A Travellerspoint blog

A Summer in Biarritz;

It changes you:

sunny 35 °C
View My Gap Years :) on clancy_of_'s travel map.

The longer I go without writing a blog on this trip, the more daunting it becomes, and with 2 months gone since my last it began to seem as though I would never get there. Whilst I have stayed in Biarritz for the past 60 days, arriving in Lisbon, Portugal after a 15 hour night train 2 days ago, it was 60 days that would take a heavy trip to Amsterdam to be forgotten.

My absolute 'nut' of a sister hit up the Biarritz shores for a week with her 'incredibly missed' brother, to get a taste of what her Gap Year 2008 was to be. The Roxy World Longboarding comp was being held at Cote De Basque and when the competition wasn't being held, Chloe Charlotte Lane, 'pulled into tubes' and with pure style managed to avoid the castles that lined the rocky shores;

l_5ceb5f13..684220d.jpg

Within 12 hours of her arrival, she was already smiling from cheek to cheek in her first European club. And summed her experience up in one short sentence;
'I am never going out in Busso ever again!'
By her last night you would think she owned the town; mixing it with the big guns like Newquay's bouncer;

l_10cd51c4..ecbd4d1.jpg

And with a last goodbye, a few tears from both of us and an 'until next time in some other country' she was back off to Australia. It had only been 4 months since I had seen my little sis and mum; but this was longest we have gone, and it was definitely sweet to see them both.

The next big event was my homelessness; Biarritz in the middle of summer would have to be one of the hardest places in the world to find accommodation. 3 Bedroom apartments at 900 euros a week were all we had on the table, and I was almost at the point of quitting my job and heading down to Lisbon a month earlier. Then in a last attempt my mate Julien, who I was looking for an apartment with, told me a month ago he had heard from a mate of a mate, about a small room for rent above a cafe down this back street. I walked in and asked, the woman behind the counter told me of her son who was heading to Australia and how she would do all she could to help me as she hopes people will do the same for her son. I left my number and within half an hour I had a phone call, I went out and checked out the 3 bedroom apartment just next to the town centre in an old french house called 'La Marina'. At 1200 euros a month between 5 it was as cheap as August in Biarritz comes, 240 euros each for the month. Within 2 days; the three girls from Quebec Canada, Audrey, Eline, Corine, Julien and I were sitting round in our little apartment we had all instantly fallen in love with, drinking our first bottle of Bordeaux. Here's a photo of our little place, we had the entire third floor;

n681109879..63_9981.jpg

Then arrived the three funnest aussies I have met on my trip so far; Courtney, Andy and Jason;

n681109879..46_1739.jpg

Since I left Australia I have been helped by so many people from all sorts of nationalities, from accommodation, to directions or for even just a random drink. The three of them had arrived in Biarritz at the start of August with no accommodation booked, feeling sorry for them knowing that everything from campsites to hotels was booked out. I said they could crash on the floor at our house. After the first night out we got along so well that the ended up staying for a week, the next five days consisted of beach;

n681109879..37_6075.jpg

beach;

n681109879..05_1351.jpg

and rock diving; from the ultimate rock; off the beach;

n681109879..39_8576.jpg

This rock 500m out to sea from the beach Miramar; is the place to be in Biarritz when the temperature passes 30. There is a passage underneath the rock that allows you to swim under it through a cave like tunnel; once out the other side you can climb up where there is a sweet jump spot. From the other side of the rock you can't see Biarritz, but just the horizon and the mates you swam out there with. Crazy to think that 500m out to sea is such an awesome place and yet everyone prefers to spend there time fighting for a 1x1m space to place their towel amongst the summer crowds;

n681109879..50_3777.jpg

Courtney and co; are on round the world tickets and headed off that weekend; but not until after one last night running a muck in Biarritz's beloved club, Playboy;

