August 23rd, 2005

I told everyone at work I’d see them next Tuesday and headed out of the office on Thursday afternoon to pack for the big trip to the South West coast of France for some serious holiday fun and surfing.

Friday morning came and I headed off in the car over the Docklands and out up the M11 towards Stansted Airport. It was pooring with rain and I was quite looking forward to getting out of Britain and into the warm French weather. I parked in the Pink Elephant parking area and flukely managed to park the car about 5 down from Andy, Gin and Kim, who had arrived from Birmingham only 10 minutes before! The rain was hitting it down hard and I ran over to Kim’s car. I saw Andy for the first time in 18 months and the first thing he said to me was “look at this rain, how are we going to get to the airport” – this moaning is what I expected and was to be a centre point to the holiday. We got absolutely soaked getting to the bus stop carrying the tents and sleeping bags. When we arrived at the airport we checked our belongings in then hit the bar where I had a coffee and Andy had asked for a triple whiskey (which they wouldn’t give to him) so he settled for a double. He then had his placebo drugs that loosen the nerves at the same time (as he doesn’t like flying). Meanwhile Kim was out buying a big packet of fruit sweets with every single E number under the sun in and then not eating them and just forcing me to eat then for him.

We boarded the Ryanair plane and scrambled for a good seat (Ryanair don’t allocate seats) and off we went! The flight was pretty good and you could see the weather picking up as we got closer to Biarittz. Andy did not start freaking out on the plane ‘like the guy in se7en tied to the bed’ as Kim thought he would.

My surfboard was still intact when we went to collect the hire car. The vehicle was supposed to be a ‘Peugeot 206 or similar’ Andy’s face here reflects the mood he was in when we got given this heap of Italian junk (no offence Gin) –


Going from bad to worse for Andy

The car was practically air tight by the time we had all got in with our loads! I was very nervous about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road but after a few rides into the kerb I was enjoying it. I actually thought it made more sense to drive on the right than the left by the end of the weekend.

We did not have a campsite booked so we had to find one quick before it got dark, there was no time for fluffing around; we drove North up the A63 away from Biarrtiz and up towards Hossegor. We got off at a town called Ondres and went into the ‘Office de Tourisme’ in the town. They gave us a map of the local camp sites and we headed to the nearest one ‘Camp du Lac’. A campsite next to a lake. They had room for us and we were in. We put up the tents right away in the boiling heat and put our shorts on. I wanted to go checkout the ocean so we drove down to the beach and the waves were massive, overhead for sure, I did not want to go out in that on my own.

After setting up the tents and looking at the raging ocean we jumped back in the car and headed for Carrefour shopping mall that we passed. The quality and diversity of food on offer in French supermarches are 100 times better than any other country I’ve ever been to. We bought some lovely bread, some camembert, more cheese, some dips, crisps, lemonade, water, wine, pernod and some beer that Kim choosed called ‘Panache’. We then visited McDonalds (because Gin is a huge fan) and had some burgers. We cracked open the Pernod “that’s the most disgusting drink I’ve ever tasted” – Kim. We went for a little walk to the ‘du lac’ and had this group picture (where although I am 5’11 look about 5’2) –


Kim, Andy, Gin and Me

We came back to the campsite and Gin, Andy and Kim wondered off to the toilet. Andy and Gin came back and Kim was taking a little bit more time than usual. Gin and Andy mentioned that the toilets were ‘hole in the floor’ style and had no toilet paper. Kim came back looking very distressed about what he had just had to do. Andy being some kind of hole in floor toilet master gave an impromptu demonstration of how to use the a french toilet –


French Toilet Demonstration in Progress

We headed off to the camp site bar and tried drinking the ‘FAXE’ larger, which was absolutely disgusting. So instead we had cocktails which were pretty nice. It wasn’t really ‘going off’ at the campsite bar but we held it out to the bitter end and decided on a plan of action of where we could find an English style toilet. We got shouted at by the campsite owner (who looked like Freddy Mercury) on the way back to our tents (French Accent) “TWENTY FOUR PLEASE BE QUIET” – at first we did not know what it meant but we guessed it meant you had to be quiet past midnight!!

I was sharing a tent with Kim and as you might have seen on the holiday section of the site, he is a bit of a loose cannon. I woke up in the middle of the night to a massive downpour to see the Kim was nowhere to be seen. At first this seemed a bit unusual but then when I realised who it was I was dealing with maybe it wasn’t. The next morning I woke up to find Kim sleeping in the foyer of the tent, which is not protected from the rain very well. His sleeping bag was soaked by his feet. We managed to persaude him that he should have slept in the tent (after making up some reason it was because of my disturbing sleep talking that made him move).

