Ahhh, The South of France. The first thing that comes to mind when replaying my week in Capbreton, is the delightful sensory overload. There were the smells of fresh baguettes, pine trees, and salty sea breezes. There was the feel of coarse natural sand between my toes and the sight of rose gardens, passion fruit vines, and bougainvillea pouring over wooden fences. In the morning, villagers walk or ride their bikes to purchase daily bread and pastries from local cafes filled with neighbors quietly drinking espresso and eating crepes. The town of Capbreton is quaint, quiet, and peaceful. It has more of an old-fashioned French feel than nearby Hossegor, which was littered with surf shops, busy restaurants, noisy cafes and surf hostels.
Ours wasn’t the typical vacation one might imagine when hearing the destination France. We didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower or the Louve. We didn’t see the beaches of Normandy or the world-famous wineries outside Boudreaux. Our destination was France’s most famous surfing area and we remained optimistic that we would also get a slice of French culture along the way.
Surfers have been visiting the stretch of coastline between Biarritz and Hossegor since the 1950’s. This area did not become a mainstream focus until Quiksilver started a professional surfing contest in Hossegor in 2002. The event is still put on every year in early October. Nowadays, within the surfing community, it is common knowledge that the area has some of the best beach breaks on earth. Not familiar with surf terminology? A beach break is a wave that breaks over sand and close to shore. In the morning, when the wind is calm, these conditions can allow for unforgettable tube rides, but the rest of the day the surf quality will be very poor. These waves can be extremely dangerous and should only be enjoyed by seasoned surfers or under the supervision of a surf school.
My wife and I fell into a beautiful routine during our stay in Capbreton. I woke up every morning around 6:30am to check the surf and hunt for some beach break tubes. I generally returned to our cozy AirBnB around 10:00am, just in time to meet Chelsea for a stroll into town. We would walk along the canal to our favorite bakery, where the woman behind the counter would kindly accommodate our lack of French and help us through the purchase. We tore off chunks of baguette, ate Gateau Basque (a typical pastry with custard and black cherry filling), and drank Café con Leche. Next, we packed our things and headed down the road for a long day at the beach.
We swam in the cool ocean (“freezing” according to Chelsea), climbed on old beach bunkers left over from World War II, and watched the sun set slowly below the horizon. By the time dinner rolled around we were pleasantly drained, but never too tired for our evening meal out. We feasted on freshly shucked oysters while sitting by the bay, drank different varieties of local wine, and indulged in many orders of Moules-Frites, a well-known and delicious combination of steamed mussels and French fries. Our nightcap of choice was a glass of Bourdeaux wine, which always seemed like the perfect way to close our days of sensory indulgence.