Traveling in a van is my ultimate idea of freedom and I always imagined it to be really easy and playful and unlimited and sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. You don’t only have to deal with safety issues (see Part I), but also the everyday life can be quite exhausting from time to time. Especially during the first days on the road you have to find out how a lot of things work best and slowly get used to the logistics of vanlife, you will spend a lot of time packing and unpacking, cleaning and optimising. Slowly you will learn not to get too stressed about it and be modest, live without electricity, without a proper shower, think differently, set your priorities on filling up water, finding a toilet (or a quiet place to dig a hole), buying enough food for a couple of days and, of course, finding a good place to camp – and then when you’ve done all of this, the fun begins. But day by day you will get more and more into the right rhythm, your rhythm, and sometimes you will have bad days, but then, when you have good days, they are really, really good, „living the dream“-good, „watching the most insane sunset“-good, „eating avocado baguette all day“-good, „writing a happy song“-good, „walking barefoot, being dirty and absolutely not wanting to be anywhere else“-good. Part II of the journey started of with a bad day, but after that luckily loads of good days followed.
// Gironde //
Stop 5 – Soulac-sur-Mer
From la Rochelle we drove down to Royan to take the ferry to Soulac-sur-Mer and we only had to wait for maybe 1,5 hours, which was pretty OK, if it hadn’t been 42 degrees in the van, but we entertained everyone by basically entering the ferry in our underwear. The ferry was around 30 Euros for us (I think because Nash went through as a normal car or because we were two girls with no clothes on), normally it’s around 50 Euros for campervans. Soulac-sur-Mer itself wasn’t very concinving and neither was the campsite we stayed at, so skip that and exit the village to the south, maybe 2 km further you can park along the dunes… if we only had known…
Stop 6 – Hourtin Plage
I actually lied when I said the first day was bad and then some good days followed, parts of the second day were bad, too. We decided to go to Hourtin Plage and check this out and if it didn’t suit us to go further to Lacanau, because it seemed to be really close. Said and done, we arrived in Hourtin, thought it was OK, but were tempted because we thought we might find something better, so we drove towards Lacanau, which wasn’t close at all, but took us an hour, because the direct road was closed, so you had to drive around the whole lake Hourtin. Great. Our mood got worse when we got into a traffic jam right before Lacanau and, when we actually arrived, realized that there would be nowhere to camp. All the parkings had height limits and the whole town was just souvenir shops and just not our style. So I had a little nervous breakdown and a fight with my friend and then we calmed down and decided to drive back to Hourtin. Yep, we actually did that. Because sometimes in life your ego tells you, you need more to be satisfied. You think you will find something better elsewhere, you cannot find peace, you need to run faster, jump higher, be thinner, be prettier, more succesful, find a better lover, or whatever it is in your life, you think you need more. I will tell you something: that’s not true. You have to live in the moment, be present, enjoy what you have, appreciate the good, be satisfied and take it day by day. I knew that already, but vanlife taught me that lesson again and I am thankful that in this situation, we were just able to reverse the decision, and drive back. Most of the time in life you can’t do that. So choose wisely, my friends.
Anyway, driving back to Hourtin was the best decision ever, because, call it coincidence or fate, we found our fellow travelers for the next 10 days, literally just sitting there. When we arrived we drove back to a parking we’d seen in the morning and there was a free parking space right next to a Mercedes van with a German number plate, three guys sitting in front of it. I opened the window and said: „Hi friends, did you sleep here last night?“ And they said: „Yes, we did.“ And I said: „Can we be your neighbors?“ And they said: „Of course you can.“ End of the story. Birk, Basti and Marc and their van were our new friends, we formed a travel party together and since that day never went back on a campsite, but only camped wild, exactly what I wanted.
Sleep: In Hourtin Plage, we parked on a public parking ground, right on the edge of the forest, within walking distance to the beach (and the surf): just drive into the village towards the beach, there is an extremely expensive campsite on the right, with a small supermarket, drive past that and make the first left, follow the road and hope for a parking space anywhere between there and the beach / public toilet, water, beach shower.
