Words & pics: Emma Bradshaw
We hop on a plane to Bordeaux, jump in a hire car and head to the beautiful beaches of South West France for a week of sunshine, sunsets, surf and wine…
But that was 10 years ago and holidays are a bit less effortless now; with two little people and one campervan, things works a bit differently these days, but we still manage to get our French Atlantic fix.
This year, despite the “wash one, wear one” manta, the van is still heavily loaded with boards, bikes and beach toys, for the trip on the overnight ferry to Caen and the drive down to the Gironde. Myself, my husband and our 7 and 5 year olds are staying in our campervan at one of the always reliable Yelloh Village campsites, Le Grand Pins, in Lacanau Ocean.
The pitch is spacious and set amongst the pine forests that dominate the area. The site is friendly and brilliantly set up for families: it’s close to town but most importantly for us has direct access through the sand dunes to the beach and rolling surf – perfect for the seasoned bodyboarder (my husband), amateur white-water ripple rider (me) and two keen little wave jumpers (our kids).
This year there is another addition to our family toy list – an inflatable SUP. We were first introduced to SUPing on a Cornish beach in the mid-noughties – we had great fun for a couple of afternoons but bulky (not to mention expensive) hard boards were a pain to cart around, so SUPing was confined to a brief holiday romance. However, the rapid progression of inflatable SUP technology has opened the door for us to have more water craft fun. For our needs inflatable boards are perfect and, packed down, they are incredibly easy to get around. RRD’s AirRace is piled into the back of our van along with everything else and we’re away.
The weather in Lacanau Ocean at the end of May is a little mixed but overall it’s great for us – a temperature in the early 20s, sunshine and light cloud, some impressive thunderstorms, but consistently beautiful evenings. We enjoy a couple of great beach days – with a consistent swell of around 4ft, it’s a bit beyond our SUP skillset and the waves are too tempting for the barrel seeking boarder still lurking in my 40-something husband. Whilst he’s hanging around out back, the kids and I enjoy the white water; the sea temperature is surprisingly moderate for the time of year, but the kids don’t last too long before we’re back to the beach for sand castles and a picnic.
A more overcast day presents us with a great opportunity to get out on the paddle board and to explore another great feature of the area – the huge lakes. Whilst our surf hungry neighbours head to beach to catch some waves, we pack up our bikes to make the 6km journey to Etang de Lacanau. Our old bike trailer, used a couple of years ago for transporting two toddlers, is now a very useful tool for carrying all of our paraphernalia for a trip to the lake – including SUP and three piece paddle.
On an overcast Wednesday in late May, Etang de Lacaunau, with its small sandy beach, is deserted when we arrive. Lifeguards, hire places, and inflatable water parks have not yet set up for the summer, but there’s a cafe across the road and it feels perfect. The lake is shallow enough for the kids to feel happy mucking about the on the board and deep enough for them to use the paddle board as a launch pad for big jumps into the water. And, whilst the board we are using, is more geared towards performance, it is still stable enough for my husband to ferry both children around for a mini-cruise. The design of board also keeps it going so straight that paddling against the wind is significantly easier and a tour of the lake keeps my husband occupied for an hour or so. I also enjoy an easy paddle on the flat water. All this is testament to the board’s versatility.
After a fun day on the water, we head back to the campsite – the glorious evening sun is out and we still have time for a swim at the campsite pool, some happy hour cocktails and a kids mini-disco, of course.
As well as beach and lake action, we also manage to squeeze in a sneaky trip to the onsite adults only spa whilst the kids are in kid’s club, a pine forest run and a forest-lake cycle. We also enjoy all the usual trappings of a French holiday – plenty of croissants, some great food and fabulous wine.
So perhaps not all that much has changed after all. We still got our week of sunshine, sunsets, surf and wine, but with the welcome addition of some family paddling fun and two lovely little people to enjoy it with.