European Road Trip – 2015. Day 4 (11th June)

Seeing as I’m staying in today, I thought I’d go back to my Euro road trip memories in June and as the last blog post about it left things at the end of Day 3, then it seems only fair to start with Day 4.

I didn’t plan it, but I was up and about quite early on that morning.  This was down to the previous occupant of the room setting the bedside alarm for 7:10am and making it a daily alarm instead of a one-off alarm. Great.  Much appreciated.

Having scraped myself off the ceiling (I’ve not needed an alarm wake up since retiring 14 years ago) and got my blood pressure back to normal, I decided to make the best of it, have an early breakfast and hit the road. As this was the most basic Ibis Budget hotel of the lot (a bed, a mini desk, a chair), leaving it was no real hardship. By 9am I was gone.

It was a short 200 mile, 4 hour drive down the west side of rural France, going through Bordeaux and ending up at the next Ibis hotel in Anglet, 6 miles east of the coastal city of Biarritz on the Bay of Biscay. The drive there was uneventful and if memory serves, I didn’t even stop. The guide books will tell you that Biarritz has a temperate oceanic climate and if that means it can occasionally dish up a thunder/lightning storm of biblical proportions, then I’d have to agree.

It was still only threatening at 1pm as I arrived at the hotel which was near the top of one of the many ridiculously steep streets in Anglet. I checked in, dumped my cases and decided to head out to explore Biarritz before the rain came.  Well that plan went out the proverbial window as when I reached the hotel entrance, the storm threat had become a vivid reality.

I raced to the car and was drenched despite it only being about 30 feet from the door.  I wanted to make this the first drive where I’d be using the GoPro as a dash cam and nothing was going to stop me. The footage is hysterical as you can barely see the view out the windscreen as even with the wipers on max speed, it was like I was driving under a waterfall. Throw in regular flashes of lightning, followed seconds later by thunder claps so loud that they actually shook the car….and me with it….and you’ll understand that my first impressions of Biarritz were not favourable.

The rain did ease up a bit and the skies lightened slightly as I approached the parking location I’d picked out on Street View before leaving home.  I like planning.  I’d picked the city’s highest point which just happened to have a lighthouse on top.  It was free parking up there and let’s face it, parking at a lighthouse means you’re never going to have a problem finding your car again !!

That’s my little Clio on the right.

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You can see from the photo that by the time I’d parked up, sorted out what to carry with me and left the car, the rain had stopped and with the warm temps, the road was already drying out. I was backed up to a low hedge and turning around, this was the view down to the bay below………..

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There was a path from there down to the beach, keeping me away from the main road I’d just driven up. It was very wet and slippery but I managed to get down without breaking anything or even losing my dignity.

On the beach it was a much different day.  The storm had chased everyone inside and I had the place to myself. The sand was soft and slightly sticky underfoot as it was struggling to soak up the recent downpour.

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To my right I could see the now slightly decaying grandeur of the Biarritz seafront.  Large ugly hotels that had clearly been magnificent in their hay day were now looking a bit sorry for themselves. Faded colours and the still dreary weather didn’t help that impression but then it was still early June and maybe in another month with a packed beach and the hot sun shining down from a clear blue sky, things might look much different.

By now I was pretty hungry as it had been over 6 hours since my minimalist breakfast at the hotel so I went up off the beach to find an eating place. I didn’t have to go far because at the top of the steps leading up to the city streets I found the perfect place for my limited palate.

An American style diner called HD Diner, themed on Happy Days !

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The owner was delighted to see me, not because I was an old friend but because due to the recent storm having just abated, I was the only customer. He fussed over me like a mother hen and once I’d logged onto the diner’s free wifi and could access the Google Translate app on the phone, we got on like the proverbial house on fire.

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I asked, or at least Google Translate asked, if he could take a photo of me doing the classic Fonzie pose beside the jukebox and he happily did so. Obviously I don’t look that much like Fonzie here but think of me in leather……..yes I know……..it’s spooky, we could be twins.

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And to reciprocate, here is the owner.  We’re Facebook friends.

(No we’re not)

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With a full but slightly queasy stomach, I headed off again to explore the city, or at least the section near the beach. There was a lovely promenade and by now, people were venturing out of houses and hotels like you see in movies after an alien spacecraft has landed or Justin Bieber is in town.

There was a nice casino, an indoor public swimming pool, lots of hotels and huge quirky turreted houses that could well have homed the French version of The Addams Family.  Bizarre Biarritz. At the far end of the sandy bay I came across a large rock partly in the water. The bottom part of course !  There was a walkway across to it and perched on top was a large statue of The Virgin Mary.

I joined a surprisingly large crowd crossing over to the rock as I wanted to know what it was all about but I was none the wiser after the short walk. It was just a rock with a statue on top.

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By now the weather was changing again with more heavy rain imminent and I was far from the car so I called it a day and headed back to the lighthouse. That took about 45 minutes with the steep climb at the end and rarely have I been so glad to sit down. By the time I had driven back to the hotel it was after 8pm and I was so tired I didn’t even go back out for something to eat. I had some fruit I’d bought earlier and made do with that.

So all in all I’ve mixed feelings about Biarritz. I doubt I’d ever go back, even to see what it’s like on a hot sunny day in mid summer. I guess I’ll always remember the lighthouse and the HD diner so the fact I have any memories at all has to put it above many of the places I’ve visited abroad !

To end with, here is an assortment of random photos I took which show the bay, the casino, some buildings and a funny old car.

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Next morning I’d be crossing into Spain………..nos vemos.

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