Surf: Yep!! Nice beachbreak! Also, you will find all you need surfwise (surfschool & shops) plus there are a few restaurants and bars, but the place isn’t too touristy and more chilled.
Stop 7 – Hourtin Lac
After having watched an incredible sunset in Hourtin Plage with a Mojito in our hands and spent a night at the beach, lit up by the full moon, playing guitar, talking and celebrating Miriam’s birthday, we decided to wash off the salt from our skin and spend a day at the Hourtin lake, just 10 km further inland. Luckily, we found a great spot for the next 24 hours that felt absolutely perfect to me. We parked right at the lake (after Nash got stuck in the sand and the boys had to push us out) by a little landing stage in the shadow of some trees, our vans side by side, and just spent our time swimming, sleeping in my hammock, listening to an audio book and had dinner on a wooden platform on the lake. When I think back now, this was one of my favourite stops on the whole trip, just because it was so different and calm and peaceful and lazy and not pressured, 24 hours of just being, nothing else.
Sleep: If you drive south from Hourtin Plage just take the first road on the right towards the lake and shortly after that you will find our spot. It shouldn’t be a problem to sleep there, while we stayed there a couple of other campers did, too // no toilets, no shower, no water, no surf obviously.
Stop 8 – La Jenny Oh, La Jenny. I can’t help but smile when I think of our days in La Jenny. Basically it’s nothing but a parking lot behind a massive dune next to a nudist village, and walking to the beach will tell you a lot about the shape you are in (I was clearly not in a good enough shape to run up that dune). We spent our days jumping through waves, surfing (although it was much too big for me), playing boules and beach tennis, and we collected beautiful seashells and I wrote a song. It’s called wave by wave (it’s in German, though) and it’s about a place or more a state of mind that you are at, letting go of everything, trusting the process, day by day, step by step, wave by wave, knowing that you are that close to finding happiness and you are not willing to ever go back.
Here it is (Please don’t mind the sound quality, it’s just an iPhone video taken by my friend Tina in Spain, but I hope you enjoy the song and the sound of the waves):
Sleep: It’s not a problem at all to stay at La Jenny for a couple of days, there is a very friendly ranger who will check if you have packed your stuff inside in the morning, but no one minds the camping. Good surfspot, too. Go to the village of Le Porge and make a right in the direction „La Jenny“, then just follow the curvy road till the end // no toilet, no shower, no water and no phone connection.
Stop 9 – Arès / Bassin d’Arcachon
Leaving La Jenny was hard, but that’s how it is, while traveling you say a lot of goodbyes to places and people, you never know if you will see them again, but you won’t get further in life if you hold on too tight, traveling is letting go. So we went to Cap Ferret, which was a bit too busy for our taste and we decided to drive a little bit further around the Bassin d’Arcachon and found a spot in Arès right by the beach. My friend Miriam had to go back to Germany the day before, so it was me and the boys and I used the afternoon to take a proper shower under the beach shower and also wash my clothes, yes, felt so good. Since the Bassin d’Arcachon is a bit of a posh region, I felt a little bit like an alien that had just landed in a space ship, at least that’s how the people looked at me hanging up my underwear in between two street signs, but a girl gotta do what a girl gotta do and that’s stay clean (at least a little bit). Maybe it wasn’t surprising that we were woken up by the police knocking on the van at 6.40 am shouting we couldn’t sleep there, maybe they found it a little bit too cheeky that we parked right next to the no camping sign. Anyway, thanks to them we saw an amazing pastel pink sunrise, but it was still a pain in the ass and I cannot recommend to camp anywhere in that area. After picking up our daily dose of chocolate croissant on the way, we found a super sweet place to hang out in the harbour of Audenge with a sea water pool and showers, toilets and cows.
If you feel like you wanna grab some oysters and chill at a nice place for a couple of hours, Audenge is your spot. If not, just skip the whole area and move on to Part III of my road trip down the Atlantic coast, we still have 3 weeks to go, my friends!