n681109879..65_2711.jpg

After the boys left; and my routine returned, I ended up meeting Charlotte. A 20 year old, physiotherapy student from Paris who has a totally sarcastic trip sense of humour only an Australian could love. An amazing month followed; where I had both the highest highs and lowest lows of my trip. Two weeks before I was due to leave Biarritz I fell really sick; which left my hip pocket around 1000 euros poorer than originally planned (ouch!). Hopefully insurance will cover a bit of it, because once again French administration prevailed and I will be refunded a beautiful 0 Euros, because of a technicality being I must live in the same French region for 6 months to claim anything back. It rained for four days straight and didn't get above 18 degrees; and then suddenly on the Saturday I woke up feeling amazingly better, the clouds started to dissapear and that night on the beach as part of the Rip Curl Tag Team Surf Competitions; Xavier Rudd was playing a free concert on the beach. We arrived at the beach and I bought the only thing I could eat because of the problems with my wisdom teeth; an Icecream;

CIMG0283.jpg

The stage had been set up on the beach;

CIMG0250.jpg

The weather continued to get better and better and whilst waiting for Xavier to start we were treated to an amazing sunset;

CIMG0276.jpg

That seemed to go on and on and on...

CIMG0287.jpg

After the sun was gone the stage lights lit up, didgeridoos began to appear, followed by the aboriginal flag, and then finally on the otherside of the world from where I first saw him play as a 16 year old in a Margaret River vineyard a short blonde haired Aussie named Xavier;

CIMG0316.jpg

came out on stage and led the French crowd packed onto the beach, on an amazing hour and a half set of pure Australian music.

CIMG0302.jpg

After honestly the worst week of the trip, health wise, including an 18 day prescription of antibiotics, 8 painkillers a day, not eating for two and having to eat soup for 5 days, I couldn't have scored a better three days. The three days following Xavier it was 35 degrees, and Charlotte, Yannick and I spent each and every moment down the beach;

Skimming;

CIMG0327.jpg

Swimming;

CIMG0331.jpg

and of course tanning;

CIMG0341.jpg

After Charlotte left to head back to University; I was left waiting to be paid and sign my end of season contract so I could head down to Portugal to meet up with Carolina. One day passed and no papers, another and again no papers, it took five days for the papers to arrive and the moment they had I grabbed the money said my goodbyes at work and a quick 'until next summer'; banked my money ran home packed my bags, met my roomates at the 'local', Newquay for one last beer before I headed off to Portugal.

I had heard that if I headed to the border town of Irun I could find some 25 euro buses; on arrival I found there were no buses and the next 70 Euro night train was not for 6 hours. I reluctantly bought my my ticket and feel asleep on my surfboard bag in the biggest hole of a train station I have ever been in. The 15 hour train ride was shared with two Portuguese guys, one speaking good English and was thus allocated position of translator between me and his mate. We shared the cabin with Marco, a 20 year old from Serbia, who was travelling round Europe on a visa that only allowed him to travel to Sweden, due to Serbia's 'tensions' with the west over Kosovo. This didn't seem to bother the Portuguese police who woke us at 6am to check our passports at the border; she slowly flicked through hiss passport as if analysing every minute detail and just as an 'I'm done for' expression appeared over Marco's face, she smiled handed back his passport and wished us all a good sleep and a safe trip. A safe trip it was, but a good sleep, far from it, we all managed about four hours and I woke up with back cramps and two Serbian feet about 10cm from my face. We spent the rest of the trip talking about Portugal, Serbia and Australia, and as Marco was the first Serbian I had ever met I hung on his every word. And whilst the majority of the conversation was about Kosovo and Slobodan Milosevic; he did give us a little incite into what growing up in Serbia was like. I had read that Serbians were deeply patriotic and this did come across in his character, and whilst he was an incredibly nice person he did have a hard edge to his personality, that I have encountered in many Eastern Europeans. One thing I will never forget, that I am sure all Serbians must do, is the 10 seconds of tongue clicking Marco made, shaking their head if we told him of an injustice or annoyance that we had seen or experienced.

I arrived safely in Lisbon and its 35 degree heat at 11am; and after a small struggle to find a net cafe with Skype I managed to find Carolina's number and be picked up from the city centre. It was great to see her after such a long time; and finally be able to start our trip together.

