Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Barcelona and Arcachon

Barcelona is a great city, even if you don't pack light, like I didn't, and end up having to lug luggage up four flights of stairs to our cool apartment opposite the cathedral.  The tapas was fantastic at a number of restaurants including Mariscco in Placa Reail and Origens in el Born, where everything was organic. The pimientos del padron and baby squid Galician style were particular favourites.  Luckily for the Kershoe brigade, the shops stayed shut on Sunday so there was no opportunity to swell the total of eight pairs of shoes we had bought collectively in Alicante. Instead, it was the Miro Fundacio followed by a fishy tapas lunch and cava at Mariscco. Drinks at the rooftop bar of the Pulitzer rounded off a perfect weekend. Seven hours drive later, on Monday we landed in Arcachon near Bordeaux for the next leg of the summer road trip. It's a favourite haunt of Parisians, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and AA Gill, and it's not hard to see why. The seafront is bordered by golden sand, oyster bars and restaurants looking across the bassin towards Cap Ferret. There are dozens of stylish boutiques and a market selling organic and locally grown produce, boasting a fish stall which if the fish counters of Leclerc, Auchan and Carrefour were lined up they would still not beat it in length or quality.  The area is full of sand dunes, popular with bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and surfers, with the Atlantic waves among the best in Europe. With that in mind, I booked a surf lesson for Issy and Poppy before heading off to try out the beach they will be learning on tomorrow evening. I hired my board and was persuaded to take it for four hours rather than two with the words of the surf dude ringing in my ears. 'Les vagues sont tres belles aujhourd'hui.' Now, defining good is a tricky one. And I didn't realise that most of the four hour hire time would be spent trekking in searing heat with a board twice the size of me under my arm.  By the time I had parked the car at La Salie Sud and walked a kilometre of boardwalk in sand dunes carrying a 7ft 6in fun board in 80 degrees and a wetsuit, I was having anything but fun and I hadn't even stepped into the surf yet. There were no other surfers in sight, not an encouraging sign, but I was damned if I was going back after all that effort.  I gamely stepped in and was immediately rolled by waves crashing sideways into each other. Memories of Hossegor came flooding back but as everyone who knows me knows, it takes a lot to beat me. When I emerged an hour later, I'd managed to catch a fair few good waves, get rolled by a few more and incur a sand rash on my knee and a whack across the jaw when a particularly evil wave caught the board and smashed it into my face. Does this sound like fun? I'm not doing it justice.  Later, as I regaled Sarah with soggy surf tales as water still poured from my nose and my knee took on a shiny hue of scarlet, I decided that a priority in the next few days is to find a beach with surf boards for hire, surfers aplenty, less of that walking mullarkey, kind waves and a bit more in the way of fun. I will leave you with the image of me, ready for a big one, and clearly marking myself out as something of a lone maverick to the couple walking along the shallows, only for me to end up seconds later, virtually at their feet, tied up with my ankle leash like a character from Fifty Shades of Grey, covered in sand and seaweed.