Southwest France is famous for its late Indian summers – long hot days, surfing in boardies, morning offshores, early autumn swells and evenings spent sipping red wine – making it the perfect destination for a camping trip.
For my girlfriend, Alexa, and I, packing up the van in September and making the run down to Biarritz has been an annual habit, enjoying the sense of freedom we get from being on the open road.
Crossing the river Ardour from the Landes region in the north after the long drive down through France, the landscape begins to transform. It’s no longer flat and dense with the famous pine trees; instead verdant hills roll across the hinterland towards the Pyrenees, which rise steeply in the distance as if they are watching over this region. Cliffs, reefs, points and rocky headlands create a coastline of breathtaking variety, with myriad waves and offering options in all sorts of conditions. This variety suits us, and we pack our quiver accordingly – fish, singlefins, shortboards and longboards crammed in the van. Whether it’s mellow peeling Basque beach-breaks and reefs; grinding Hossegor or Anglet barrels; big drops at Guethary or the reeling point of Lafetania, there’s something for everyone – a smorgasbord of surfing delights.
Only a short drive inland, the Pyrenees offer an alternative to surfing if it’s flat. Truly wild camping is possible up in the mountains among the rivers and forests. Epic mountain biking, scenic walks and a healthy dose of nature are all on offer.
Not forgetting the amazing supermarche, le vin rouge, le fromage and other culinary delights. Where else in the world do bakeries and supermarkets shut for lunch? You have to love a country with a two-hour lunch break and a 35-hour working week!
But alas, there will be no road trip for us this summer as we have spent all our money buying a Cornish cottage and will be spending our September break renovating. So we cling to our dreams and memories of Indian summers past…
(photos by Alexa Poppe)