One of the best parts of being on a sabbatical is not having much of a schedule. Most days are flexible. Somedays I wake up, scan social media and the news and let those stories or pictures introduce me to new places. This is exactly what happened when I decided to book a trip to the sea-side town of Cap Ferret.
After reading a blog post on the quiet beach town, I decided it would be a nice break from city life. I had never heard of the beaches in the region and I thought a walk along the water sounded lovely.
Cap Ferret is a small peninsula village on the Atlantic Ocean in southern France. My train ride was 3 hours with a change of trains in Bordeaux. I decided to stay in Arcachon (just across the inlet from Cap Ferret) due to the ease of transfer to the spot I selected to stay.
I was in the home of a lovely semi-retired couple, Jean and Francoise, from Normandy who rented one room in their Arcachon home. It was a great learning session for me to practice my french. Jean and Francoise were very patient with my (lack) of language skill. We managed to cobble conversations together both straining a bit to understand each other.
To my surprise, they were avid herb and fruit gardeners and showed me around their property. They grew grapes (we are in Bordeaux), kumquats, mandarin oranges, lemons, strawberries, tomatoes, scallions, garlic, olives, basil, rosemary, verbena, lavender. They could not have been more kind with their time and recommendations for the area.
My first full day, I boarded a ferry across the Arcachon Bassin to Cap Ferret. Cap Ferret is a relaxed beach village, well known for it’s oysters (huitrês). In the height of summer, I imagine this tiny spot is packed with people. My visit was prior to the official beach season and I had peaceful walks on the beaches and down the sea roads. I took pictures of most of the oyster and fishing shacks I passed. They were weather-worn and delightfully simple.
The following day I rented a bike and toured Arcachon and it’s surrounding communities. The area is paved with bike trails and each block seems to have an outlet to the beach. Arcachon is covered with sea-pines and between biking and the smell (and maybe the pollen) I felt like I was in Hilton Head. Happy thoughts!
Eventually I made my way to Dune du Pilat, which is an enormous natural sand dune. Visitors are permitted to climb the dune – either via sand or steps. It’s a challenge either way. I opted for the steps which made me feel as though I had puffed on cigarettes for the last 10 years. I think if I climbed through the sand, it would have taken me all day. The vertical incline is intense.
Once I reached the top and caught my breath, I understood the draw of the dune. On one side, the view is over the treetops and Bordeaux. On the other side the view is of the sea and white water where the Arcachon bassin meets the Atlantic Ocean. Cap Ferret is in perfect view.
As with most spots, I spent time each day walking the avenues, shopping in the markets and finding my favorite architecture and gardens. Arcachon roses were in full bloom! Each day the town has a great morning market with produce, fish, meat and pastries – canelés are a specialty of the region.
It was a welcome beach stay with views that are etched in my mind. Probably not the impression of Bordeaux I had previously, but makes it even better!