Arcachon/Dune du Pyla

I can’t say I’m too impressed with France’s Halloween celebration. The only trick or treating the kids can do is in the mall, and I even saw them get rejected from mall stores that didn’t have candy! They also seem to have the choice of witch or skeleton for their costumes. And there was not one Halloween decoration to be found. Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, this made me sad. It’s one of the few times of year you can celebrate and cause fear, become the things you fear, examine the fear of death from a safe vantage point. According to a French person I talked to, the French don’t like to bring any humor to death. Anyway, I was determined to do something for Halloween! All of the other assistants were still on vacation, so I decided  to go see Rear Window at the little art movie theater here. It was definitely worth it, as I’d never seen a Hitchcock film projected in an actual movie theater. I’d also forgotten how good of a movie it is, although maybe getting older and learning more about films has made me appreciate camera angles and suspense in a way I didn’t in middle school. Anyway, going to a movie alone is one thing, but going alone to a bar is another. I knew that the Irish bar in town was actually celebrating Halloween, so I worked through tinges of social anxiety and made myself go. And I actually ran into some people I had already met here and had a great time. However, there were very few costumes, no jack o lanterns, only a pumpkin on the bar. But, they were showing Nightmare on Elm Street behind the band that was playing, which would have been the exact movie I’d be watching on my computer if I’d decided to stay at my apartment. I’m taking that as a good omen, however convoluted.

Beach at Arcachon

Beach at Arcachon

Enough about Halloween. I’m now going to post about my visit to Bordeaux, where I visited my friend Randall who is also an assistant and studied in Clermont-Ferrand with me. I got there late on Saturday due to SNCF train delays and we went to another assistant’s super creepy apartment for wine with several Bordeaux assistants. I guess she’s living on a floor of this older woman’s home, and the furniture and ambiance were straight out of The Shining. (I hope they had a Halloween party there!) Anyway, that was about it for the first day and I was tired from the 7 hour train journey. The next day, we met two assistants at the train station and planned to go to Biarritz. Unfortunately, due to it being a holiday, all the trains were full. We then spent about half an hour staring at a map of France on the wall until we finally decided to go to Arcachon. This was decided about 2 minutes before the train was supposed to leave, necessitating a mad sprint to the train. Of course, this being the France, the train never left the station because of some mechanical problem and we had to get on another train anyway. Arcachon is a little beach town in the same region as Bordeaux. It was a little cold for swimming, not that I didn’t find a way to get my shoes and socks covered in freezing water when the tide came quickly in.

The largest sand dune in Europe!

La Dune du Pyla: The largest sand dune in Europe!

There was also another Bordeaux assistant there with her mom that joined our group of four. The thing to see in Arcachon is La Dune dy Pyla, which is actually in a smaller nearby town. It’s the largest sand dune in Europe and, according to Wikipedia, contains 60 million cubic meters of sand. Incroyable! Our group of six rented bicycles in Arcachon and started towards the dune. The ride was mostly flat, but had some extended hills that were painful. The bikes were also a little hard to control and tended to swerve whenever we took our hands of one side of the handle bars. I was most impressed that the assistant from Spain in our group, who hadn’t ridden a bicycle for 10 years, made it all the way. Even more so when I realized halfway there that she had her bike set on 7th gear! According to google maps, Arcachon and the dune are about 6 miles apart, but I don’t know if that’s exactly how far we biked. We did stop for paninis by the beach, which was lovely. Mine had eggplant.

Dune du Pyla. Photograph taken while collapsed on side of sand dune.

Dune du Pyla. Photograph taken while collapsed on side of sand dune.

The bike trip, despite getting lost a couple of times, was totally worth it. It was beautiful. It was also more difficult than I expected to climb up a steady slope of sand. There’s something really surreal about seeing so much sand after leaving metropolitan Bordeaux in the morning.

Someone paragliding on the dune.

Someone paragliding on the dune.

Before we biked back, sand had worked its way into everything I brought. My wallet, my phone, my clothes, my socks. I even found more sand in my purse today. After the bike ride back to Arcachon I rewarded myself with an apple crumble-flavored ice cream cone. It was delicious.

That was the first day of adventure in my Bordeaux trip. More to come!

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was interviewed by a French radio station here about the presidential election. It’s rather difficult to talk about the electoral college in French, but I think it worked out. They want me to give another interview after the president is elected. Hope November 4 is free of voting controversy and confusion!

One thought on “Arcachon/Dune du Pyla

  1. Cecilia says:

    I truly miss going to the movies in France. I began to appreciate the cinema experience much more when I was over there, and now I’m obsessed with films. I’m glad you found some fun for Halloween!

    The radio interview is so awesome. You’re like a celebrity now.

    I can’t wait to hear more about Bordeaux!

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