Well the blog is done and I can safely say that it is probably the most satisfying I have written; I have bought a new 300Euro camera, because my last decided to randomly brake, and Carolina and I are flying out on Sunday, so hold onto your seats and stay tuned because I've only got six months down on this two year adventure, and even I end up broke by early November I'm sure it will make for an interesting blog;

Garrett in Lisbon; Portugal

Posted by clancy_of_ 02:21 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Run those bulls;

Pamplona; Spain

sunny 36 °C

Coming in after Rio and Oktoberfest; the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, is the world's third biggest festival, and after my Pamplona experience over the past sleepless 36 hours, I can understand why. Not knowing what to expect we boarded the train in Biarritz and caught the train to San Sebastian at 8am on Saturday morning, we were soon to learn that spotting the tourists in Pamplona is an easy thing to do. They are the only ones not dressed in red and white, bottle of Sangria in hand.

l_893902e2..c89f795.jpg

As we jumped off the bus in Pamplona and looked around at the hundreds of thousands of people wearing the wine stained outfits, we made a quick dash to the market and got ourselves decked out for a handsom 15 euro. As you slip into the white cotton pants, pull on the white t-shirt, tie the red pamplona belt round your waist, place the red headband around your head and mix up your first vodka red bull, it hits you that you are now ready.

Festivale.jpg

Ready for 24 hours, or if be it, 7 days, of running round the streets of Old town Pamplona, jumping up and down like crazy singing "Ole!...Ole! Ole! Ole!", filling your mouth with Sangria and spraying it on the nearest white outfit, slurring your best Spanish at passers by, and of course, making your way to the arena at 5am to get a seat for....the bulls!Everywhere you turn people are partying, drummers and instruments of all sorts roam the streets followed by thousands jumping up and down like crazy. Nationalities mean nothing here, and for 7 days everyone becomes best mates, you become a member of the 'red and white people', whose sole purpose is to FIESTA;

l_93a24d95..cf49580.jpg

And fiesta you do, day and night;

l_0151c7a9..3e030ca.jpg

I had been told to never under estimate the Spanish girls ability to party, and whilst this is true, the first Mexican girls I have ever met seemed to go that one step further. Sweet latin dancing in the old town square, running round spraying sangria in all directions and a smile that just says 'I am stoked'; I had found my crew.

l_9606bf0e..960be61.jpg l_54d4ba65..00c1a9b.jpg
l_971466a8..9f542fa.jpg

We danced the streets with the Spaniards, filling our stomach's with Tapas in an attempt to counteract the effects of the warm 2 euro Sangria, and took the occasional break to catch our breath. The Spanish call this break 'siesta', and at Pamplona, it can occur anytime, anywhere;

l_17e37b09..8b1e8311.jpg

There are a lot of things that make the fiesta at Pamplona so incredible. One is its size, the party takes up the whole old town and swarms of people roam through the streets following the drums and cheers, singing Spanish festival songs that I had translated as;
"We have come to party and drink, and drink and party we will." As an Australian with extremely poor Spanish you just sing as loud making sounds that sound similar and dependent on the state of people around you, it usually works;

l_8a1688b3..4da15ad.jpg

The second is where the party takes place, there are few police and people climb the surrounding buildings, megaphones in hand hyping up the crowd. The energy that flows through these small Spanish streets is something that has to be experienced;

l_7d277a98..e1735c8.jpg

Usually around 3am your legs begin to tire from the constant jumping, your on the verge of loosing your voice from all the 'Ole' chants and your covered in Sangria from head to toe, a nice warm bed begins to sound appealing;

l_e2ac1cd8..c9b0f09.jpg

But just the thought that in 4 hours time, through the same streets that you are currently partying, 15 or so bulls will be charging on a path of destruction through a crowd of red and white; gives you the motivation to keep going for the next 5 hours. It was around that moment that the decision had to be made, to run or not to run? Three days earlier I was certain that I would, but since the Australian got speared in the arse; and my told lack of both sleep and soberness I had started to contemplate giving it a miss this year. We had met a lot of locals and they to advised both for their safety and my own to just get down to the arena and prepare to watch the event chanting with the thousands of Spaniards who fill the arena. Every year someone gets killed and it's usually because tourists who have no idea what they are doing fall over, then everyone ends up tripping over the fallen tourists. It's for this reason the locals are frustrated with the amount of tourists attempting the run.

