I have taken a pause in packing up the house - a job I hate and put off for as long as I can - to reflect on our time out here.
So, has it been a good holiday? Well, yes it has. For the first time since we bought the place, I would say we have had a 'proper' summer and I thank God for that! Until now, it had been so consistently unreliable that, much as we love it as I've described, we were wondering whether it was really delivering the goods as regards the weather - so important in the context of it being an escape from the almost relentlessly cold, damp, windy High Peak. But, enfin, this year we have found what we came looking for.
The days have passed easily enough in a melange of friends, family, beach, meals in, meals out, and the odd trip further afield just to shake things up a bit. There have been breakfasts and lunches in hot sunshine - snacks on the beach watching the waves crash over golden sands, the view and the croque monsieur washed down with a chilled bottle of wine or a cold beer; other times in the shade of a favourite restaurant savouring the more maritime flavours of crevettes au gingembre, huitres, moules au bleu, seared scallops or squid in ink. There have also been plenty of omelettes, crepes, pizzas and the ubiquitous maigret de canard or steak frites. Simple pleasures of the palate. And then imagine young girls with chocolate ice-cream all over their faces and their pretty summer dresses, and you have a picture of childhood paradise.
Sea defences have been built and washed away, castles created and crowned, holes dug. Shells and stones have weighed down buckets; crabs called Colin caught and lost and tears shed; knees grazed, hair bleached blonder and skin turned softly golden by the warm and cold embrace of sun and sea. Books have been read, postcards written but not sent, new words learnt and new friends made.
And this year we have finally all made in-roads into the surfing. For many this is the raison d'etre of the Cote d'Aquitaine - the kilometre after kilometre of sandy seabord against which the mighty swells of the Atlantic Ocean bark their shins and curl into majestic aquamarine arcs releasing all the oceanic energy built up over thousands of watery miles. Somtimes these waves are strong and perfectly formed - a surfer's dream; sometimes they are ragged and angry, spitting with foamy rage onto the shore; and just occasionally they are calmer, quieter. Yet even then you must never let your guard down: the currents formed by the sand banks and hidden lagoons ('baines') are always present, always dangerous for the unwary or the arrogant.
It is over this sea, in all its moods, that the thing we love best about all western coasts takes place - sunset after glorious sunset. For us, a beach holiday can never really be complete without the full stop at the end of the day - the fiery orb, giver of all earthly life, slipping slowly through the earth's atmosphere towards the horizon, leaving, as it sinks ever lower, the rosy reflection of its flamboyant evening gown glowing on the faces of all who watch, transfixed, by this daily wonder.
And now I must put my own full stop on our holiday. The time has come to draw stumps, reluctantly but refreshed, and point the car north again. Time to go and finish the packing.
Au revoir for now.
France, 30th August 2009