So the ground was wet but the weather was holding out, although it was no day for sitting on the beach. We went to the town of Hossegor where the Rip Curl Pro was taking place, we did not see much of the event in action, but it did not really kick off until we left (just the grom search was on). We had some coffees and croissants in Hossegor –


Kim, Andy and Gin munching on some French Breakfast

As the clouds started to arrive we walked down to the beach to see what the surf was like. A heavy onshore wind and overhead waves were making it unlikely I was going to be going out anytime soon. The £34 for flying my board out was starting to begin to look like a waste of money. Here are the waves at Hossegor on the Saturday morning. If you look closely you can see a little figure riding the wave breaking closest to shore, it was insane –


Big Waves, Onshore winds, Rainclouds looming

The rains started to come in so we went to a little bar by the beach in Hossegor. I asked the waiter for ‘un stylo’ and he seemed furious at me using it to write postcards with!!!! After the rain had stopped we drove to Biarritz, the anger in the car was building to raging point between Kim and Andy, with Andy being “the hardest guy I know” – Kim we were all a little scared. We arrived in Biarritz and walked around it for ages and got Andy to calm down. For dinner we hit a place called ‘Le Cotton’ and had a pretty poor dinner although it was only €15 each (and a bottle of rose that was not for us but we drank anyway). The rain seemed to have it in for us. Not only had we recieved a soaking on the way to the airport when we were walking back to the car it started to rain a bit. We were only about 100m away from the carpark when we thought it would be a good idea to run as it was just spitting. Somehow in that time the spitting rain turned into a power shower of sideways rain that soaked us completely within about 5 seconds –


Drenched

We headed back to our campsite for a night of Rose wine drinking and the ‘Panache’ larger that we got on discount at Carrefour. We deceided that because of our bad luck with the weather and the heavy rain and the crazy surf conditions that we would get really drunk that night. We got back to the campsite, got changed out of our wet clothes and cracked open the Panache larger…..mmmmm, that tastes a bit fruity…..how much alcohol is in this…..


Inferior Alcohol

So we had twenty four bottles of Alc. Inferieur a 1% Vol to knock back. This clearly wasn’t going to happen, so after a lot of shouting at Kim and a lot of head scratching as to why you would put 1% alcohol in between Stella and 1664 we headed back to the campsite bar. We made some friends with some English girls and they took this picture –


Nice Time Great Guys

Our new English friends and us played a game of cards where you had to get four of the same and then put your fingers on your nose and the last person to copy the person that put their fingers on their nose lost. You would have thought you could have developed that into a drinking game but obviously our brains were not in gear and we just kept playing that for ages, with the person of lost just being the loser. When ‘twenty four please be quiet’ time came we got invited by the girls to the woods (yes we were nervous) to meet some French guys who were also on the campsite. Gin was almost blind drunk and must have forgotten that the Panache was inferior alcohol and started to bring it to the woods.


Middle of the woods with the French Men and a couple of English girls

I played a bit of Jack Johnson on the guitar and we all tried to score some of the French guys beer (as Gin had dumped the Panache on the side of the road towards the forest). Eventually the English girls managed to score some beer for us which Kim downed. Gin started to fall over and get out of control, we were also getting some bad vibes from the French crew because the English girls seemed to just want to talk to us so Kim, Andy and myself made our escape from the woods, not before Andy got wild with a stick in the woods and chased us like a crazy man –


Andy with a stick in the woods

I woke up the next day to Kim climbing out of the tent, I asked him what time it was and he said it was half nine and that he was going for a shower. Twenty minutes later he came back and fell asleep again, I woke up about three hours later at the real half nine, another tick on the madness test for Kim.

At last the sun had come out and we went down to the beach, the waves were still crashing out the back but surf had to be done, so I paid €8 to hire a mal for the day. I went out for about 20 minutes and then came in feeling like I was going to be sick (too much rose/cocktails/panache the night before). As we were putting on suntan lotion we noticed Kim was using it very sparingly. He told us his reasoning was that after the burn goes down he will be a ‘bronze beauty’. As you can see from this picture he is in the early stages of serious sunburn that would affect him for that night and the next day and many days to come –


On the Beach at last!!

As the sun started to get a little bit too much and we were a little bit bored of sitting on the beach, we drove back to Biarritz to attempt to find a better place to eat than the night before. We tried to find a ‘locals’ place by walking what we thought was off the beaten track. I got a nice photo of Biarritz on our track –


Biarritz

When driving around in the sun in the South West of France with their open roads and not many people it reminded me very much of the trip to the Sunshine Coast with Andy in February, which disproved my theory that Australia was the only place in the world which this could be done (SW, France is a lot cheaper to get to than QLD, Australia from England).

We had a drink in a bar looking over the crazy surf of Biarritz, which was playing Mexican music that seemed to get faster and slower with the size of waves that were coming in. We then went to a really nice place to eat and ate Mussels, Ham, Pasta and Steak. Yum.

We headed back for our last night in the campsite and found ourselves sitting in the Fiat Panda drinking rose wine (after being kicked out of the camp site bar for the last time). The next morning and Kim and myself headed down to the beach at about 09h00. I had a bit of a hangover but was determined, if the waves were a little calmer, to get out their on my board. The waves had calmed down enough to make it viable for me to paddle out. It was the most tiring paddle of all time but I was out there and managed two (poor) rides before having to come in and admit that having a wine hangover and trying to surf medium sized waves was never going to work.

I am now back in England and have a cold from the immune system hit this weekend (hangover surfing + heavy rain = illness), but it was well worth it and a great time with the lads, even if sometimes the conversations are just so far out there they cannot even be mentioned on here, on in the public domain at all!!!


Gin, Andy (with triple whiskey), Kim and myself at Biarritz airport waiting for the return flight

A great weekend break, I wish we did it more often, actually the good thing is there’s no reason why we can’t!! Here’s a link to the Rip Curl Pro that we didn’t see much of! Peace out…. and France again next weekend!