We had heard that it was best to get to the Arena as early as possible, so at 5am Sophia and I were lead by some random Spaniard through the streets to the ticketing booth. It wasn't opening for another hour but there were already hundreds of people beginning to line up. By this stage we were so tired that we just sat down towards the front of one of the lines, put our head in our hands and fell asleep until an 'Ole' chant not to far away sprung us back into action.

Stadium.jpg

At 6am we were one of the first into the arena. Over the next two hours the arena began to fill until it was just a red and white blur.

The_stadium__filled.jpg

Then, after a gunshot and an intense flow of red and white into the arena, came the bulls!..

An amazing 36 hours! All I have left to say is, YOU HAVE TO GO!

Garrett in Pamplona; Spain.

Posted by clancy_of_ 06:58 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Long time no blog;

Biarritz; France

semi-overcast 26 °C

Well, where to start? It's been exactly 20 days since my last blog and it is fair to say that whilst a lot has happened, very little has been of a travelling nature. There has been a lot of lazing at the beach, a few surfs, many laughs with drunken Irish teenagers, some truley 'aussie' beach sessions and a few nights at the free Cote de Basque beach party.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days with Queensland girl Michelle and her travelling mates who were making their way down from Paris through Biarritz; across northern Spain and down through Portugal to Morocco. It had been a while since I had spent time with a group of aussies and sure enough the day was spent lazing down the beach accompanied by an Eski filled with cold beers. The highlight of the beach session however was not the stories, the weather or even the beers (10pk for 2 Euro); but an announcement that came over the beach's loudspeakers;
"Your attention please, it appears that there is a thunderstorm with strong winds on its way we advise that you close your umbrellas."
Directly after the announcement all umbrella owners along the beach continued to swim, kick the soccer ball and lay in the sun, paying no attention to the announcement. Except for one overweight man in blue speedos, zinc smudged across his face and a wide brim floppy hat, who had by FAR the smallest umbrella on the beach. He slowly got to his feet made the one metre wobble to his umbrella, closed it and sat down with a satisfied look on his face, as though he had just eliminated all danger posed by the oncoming thunderstorm.

This huge emphasis on beach 'safety' along the Biarritz coast was no more apparent than the day Chloe (sweet californian diving mate) and I went down to the Grand Plage beach where 7 lifeguards surveyed the 13 people swimming. Making sure that the swimmers stayed between the two blue flags, the bodyboarders without fins between the second blue flag and the green and red flag and all bodyboarders and surfers stayed to the right of the green and red flag and to the left of the first blue flag. If you are not complying with these rules a number of things may happen dependent on what you are doing in the water and which flags you are out of;
1: If you are swimming like Chloe and I were, outside of the blue flags, a lifeguard on a surf ski will swim out and stay with you until you do as they say and re-enter the blue flag zone.
2: If you are a surfer that paddles out (stupidly) between the blue flags you will hear 13 or so whistle's blasting at you, arm's waving you out of the 'BFZ' ( local lingo for the Blue Flag Zone ).
3: If you do as I do and paddle out into the correct surfing zone, (right of the green and red flag) and surf a wave that stays in the correct zone you are fine. However if it is a really good wave that ends a little bit into the 'BFZ' the moment you cross the invisible 'BFZ' line, whilst still on the wave, the lifeguards will pull out their most deadliest of weapons, 'The Hooter'. In Australia this is commonly used at Junior football matches to indicate the end of a quarter. Here it's sole purpose is to ruin the only good surf you've had in the past week, by hooting you until you pull of the wave, no matter how good the next section is looking. Causing you to have numerous 'BFZ' nightmares throughout the following week :).
Even with all the whistles, hooters and angry speedo wearing lifeguards, it was still a sweet little surf at 'Le Grand', hopefully soon I will be able to get some photos of the surf up.

