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Goodbye to Pyrenees, hello wine and oysters!
Posted by pdittman on September 25th, 2018 in '18 - Pyrenees-GR10, Hiking/Trekking

We’d finished up our GR10 section hiking in the village of Gourette – a ski resort nestled in the Pyrenees about 30 miles south of Pau, which was our starting and ending point for our GR10 adventure. In the high season, one can catch a bus from Gourette to Pau, but this was the shoulder season, the bus for Pau leaves from Laruns – a nearby town.  We’d planned to walk from Gourette to Laruns for the bus, but after arriving in Gourette after 16 miles and a mile+ of elevation gain (!), we quickly realized our plan fell into the “what were we thinking” category – this is the Pyrenees!

Gourette is at 5000 ft elevation and Laruns at 1700 ft of elevation – quite a descent for a linear distance of about 5 miles (an average gradient of about 11%) – it was 9 miles including all the hairpin turns!    Our gracious host Claude Soule at Le Boule de Neige, was able to find us a cab which could bring us to Laruns – in plenty of time to get the 11am bus to Pau.   As our cab was navigating the hairpins, I couldn’t help but envision the finish of Stage 19 of the 2018 Tour de France – having crested the Col D’Aubisque then descending at 40mph on a bicycle to the finish line in Laruns. OMG, they’re nuts!

Arriving in Laruns with plenty of time to spare, we enjoyed an espresso in the town square – joined by a tour group of cyclists who were on their way up to the Col D’Aubisque!     Town squares have monuments, often a prominent local citizen, or memorial to those passed. But this is cycling country – evidenced by the monument in the town square – a bicycle!  Love it!

laruns
Laruns Place de la Ville – where else do you put a bicycle frame on a monument in the center of town! It’s all about the bike!

Returning to Pau and our cozy hotel room, we spent a quiet afternoon exploring Pau a bit more, enjoying the promenade and some shops, and scouting dinner arrangements, settling on the cute back-alley Le Canard Royale.    The next morning, we took a bus back to the Pau airport to grab a car, and head off to the Arcachon on the coast and the Bordeaux region.

Pic du Midi d'Ossau from the Pau promenade - 30 miles to the south
Looking southward toward Pic du Midi d’Ossau – 30 miles in the distance from the Pau promenade

A marvelous thing – nav systems in cars…  As it happened, our rental car was a VW Toureg – which came fully equipped with a nav system – a treat to help us navigate our way toward Arcachon and the coast.  We didn’t really need the bigger car, but with the packs and all, it was nice to have the space, though it did seemd big compared to many cars on the road there.  Here in the states, the Toureg appears small compared to others on the road!

Without much trouble, we found our AirBnB – a cute one bedroom on the ground floor of a 3-story, which was just right for our few days in Arcachon.  The place was located a very short walk from the beach and town, had a beautiful outdoor patio, came equipped with 2 bicycles, and had a functional kitchen, which enabled us to grab some sustenance from town for breakfast, snacks, and our in-between/down time.

Arcachon and Cap Feret
Arcachon and Cap Feret

And that was really what our visit to the area was all about – just down time.  We didn’t have an agenda or itinerary – some potentials but nothing special – just a bit of spontaneity.

We’d chosen the area mainly for two reasons – it was close to Bordeaux (we love our wine!) and the beach/oysters (and we love our oysters and the beach!).  As it turns out, Arcachon bay supplies about 60% of all oysters produced in France – roughly 20M pounds per year!    We were pretty much in the epicenter of some of our favorite things!

Thus far, we’d been blessed with stunning weather, mid-70’s and sunny every day – and the next several days looked the same, with the exception of Friday.    Our few days shaped up pretty quickly – Thursday, we’d ferry to Cap Feret with the bikes, cycle on the bike path and visit some oyster shacks/villages, Friday would be a trip to Bordeaux and the Chateaux, and Saturday we set aside for a brief visit to Dune du Pilat  (largest sand dune in Europe!) and some beach time.

Below, you’ll find a few more pictures from our time in the Arcachon area.

À la prochaine!

oyster dinner
Oyster dinner at Le Pitt in Arcachon
baguette
What visit to the southwest of France would be complete without the daily baguette fresh from the market!
oyster shacks
Oystering is big business on Cap Feret – a view of the many oyster shacks
oyster snack
Very reminiscent of one of our favorite hangouts in Greenport, NY.
chateaux
Had a wonderful chat with the woman attending the office and chateaux for the day. As it happens, she’d spent a year in Norwalk, CT as an au pair, so we had some fun sharing stories and favorite places.
dune du pilat
The Dune du Pilat – sure seems like an odd place for a sand dune, but there it was! Very popular with the tour buses!

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