Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cote Ouest

Forgive me blog readers, it's been a month since my last post, where has the time gone? I intended to write an update before we set off on our road trip two weeks ago, but the pressing nature of cleaning the house and making it boutique hotel quality ready for renting out while we travel around Europe took precedence. If cleanliness is next to godliness, I am destined for great things.

First stop is Biarritz on the beautiful Atlantic west coast. There are not enough good things to say about la Cote Ouest. While I love Arcachon and Cap Ferret for their understated beach style, Biarritz seems to slightly tip the balance because it is just so damn cool here. We have rented a stunning apartment in town a few hundred metres from the beach with amazing views of the lighthouse and horizon, as you can see above.

Not only have you got wide open, wild, beautiful beaches everywhere you look, there's not a €25 a day sunbed or glitzy restaurant relieving you of €150 for a fairly average light lunch for two in sight. Instead, it's just miles and miles of sand, which disappears completely at high tide, and a number of perfectly situated beach shacks and fish restaurants serving everything from proper frothy coffee and home made brownies to excellent mojitos, uber fresh catch of the day, little tapas plates of chipirons a la plancha, padrons (little green roasted peppers) and a divine sole cooked Spanish style covered in garlic, olive oil and lemon.

Much as the food is a big draw and Bar Jean, Bar du Marche, Blue Cargo, where you can watch the sunset with a mojito to the sound of Club Tropicana, and La Plancha - still our favourite because Eric, who owns it, and Sylvain the barman recognised us after a year's absence and always find us a table no matter how busy it is - can attest to our loyalty on that front, it's the surf that has made this our (okay, my) must-do destination for the second year running (and I suspect many more to come.)

Something weird comes over me as we edge closer to the West Coast. I'm guessing there are not that many mid 40 (ahem) something women who forsake their early morning fix of Grazia Daily and for to check the swell, what time low tide is and whether there's an on or offshore breeze. Equally, there aren't many places in the world where I feel comfortable leaving the house in a skintight wetsuit which makes me look like a cross between a fetishist and a walrus to drive to Cote des Basques and throw myself into the waves. I even downloaded a few Beach Boys tracks in the car, to the horror of Handyman and Issy, who were forced to listen to Surfing USA and Little Deuce Coupe over and over again for the last 100 km.

Summer surf is unpredictable. Some days, it's virtually flat and you have to chase every wave, other days it's gnarly and the current makes catching anything a huge struggle. Add into the mix the fact that even the best surfers consider a 30 second ride a monumental success and you can see that it wouldn't appeal to everyone, being slapped around the face by huge walls of water and dragged into rips if you venture slightly out of the marked zones. Sometimes you just end up floundering in the mousse.

Today, however, dear reader, was one of those days when it all went right. Handyman rang me while walking the dogs early this morning to tell me that the swell was the biggest he'd seen since we arrived and the 'proper surfers' were all out in force. 'Maybe you shouldn't go today, it looks a bit scary, the waves are as big as me,' he warned as I struggled into my damp wetsuit, checking in with Magicseaweed before racing down to the car.

It was mega. For every wipeout (and there were a few) I must have caught six really decent waves. Inexplicably for mid July there was hardly a soul in the water which meant a 100m beach break unencumbered by small children or complete beginners. After almost two weeks of daily surfing, I have just got over the irritating blisters on my hands, scraped toes and other board-inflicted injuries that are par for the course and just as we are about to leave on the next leg on the trip to Spain, my body feels like it's well up for whatever the Atlantic can throw at it (well as long as it's not over four feet high.) The only thing missing is my surf buddy Sarah, above, who spent two short days here with me screaming with joy as we tried to catch the same belles vagues.

Another friend Sazza messaged me yesterday to tell me that I looked the best I have ever looked. I feel it too and the waves are in no small way responsible for that. At the risk of blowing the secrecy that surrounds one of my favourite places on earth out of the water, if you are feeling like life could be a bit more exciting or fun, grab a board and come on in, the water is just lovely.