The Casetas is a week long festival at Cote De Basque on the water's edge; celebrating the coastal lifestyle present in Biarritz, Hossegor and other surrounding towns. It is a free festival with about 12 different tents, each having its own music genre. The vibe is sweet, the music even better and the beer cheap; the perfect combination for a good night. Chloe and I also managed to watch a free documentary being played on a huge projector inside one of Biarritz's many little coves. It looked at the diving oppurtunities and marine life that are off eastern Papua New Guinea on islands such as British New Guinea. This was a strange mix as I am currently reading a book on those exact islands and Chloe is an avid diver, nice little coincidence.

Gryllzy got here last weekend and stayed for a night before heading back up to Paris; we had a few good beers and he told us all about his European Adventure. He had a lot of sweet stories and looks like he is now a travelling addict, if you get a chance ask him about the story about the girl who won the wet t-shirt competition in Barcelona :)

With a week or so off work before the big summer season starts I've managed to plan the trip Carolina and I will embark on in September, it goes a little something like this;
Biarritz ---> Lisbon, Portugal ---> Barcelona, Spain ---> Pisa, Italy ---> Rome, Italy ---> Dubrovnik, Croatia ---> Croatian Coast ---> Venice, Italy ---> Berlin, Germany ---> Athens, Greece ---> Mount Olympus, Greece ---> Vienna, Austria ---> Paris, France ---> Lisbon
Then I am not quite sure but I think I will be heading to Madrid and flying back down to Marrakech in Morocco to do another month of surfing on a teeny weeny budget.

Well I hope that brings everyone a little bit more up to date; I'll try and get some more photos up soon;

Garrett in Biarritz

Posted by clancy_of_ 04:48 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Surfing in the sights of German bunkers;

'Labenne' Hossegor; France

sunny 29 °C

Just imagine if sixty years ago you went for a surf at 'Labenne', a spot just south of Hossegor that Yann and I went for a surf at this morning. You would grab your board and wettie, make the 10 minute walk through the shrub and over the dunes, to be confronted by several thousand German soldiers crammed into their bunkers, nervously awaiting the possibility of seeing American ships making their way over the horizon. Today, the soldiers may have been replaced by tourists and pollution, but the bunkers remain.

Image13.jpg

Whilst we explored the bunkers we realised two things;

Image35.jpg

1: How much history lined this coast, and just how much change Europe has gone through over the past half a century.
2: That the tide was dropping, the swell was picking up, there was no one in the water and a sweet peak was beginning to break just in front of one of the bunkers.

Image54.jpg

Finally after my bitching two days ago about French surf, we finally scored some good waves. It was offshore and about 1.5/2m, the swell direction wasn't perfect but we still managed to score some fun sand bottom barrels.

Image74.jpg

Who knows what sort of people will be lining the beaches of 'Labenne' in another fifty years time, but for some reason I have the feeling the bunkers will remain.

Last night, Christina (American/French girl who models for Reef.) and I thought we'd skip drinks at the Newquay bar for one night and take a couple of fresh Stella to the beach and watch the sunset. There was one guy in the water doing his best to surf the little lefts that rolled into the 'Grand Plage';

Image66.jpg

We spent a couple of hours in the early evening heat, chatting about America, Australia, France, Morocco and even Mexico. As I tried to seek advice on wether heading to San Diego, California at the end of the year would be a good move. It was one of those chats that occur so often when your travelling;
when you start talking you have not one clue about the other person, and by the end of the conversation you feel like you've been mates all your life.

Image44.jpg

I've thought a lot about this 'Gap Years' trip over the past few days, and I am just beginning to realise just how big of a life changing experience it has already been and will continue to be. This blog is already allowing me to look back on parts of my trip from places such as Morocco, and read up on things I would have long forgotten. If anyone is currently in a gap year, or is just itching for change, get out there, even if it is for a weekend, just see what getting out of your comfort zone can teach you.

