Thursday, 10 September 2015

Customer Service

We stayed at an apartment run by Odalys in St-Jean-de-Luz. They have an unusual approach to car parking. To prevent cars from going over the lines at the end of the parking bays, they have pretty pink bricks laid inside them. No naughty car will go in the wrong place at St Jean!

The bricks are invisible when you are inside the car. And when you drive over the edge of a brick it rips your tyre apart with admirable efficiency. Thus ensuring that you will never, ever, ever park in that parking bay again.

It does have the slightly less desirable side effect of persuading you never to book with Odalys again but clearly the owners think that's worth it to stop cars from colouring outside the lines.

I now know how to change a wheel, and where to get new tyres in France. I highly recommend the E. Leclerc at St Jean. It looks like our local Halfords and has the most helpful staff you could wish for. It only cost us €135 to meet our new best friend Emilie who found us a new tyre that matched our existing ones.

Ah, Odalys. You do know how to show your guests a good time.

Random Holiday Photos

Basque Museum, Bayonne

Shop Window, Bayonne
On the way to St-Jean-de-Luz

Near St-Jean-de-Luz



Biarritz in the evening

San Sebastian

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Jardins de Bakea Hotel

We were on the Spanish side of the border with France, and the Sat Nav was telling us to turn off. But we were meant to be going to France! We crept up a steep mountain road, and sure enough there was our hotel looking like a misplace Swiss chalet.

We were nearly at the end of the road, because further on there is just a small square with a bar and an open area where children can skateboard.

Or room was like a dolls' house: small and beautifully furnished and immaculately clean. We had windows on two sides and a lovely view out over the garden. We were on the second floor but luckily there is a lift, which isn't a given in France. We once stayed in Paris five storeys up with no lift! 

The staff were lovely and the food was unbelievable. It was our first French food of the holiday and it was beyond anything we'd get at home! 

We had our cycles with us and cycled into Hendaye, which is mostly downhill. 

It's a very pleasant route along by the river and coming back up the hill wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. I did have to stop to enjoy the view a few times though.

It was a lovely start to the holiday and I'd love to go back.

White Water Rafting for Beginners

We signed up for white water rafting because of a persuasive young lady at the campsite welcoming drink. It's amazing what you can do with a charming smile.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous despite her frequent assurances that "c'est pas difficile" (it's not hard); then I googled a bit and read that "it's a good workout for the upper body". Eek!  My upper body probably needed a workout but I didn't think I could manage it! What had we got ourselves into?

I was ready to call the whole thing off but we decided to go along and see. After all, I thought, I can always back out if it's too scary.

The rafting reception area wasn't exactly reassuring. The facilities were really basic and everyone seemed to know what to do, except us.

The wet suit was wet. The life jacket was too big and so was the helmet. At least the wetboots fit OK, although they were wet and clammy too.

The bus taking us the 5km up the river was old and tatty with stuffing coming out of the seat backs. It had no seat belts and it hurtled along the winding road. I just went into child mode: someone else is in charge and I hope to god they know what they're doing.

The rafts had to be carried down a steep slope to the river. I explained to our guide that Neil doesn't speak much French and I'm mostly deaf without my hearing aids which I'd removed because I couldn't get them wet. "Ça commence bien (that's a good start)" he said but at least he was smiling.

We climbed awkwardly into the raft and the guide laid out the rules about hanging onto your paddle for dear life, and trying not to fall in. One of the rules is that if the guide yells "Pizza!" you all have to fling yourselves into the middle of the raft with your paddle straight up in the air! It's a good position for when you bump into a rock, and guaranteed to break the ice at parties. 
It turned out that the charming young woman who had got us into this was right after all: it was "pas difficile". The river carries you down whether you paddle or not and when we reached the first shallow rapid we splashed over it with no problems but a lot of excitement.
It was magical.

Insects hovered near the banks: iridescent dragonflies and black winged damsel flies. Birds swooped across. The river opened out into a shallow area where we picked flowers from the banks, and rubbed them in our hands. It was a form of soapweed.

Further on, the river opened out and the guide invited us to get in and swim if we wanted to. No one from our boat got in: after all, we'd been told that the water was 15°C! But we were given a second and last chance a bit further on and by then I was so full of adrenaline that I was the first one into the water. Oh my word it was cold! So very cold! But it was so much fun.

I'd come a long way since my initial fears and I was on a high. We booked to go again the following week.