All in all our vacation was great, though the weather could definitely have been better! Here are the highs and lows:
- La Dordogne. Our trip in Dordogne was absolutely amazing and I completely fell in love with this part of France. We spent 4 wonderful days there, exploring, visiting, discovering and relaxing. Although the weather could have been better, we were still very happy with our trip and we saw so many amazing things: Sarlat, Domme, le Chateau de Castelnaud, le Chateau de Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Autoir, Rocamadour, Carennac, Martel, la Grotte des Merveilles, la Grotte de Rouffignac, le Chateau des Milandes, le Chateau de Castelnau Bretenoux, St. Léon sur Vézère, le Village Troglodytique de la Madeleine and Perigueux.
- Le Pays Basque. Since the weather was so bad and we couldn't really take advantage of the beach, Lionel's parents decided to take us to the Pays Basque for two days since I had never been. It's a part of France that has never really attracted me, so I was very surprised to discover how beautiful and interesting this region is. We visited St. Jean de Luz, Sare, Hendaye, Aïnhoa, Espelette, Cambo les Bains and Biarritz and it was all beautiful. We spent some time along the sea and some time in the mountains and I really fell in love with the area and Basque food!
- Spain. I went to Spain for the first time! On our trip to the Pays Basque we stopped in Spain for cheap alcohol and cheap gas and it was the first time I ever set foot in Spain, so I was pretty excited! We also drove through the mountains for a little bit before entering back into France and passed through the adorable little village of Bera.
- Family. As I've said before, I am very lucky to have wonderful inlaws and we had a great time visiting them. Since the weather wasn't so great we also had time to visit with some other members of Lionel's family since they almost all live in the Bordeaux area and I had a great time seeing some of his cousins and his grandfather. We had some lovely, long meals with his family involving good conversation and lots of oysters, fresh fish, cheese, delicious desserts, aperitifs and, of course, tons of wine. I'm just so lucky to feel so accepted by Lionel's family and it helps me feel like I have family here since my own family is so far away in Ohio.
- Friends. We also have some friends whose families are from the Arcachon area and since they were there on vacation at the same time we were able to meet up with them and spend some time with some of their friends from the area as well. We had one particularly wonderful evening with our friends, their friends, all their children and about 500 kg of food all expertly cooked by Matthew on the grill - shrimp, duck hearts (yikes!...I didn't try that one...), chicken, beef, ventrèche, sausages, camembert on the bbq. It was a lot, but delicious!
- Rasteau. I think our little furball enjoyed being on vacation even more than we did. He loved having the huge garden to play in, a new area to explore and the other cats to play with. He barely slept because he was so excited by all the new things. It was adorable!
- Cap Ferret. We spent a day at the Cap Ferret (even though the weather wasn't so great). We took the boat across the bassin from Arcachon to the Cap Ferret to visit some of Lionel's family that was on vacation there and the Cap ended up being really nice. We ate super fresh oysters straight from the waters at one of the little oyster shacks along the sea, visited the area a bit and went to a beautiful, natural beach (though we couldn't lay out or swim).
- Biganos. We stopped in Biganos to visit the small but adorable, and very rustic port and had a nice walk around the port and along the river.
- Andernos les Bains. We also visited Andernos les Bains at the fond du bassin and had a nice walk along the sea and through the adorable little commercial streets.
- Gémo Chaussures. Since the weather was so bad I did a little shopping and managed to get a new cute pair of wedges on sale for only 13 euros!
- The weather. The weather was ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE. In our two and a half weeks of vacation we had 5 days of sun, one of which was too cold to be able to go to the beach and two of which were while we were in the Pays Basque so we were only able to spend an hour at the beach. The other two days, one was too cold and windy to go to the sea, so we went to the beach at the Lac de Cazaux where we were at least protected from the wind and the other day (the last day of our vacation) was actually hot and sunny so I spent the entire afternoon at the beach before hopping in the car to drive back to Paris that night. The rest of the time was cold, gray and rainy which made it really hard to do a lot of the activities we were planning. On the days when it didn't rain we were able to go biking and things but on the rainy days we were basically stuck at the house or shopping.
- Lionel got a ticket. Lionel ended up getting a ticket when we were in Dordogne...90 euros for dangerous passing. Long story short, there was a tractor in front of us that unexpectedly stopped right after a sharp curve so Lionel swerved to pass it in order to avoid hitting it, and unfortunately les gendarmes were coming from the other direction and saw the entire thing.
- Le Gouffre de Padirac. Le Gouffre de Padirac is this amazing cave with an underground river and when you visit it they take you on a boat ride along the river and then take you by foot to see the underground lakes. We really wanted to see it and so we went one afternoon but the line was very, very long and we didn't want to lose the rest of the afternoon so we decided to come back the following morning. The next morning we woke up early and arrived before opening only to find another very long line and since we had a lot of other things we still wanted to see/do, we finally decided to just give up and visited the prehistoric Grottes de Rouffignac instead.
- Canoeing. I love canoeing and I was really excited because we planned to go canoeing twice on vacation. We had planned a canoeing trip with our friends and their children for the beginning of vacation which was unfortunately cancelled and because of the weather we were never able to do it later. We had also planned to canoe on the Dordogne River but were unable to because of the weather as well. So we ended up not being able to canoe at all, which was a disappointment.
- Les Mardinades. Les Mardinades is a little soirée that is put on by the city of La Teste de Buch every Tuesday night in July and August at the port. There are cheap drinks, good food, lots of oysters, live music, and dancing. When we were on vacation there two years ago we went twice and I really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to going back this year. We were in Dordogne the first Tuesday but planned to go the second Tuesday. Unfortunately, because of the weather (which ended up being beautiful), they cancelled it and rescheduled it for Wednesday night when we were gone in the Pays Basque, so I ended up missing my Mardinades.