Peace and Aurevoir;
Garrett in Biarritz; France

Posted by clancy_of_ 05:53 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

No Taz's!..But there's Paella!

Bayonne; France and San Sebastian; Spain

sunny 21 °C

Last year whilst travelling to Reunion Island I was exposed to the French Islander's love of Reggae, little did I know that this love of Bob Marley, Manu Chao and anything in between, actually stemmed from it's European mainland, France. Sergent Garcia, a latin/reggae artist who was often blasting from the speakers of my (now under new ownership) Holden Commodore Wagon, regularly visits the Basque region and holds free street concerts, an event which unfortunatley doesn't occur as often in Australia.
Last Sunday night he arrived to play in the town of Bayonne, and with a day off work, a free lift and a sunny afternoon I decided it was time to check out my first European street concert.

Photo_040.jpg

A couple of thousand people jumped around, singing and drinking to the 8 piece group playing before them. The vibe was amazing, the absence of barriers and bouncers, police and ambulances made me realise why something like this is so rarely held in Australia. There would be hundreds of people just going crazy, drinking like crazy, smoking like crazy and probably winding up in a fight 15 minutes after the concert was over. Here it was different, there wasn't one police officer and the crowd of a couple of thousand just stood around drinking their beer brought from home, getting into their music and having a sweet night. It opened my eyes to the huge difference between this part of French and Australian cultures.

Sergeant.jpg

And the end of the night me Steph and her mates, stood around for a while drinking a few last beers, whilst for the third time in about as many days I tried to explain to some bermused French mates the rules and scoring system of Australian Rules Footy.

The surf has been on the verge of shit lately, I won't say shit all together due to the possibility of offending my patriotic French surfer mates, but in the month that I have been here I would have totalled around 4 good surfs. It seems that when ever it's big it's onshore, and when ever it's offshore it's about one foot. Im thinking about staying even for a couple of weeks into September just to witness the "perfect month of surf" that comes during this period, where finally swell and offshore winds combine.

Last Friday again the surf was onshore and with it being Nat's last day in Biarritz we decided to hit up San Sebastian yet again for a night on the town, I was pumped.

Image64.jpg

The surf was small when we got there, but there was still a good 30 Spaniards in the water, I decided to make the most of it and indulge in my first surf in Spain, getting a few small barrely lefts;

Image33.jpg

As some one who grew up getting changed into their wetsuit in dirt carparks surrounded by forest and the occasional perving Kangaroo; it's quite a funny feeling getting changed for a surf in the middle of a bustling Spanish street with 10 story apartement buildings all around;

Image34.jpg

Back home every surf is always followed by at least one trip to Taz's Bakery for a good serving of beef, cheese and bacon pies, followed by a Master's Mocha. However to find that sort of luxury in San Sebastian Spain seemed to pose far to many obstacles,we decided to save the hassle and enjoy a traditional Spanish "Paella", the dish can be made with a variety of ingredients but traditionally it is with seafood; which is what I opted for, a sweet warming meal after a chilly Spanish surf.

Image53.jpg

We hit up our usual Jagabomb bar where we ran into a couple of Aussie guys from Perth we'd met the week before at the Newquay in Biarritz. We all put our Euro's together and with some random American chicks did a nice round of Jaga's;

Image73.jpg

The night unfolded as per usual in Spain; with lots and lots of partying. Tired and worn out from a night of dancing and drinking we retreated to the comfort of our 'cheap' Spanish hotel to get at least 5 hours sleep before we drove back to Biarritz so I could start work and Nat could start making the 7 hour journey home to start work the next day;

It's been a fun week here; even though I'm working 5 days a week, the proximity to Spain and the late night partying of Biarritz, means I'm never really missing out on anything;
hope the surf gets better!

AdiĆ³s;
Garrett in France and Spain;

Posted by clancy_of_ 01:01 Archived in France Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 31) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 »