As I already said, sometimes you face real challenges on the road. This can be a blocked sink and you having to put the tube in your mouth and blow (no nasty thoughts please), a crack in your windshield, a blown fuse or sometimes it is just days that you spend in the van, driving around without feeling like you will ever arrive somewhere. The further south we got, the more difficult it was to find the empty, romantic, idyllic places we’d imagined to find. As always in life, sometimes our expectations don’t accord with what we really get in the end. I personally find that very frustrating from time to time – it’s my own expectations that disappoint me most. It’s not that they are particularly high, but I just have a certain image in my mind, no matter if it’s concerning travels, love or life in general and when I can’t live up to my own expectations or someone else doesn’t, it often feels like failure to me. That’s toxic. Toxic thoughts. I am working really hard at changing my way of thinking to a much healthier way and letting go of expectations, to be able to live in the now and take what life has to offer. My journey down the coast helped me a lot with that because you don’t ever know what you’re gonna get, you never know where you’ll end up in the evening and your job is to make the best of it, every day, always. At least that’s how I want to live and that’s what we did in Les Landes. Welcome to Part III of my road trip.
// Les Landes & Côte de Basques //
Stop 10 – Biscarosse Lac
After having picked up Tina at the airport in Bordeaux, we went to the Dune du Pyla to reunite with our travel friends Basti, Birk and Marc and walked up the dune (or half of it), so we can at least say we were there. I have to say, Dune du Pyla is impressive, because it is simply massive. But everything around it is really weird. I mean it’s like a mix of tourists and really rich French people and it really does stink like pee in a lot of places (I’m not kidding). If you want to go there anyway, do yourself a favour and don’t pay for the parking at the dune, but go into the village (make a right in the roundabout), drive down to the beach, make a left and follow the road (the steep curvy one) and then as soon as you see the dune park somewhere, there is a gate in the fence that is open until 8pm and also a hole in the fence that is open all night.
We didn’t want to sleep at the dune though, partly because we heard there are a lot of break-ins, so we tried to find a place to sleep, but it got dark already and so we just randomly stopped next to a lake and spent the night there, it was raining and we had pasta with pesto and also we saw a little wild pig get run over by a car, so sad, but it got up like a little fighter pig and continued his way and I really hope you survived, little pig-friend. Oh, and we also got a ticket from the police that night. Oh well, what can I say. We just packed up and left as soon as we could in the morning.
Since the weather was not nice that day, we decided to go grocery shopping and find a gas station and stuff like that and even though we found a really cool parking in the forest near Mimizan (it’s called Lespecier, if you wanna check it out, the beach is really nice, but you are not allowed to camp there, apparently one night might be OK, if you can handle the ranger knocking on your door in the morning) we decided to drive further, because it was raining. So we arrived at Contis Plage in the afternoon and had „breakfast“ there, and still couldn’t decide if we wanted to stay. But since there was an „Aire du Camping Car“ (a parking that costs 13 Euros per night, if you really don’t find anything to camp wild – toilets, shower, water) with a shower, we sneaked in there to wash our hair and shave, which (we all know that) is a big thing on the road to be able to do that. Birk picked wild blackberries and we found, all clean and not hungry any more, the energy to find ourselves a real nice place to stay…
Stop 11 – St. Girons Plage
…which didn’t work out that day. It was like someone had put a curse on us or something, but wherever we went was either height limited (so the boys couldn’t fit through with their high roof, Nash is 1,97m luckily, so we can nearly go everywhere) or „no camping“ signs and people confirmed that you really weren’t allowed to stay and so on and so on. So we ended up in St. Girons Plage on a tiny piece of parking next to the entrance of the campsite with some hippies (no, real hippies!). It was still raining and the only good thing was, that we could use the toilets on the campsite and also clean our dishes with warm water and there was an open air party, so we just got drunk on cheap rosé wine and that’s all.
Stop 12 – Messanges Plage
The next morning the sun was out again and nothing held us in St. Girons, so we went to Vieux-Boucau, parked right at the beach and had a beautiful day chilling in the sun. The surf conditions weren’t suitable at all these days, so we just slept and played beach tennis and built sand castles and other stuff that grown-ups do, like drinking Orangina and eating ice cream. And then like a silver lining on the horizon a surf friend that I had met in Morocco finally answered to a message I had sent him and gave us the best advice ever: there is a cute little parking in Messanges Plage where you can camp for 48 hours legally and it’s for free. Sounded perfect to us, so after enough sunbathing, we drove back to Messanges (which is a bit north of Vieux) and found vanlife paradise. The „cute little parking“ really exists and we found a space that fit both of the vans, were surrounded by like-minded vanlifers and didn’t move for 48 hours. After having sweet potato curry us and our red wine can (I know it looks like we drank a lot of wine, which is true, but it’s hard to not drink wine when you are in France… I know that’s not a good excuse!) joined our neighbours, two guys from Munich who had their studio in their van, building longboards, so cool, and we had a bonfire and played music all night long and everybody joined with their instruments and the evening ended with garlic pasta out of the pan at 4 o’clock in the morning and it was just perfect.
Get there: When you are in Messanges, make a right at the roundabout in the direction Messanges Plage, just follow the road and it is the first parking on the right, there is a sign with the rules and everything on it, you can’t miss it / toilets, beach shower, no water.
Surf: I really liked Messanges for surfing, I feel like in Les Landes the conditions are pretty much the same everywhere, but Messanges is not so crowded since there isn’t any proper infrastructure, there is a surfschool and board rental, though, and a restaurant.
Before we move on to the next stop, just a quick note on the side: if you are into surf fashion, make sure to stop at the factory outlet village in Seignosse. Since all the big surf brands have their headquarters in Hossegor, you can shop all of them in the factory outlets (Billabong, Volcom, Ripcurl etc.).
Stop 13 – Biarritz
Maybe Biarritz is not a destination that comes to your mind when you think road trip, wild camping, vanlife. Think again! We weren’t very convinced either when the boys made us go into the city, wich is, no doubt, beautiful and lively and has a really nice vibe to it, but we were like: where are we supposed to sleep with a van with a pop-up roof? Well, the first night we actually didn’t sleep with the roof up, we slept „downstairs“ with the trunk a tiny bit open for at least some oxygen, and the surfboard half on top of us, but literally right in the middle of the city next to a park and, believe it or not, we didn’t even get a ticket. So we were wowed and decided to stay another day and another night. We spent the day at Plage Marbella, which I really liked, it’s a bit calmer than the city beach and a nice surfspot (for all levels) with good parking facilities. The night, we spent in a street called Avenue de Notre-Dame. I know it doesn’t sound romantic, just sleep in a random street. It’s not just a street, though… it’s right above the Plage de la Côte de Basque, that’s also the location of the Biarritz Surf Club, and vans park along the street like pearls on a chain. Just van after van after van. Maybe because it’s right at the spot, maybe because you have the best view of the ocean and Spain, or maybe because the police check the street, but let you do your thing. We even put our roof up. Oh, and there is a public toilet, another plus. The whole area around Avenue de Notre-Dame is really nice, too, we went to a night market, there is a beach club and everything you need in walking distance. I have to say, this was really one of my favourite stops on the whole trip, because it was different and surprising and charming and sometimes you just have to go somewhere you wouldn’t expect to be suitable, just to be surprised. I admit there is a risk of getting a bad surprise, but man, if the surprise is good – it’s all worth it! So limit your expectations and accept what life gives you with open arms!!
Part IV of this travel story will take you to the north of Spain, so stay tuned!