Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Climbing The Tallest Sand Dune In Europe: Dune Du Pilat, Arcachon Bay
Just an hour's drive outside of Bordeaux is the Dune du Pilat - Europe's tallest sand dune.
Random? Perhaps. Amazing? Totally.
When we arrived to Bordeaux city center, the sunny skies we'd previously enjoyed at Les Sources de Caudalie had turned grey and stormy. Half of the restaurants and shops were closed, which, to my Angloyankophile sentiments, seemed arbitrary for a Tuesday afternoon.
By the time the sun began to appear above the clouds, we'd spent hours traipsing around deserted streets, clearly in the "wrong" part of town (having wanted to get off the beaten path a bit). I was both tired and grumpy.
"Let's drive to Arcachon and make the most of the weather," John suggested, and I readily complied, knowing that a trip to the seaside would lift my spirits.
And - oh my goodness. It was fantastic.
The climb up the dune is steep: most people took the stairs (including me) but John insisted on scrambling up the sides (because he's sporty and over-enthusiastic that way).
At the top, we were met with a breathtaking view of the forest to our left, the sand encroaching on path of the trees. To our right was an equally, if not more, spectacular view of Arcachon Bay: all turquoise water, blue skies, and white sand.
Despite the wind whipping at our ankles and necks, we unlaced our shoes and trekked across the dune barefoot, nearly all 2.7 km of it. It wasn't overly crowded when we went, though most visitors stuck to the area near the steps, sharing picnic lunches and enjoying the views on either side of the dune.
Paragliders sailed past, their colorful canopies weaving a brilliant trail against the backdrop of the sand and the sea.
I chased John as he ran down to the water, smiling at the families who held hands and roared with laughter as they made their way down too. We inspected each jellyfish that had washed onto shore, with John saying, "Take a picture of this one! No, this one! Oh my gosh, that one looks like a skull! Crazy!"
The climb back up was hard. Every time I looked up, the people standing above me near the stairs looked like tiny ants. I felt like I'd barely moved. So, I stopped looking up. I focused on keeping my head down, stepping into footprints left by their previous owners. Every so often, I'd rest, looking back and marvelling at my progress (John was far ahead of me, of course).
Finally, we made it to the top again, before heading back down to the car - John as sprightly and energetic as ever, and me wanting to die slightly.
But I don't think I'll ever forget that view or the feelings and emotions I felt surveying the vista of the bay before me: it was one of the most magical sights I'd ever seen.
Have you been to Arcachon or Dune du Pilat? What did you think?