the single main road.
There are tantalising glimpses of the mud flats of the basin, between the pine trees and the camp sites, holiday cottages, restaurants and adventure parks. Determined to drive to the end of the spit, I found that the crowds began to thin out - it was lunchtime - and the god of parking found me a sandy space under pines among the huddle of small wooden huts where the oysters for which the basin is famous are sold.
Picking my way across the wet mud and sand, between lumps of seaweed, I photographed stranded boats and families pottering on the edge of the low tide. But this was only part of what I had come to see. Less than a mile away, on the other side of the spit, I scrambled up a grass covered sand dune and came over the brow to a vast expanse of open sky, endless beach and the crashing waves of the Atlantic.
The slow traffic jam had been worth it - just to be here breathing this salt-laden air, legs buffeted as the shallows of these great sucking waves rushed up the beach.
I'll come back with Tod - late in the year when the tourists are gone.