How have you been? You might have noticed we haven’t been in touch for a few days. Well, we don’t like to bombard our subscribers with too many notification emails when we’re away. So considerate!

How was Bordeaux then?

Bridge over the Garonne, Bordeaux
Love those lampposts!

It was a pleasant surprise to be honest. My only previous experience of the city was on a motorbike trip a few years ago. We’d stayed in a cheap (very cheap) motel on the outskirts. In order to get into town we had to negotiate a night-time warren of temporary shelters populated by very suspicious looking characters. So three of us decided to stay local and opt for a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet, while the other three went off to find a pub with ladies dancing in their underwear. I opted for the Chinese restaurant I hasten to add. In the years since, we’ve had many a discussion as to who had the better night!

My preconceptions were blown away not long after we’d parked up at Camping Beau Soleil. Although we had to get our heads round the public transport system first. Five euros each bought us all-day tickets which provided access to all buses, trams and river ferries – bargain! We took full advantage of all three modes of transport. A quick bus ride took us to the tram terminus and a short time later we were deposited at the Cathédral Saint-André. As so often happens when you use the “following your nose” system of journey planning, we were annoyed to find we’d missed a free concert there the night before d’oh! Had we known about it earlier we would have travelled in to give it a whirl.

Cathedrale Saint-André, Bordeaux
Cathédrale Saint-André, Bordeaux

After a quick tour of the cathedral, where the future Queen of France Eleanor of Aquitaine (aged 13!) married the (also future) King Louis VII in 1137, we walked along the banks of the Garonne to the Saturday street market. Crowded with shoppers, it was easy to see what a multicultural city we were visiting, with people of all nationalities mixing, chatting and negotiating over the price of brightly coloured fabrics and exotic (to me!) clothing. This wasn’t a food market, apart from the odd fast-food stall; I’ve never seen so much clothing, or so many shoes and handbags in one place before.

A short ride on the river ferry took us to the Cité du Vin, which houses a permanent exhibition based on the wines of Bordeaux, its most famous export. Did we pay €27 each for admission? What do you think? We limited ourselves to a whizz round the ground floor, and a peek at the wine boutique. You can see from the photo that the shop was quite a wonder to behold. We queued outside the restaurant for a while as our stomachs were demanding lunch. The queue was moving so slowly however that we bailed out in search of an alternative.

This proved to be a great decision once we’d crossed the walkway to Les Halles de Bacalan. We could hear the noise even before we entered. Picture a big market hall with tables, high counters and awnings all around the outside, some inside too. The main attraction was 15-20 counters manned by frantically busy chefs who were cooking up dishes made from local produce. The place was absolutely heaving, the noise tremendous as friends met friends, and family met family to eat together and catch up with all the gossip on a Saturday morning. The atmosphere was noisy, steamy and full of appetising scents as we jostled our way through the crowd. We settled on coated pieces of chicken with dips and a glass of wine. Best McNuggets ever!

Bacalan food hall
The bustling food hall of Bacalan

Bordeaux is one of those stops, like Porto, Lisbon, and Valencia which will draw us back for a long weekend visit in the future.

Our next two stops were one-nighters to speed us up on our way to meet our good friends on the Spanish border. Both of them cast my mind back to last month when I was seated in front of my PC at home. As long-time followers will know we’re generally quite er.. relaxed with our “planning“. For these two destinations though, I’d had a little trawl through some of the pics posted by our Instagram followers. For no other reason than that their photos looked good, we chose Hourtin Port and Mimizan for our next stops. Both are on the west coast, one slightly north of Bordeaux, the other south, on the way to Biarritz where we hoped to hook up with our motorhoming buddies.

Hourtin Port
Hourtin Port

Our Hourtin Port site was a former campsite, recently taken over by Camping-Car Parks who are doing a great job of tidying up older sites or aires. They install barriers (boo!) and renovate the service areas (hurray!) installing electricity hookups along the way. Their charges are reasonable and they allow a maximum of a 48 hour stay. This makes sure that people don’t hog the nice areas for weeks on end. Sadly it means the free stopovers we’re used to are disappearing. I guess that’s the price we have to pay for the rising popularity of this kind of lifestyle. Hard core campervanners will still find out of the way spots here and there of course, but for leisure campers like ourselves these stops are perfectly fine.

Hourtin Port itself sits on the edge of Lac d’Hourtin, a massive freshwater lake separated from the Atlantic by a thin strip of land. It’s pretty much dedicated to water sports with kite-surfing schools, kayaking, fishing and leisure boating being the primary activities. All around us were holiday homes and kiddies’ adventure play parks. We also found a small selection of restaurants and bars in the marina area. Tucking Vince away in the trees would have made for pleasant few days but we needed to press on.

Kites in Mimizan
Bizarre selection of huge kites in Mimizan!

We managed to park among the trees in Mimizan too. This time because the main tarmac area was full of campervans and motorhomes. Fortunately this aire, also managed by Camping-Car Parks had an unofficial flat sandy section among the pine trees. The reason there was no room at the inn? May Day. It’s a big thing here. We spent a cracking afternoon wandering the crowded streets of this pretty seaside resort, taking in the scents of candy-floss & frying churros and listening to the marching bands. We could only handle the pounding beats of the massed drummers for two numbers before adjourning to a bar where we could enjoy a couple of cool beers and watch the kite display. It’s the first time I’ve seen a flying octopus, I have to confess.

One of the things we love most about this kind of trip is stumbling across such events by accident. We haven’t quite managed to eclipse the 8th May celebrations in Algodonales yet – but that won’t stop us trying!

Reading this back, I realise that for once there are no tales of either mayhem or disaster. How unusual! Don’t worry though, we’ll more than make up for that next time. 

Chat soon xx

Giant Dice
We rolled the dice… and Mimizan it was!
Pine against the blue sky
How blue would you like your sky, sir?
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Two old codgers, just sitting on the jetty enjoying the sunshine
About Ken Tomlinson 219 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

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