There's a little stretch of western France that is akin to heaven. It's called Cap Ferret/Bassin d'Arcachon and it's as close to perfection as you could hope to get.
The town of Arcachon is a buzzy beachside haven with seafood restaurants, cool boutiques and a beautiful daily market selling yesterdays catch, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as cashmere, silk dresses and pastries.
La Maison du Bassin on Cap Ferret is the kind of hotel that one wishes to open in those daydreams one has of running a seaside b&b. The bar and terrace were full of interesting types, from Parisian families en vacances to surf dudes to arty creatives. And us. It has a whiff of The Hamptons about it. The region boasts stunning white beaches, surfing, cycling, seafood, the best wine in France, sand dunes, dolphins....it's full of tanned beautiful families with kids straight out of Boden, dads who look like a cross betwenn Sean Penn and Matthew McConaughey and chic bikini clad mums wearing straw hats and boasting not a millimetre of fat. The shoes are Converse, Havaianas and Bensimon. I'd like to say I hate it but I'm smitten.
Cap Ferret has wide open white sandy beaches with barely a soul on them at the end of July, cool beach bars playing salsa and latin sounds with driftwood sofas and shade sails and enough surf to keep the dudes happy. Stylish boutiques like Jane de Boy and Popies nestle beside wooden oyster shacks in the fisherman's quarter serving delicious crustaceans with a glass of chilled white. Everyone cycles with their groceries, baguettes, poodles and French bulldogs in their baskets.
Chateau Galhaud locked up their wine when they heard Handyman was in Saint Emilion on Sunday. It's a beautiful village full of history, with a monastery dating back to the 8th century. We were spolit for choice with wine and went to two different caves and chateaux for tastings before heading for lunch on a shady terrace. As we were paying the bill, I noticed a poster advertising Herbie Hancock performing in Bordeaux. 'I wish we'd been here for that, I bet it was brilliant,' I said to Handyman. The very cool guy sitting at the bar wearing a hat nodded and smiled to himself. It was Herbie, chilling on a Sunday lunchtime in sleepy Saint Emilion!
You've got to love a road trip, especially if you work from home and time isn't a problem. As long as you book places with wifi, you can work when necessary and explore the rest of the time. After interviewing Lenny Henry, I finally managed to persuade Handyman to hire a bike so I don't have to keep training alone following my coast rides in Spain and exploring the Bassin here. We hit the road first thing and cycled along stunning routes next to the ocean, stopping for a coffee and a croissant just as the rest of Bordeaux was waking up. Short of a surf, which had to stop after day two when a fellow surfer careered into me and caused a gash in my ear that needed six stitches, or a gallop across the beach, it is the perfect way to kick start the day.
After cycling around the Cap, Sebastian Degrave's oyster shack, pictured above, beckoned and six huge oysters and a glass of white wine seemed in order. Although to call it a shack is slightly misleading given that it sits on a beach opposite the oyster beds and looks like a style shot out of Cote Sud. Cannot say more...except please don't come here, it's awful.
I am a London-born journalist, married with two daughters, who one day took a punt and upped sticks with my family, our cats and dogs to start a new life in the South of France.
Prompted by the desire to have an improved quality of life and better manage the balance between working and tasting the coffee, we sold up lock stock and barrel and headed for the little Provencal village of Le Bar sur Loup, 30 minutes from Nice.
Our beautiful Victorian house in Hertfordshire was swapped for a derelict villa on a hillside which represents a huge black hole into which we throw endless fistfuls of money but hey, we have sunshine, views to die for and the best rose in the world to drink.