Friday, September 2, 2011

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: THE TALLEST SAND DUNE IN EUROPE

At the end of a ten day sojourn in the Bordeaux region of France, one of our traveling companions proposed a visit to the tallest sand dune in Europe. The Great Dune of Pyla (in French: la Dune du Pyla) is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon Bay area, 60 km from the city of Bordeaux.

I’ll admit I wasn’t enthralled with the prospect of climbing a mountain of sand, but enjoyed the drive along the coast where we stopped at quaint seaside towns along the way. Arcachon Bay is on the Atlantic coast of France where the water level varies dramatically with the tide. At high tide, boats large and small sail or motor merrily in the bay. At low tide, they list in the sand like beached whales miles from the sea—a curious and strangely disturbing sight.

When we finally reached the Great Dune, this is what we found:  

   

We climbed the stairs to the top along with a steady stream of people ranging from small children to old women. Some visitors wore shorts, tee shirts and sneakers; other arrived in their Sunday best (probably because it was Sunday.) From the peak the bay spread out three hundred feet below—a spectacular view worth the climb. On the sandy plateau families picnicked, couples napped, groups of teenagers played ball or Frisbee as though it was a beach.



The day was sunny and warm, but we didn’t stay long.  The slide back down the dune, a swift and exciting falling through fine white sand, beckoned and didn’t disappoint. All in all, the Great Dune was well worth the excursion—a memorable experience off the beaten path.

1 comment:

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Ooh, I want to go there!