France - The Breakdown
Where: Hossegor, Located In southwestern France. A small fishing village located 20 kilometres north of Biarritz that also is a famous surf town that plays host to the Quiksilver Pro every year.
Budget: France was the most expensive part of our road trip European leg so you will have to squeeze your pennies if you are on a budget trip. For the low budget traveller eating out will kill you , opt for homemade baguettes for lunch instead. The bread is just about the best bread you will ever eat and still reasonably priced roughly costing $0.90e fresh from a bakery or $0.45e from a super market, toppings and condiments are also reasonably priced. Now when doing bulk shops for the house make sure you don’t make the mistake of hitting the local general store in Hossengors main strip. It’s the only general store on the strip and its prices are very inflated, a mistake we learnt the hard way before being told about the alternatives. The big chain supermarkets are a little drive out of town but the likes of Lidl, Intermache or Aldi are very worth making the journey to have a big shop.
If you’re solo and without a car or van then accommodation is really going to sting you and the prices are inflated around the Pro. In Hossengor there is one hostel that can be super expensive around the time of the Pro costing around $50AUD a night in peak season or $30AUD not in peak season.
Where to eat:
The local patisseries are heavenly, you can find them all scattered along the main stretch of shops. A freshly baked croissant will only cost you $1 euro for the best croissant you’ve layed teeth into and a couple of those with some jam with do you for breakfast if you’re on a tight budget. The bread from these patisseries are also second to none and a decent size baguette will only cost you around $1. If you’ve got some coin to spend, then fill that baguette with an array of choices from one of the local delis. For eating out the Coolin did a very reasonably priced Burger (highly recommend the veggie) + chips and pint of the house beer for $8 euro. We also had a couple of fantastic meals at the local pizza restaurant Le Napoli, They serve enormous portions at very reasonable prices.
Think beach break heaven my friends, if Hawaii has the golden mile then France disputably lays claim to the golden mile of beach breaks. Theres 230km of costal line called the Cote d’Argent that is home to Hossengor, a deep water canyon named the Gouf runs through here producing world class beach breaks. The beautiful thing about Hossengor beachies is that they have such a good variety of waves. If you’re well prepared and fancy yourself a cone aficionado then you will want to start with La Graviere.
La Graviere: Is the jewel in Hossengors long stretch of beach breaks. If it is a jewel then it is also a diamond in the rough because for it to work the conditions have to come together seamlessly and this doesn’t happen often. When they do come together though just pull in and enjoy the barrel of your life.
Les Culs Nus: Also known as bare bums might not sound familiar but it is. Its where the Quiksilver Pro Hossengor contest bank was held this year… Yep thats right the one with spitting A- Frame barrels. Its known to be the most consistent bank in the area and has a healthy mix of turn and barrel sections depending on tide and sand.
La Nord: Another one of Hossengors beaches that has a speciality of holding bigger size swell. La Nord is the go to spot when Hossengor is hammered with excessive swell. The place is known to hold up to 5-6 meters of swell.
Les Estagnots: Also known as the square carpark in Hossengor that is massive and home to many great van partys and after surf drinks. It’s another of Hossengors great beach break set ups, it is always busy however the crowds are usually fairly spread out making it easier to get waves. The beach changes dramatically with tide and sand so knowing your stuff will pay off. It used to be a free camp spot however now is forbidden for camper vans to park there but it doesn’t spot them, fines are normally $11 euro or just being told to move on. Its close to a number of good restaurants and food spots and the local bakery produces the best chocolate croissants.
Capberton: One of the most photographed beaches in Hossengor, with graffiti covered WW2 bunkers littered through the line up and the Pryenes providing the perfect backdrop. This coupled with more grinding Hossengor barrel set ups and you’ve got yourself a pretty good place for a video clip part.
Our first Air BnB happened to be 150 meters away from The Coolin, this was both a blessing and a curse, however it is highly advisable if you’re in the business of letting your hair down. The Coolin is where it all starts happening and as Hossengor slowly starts to fill up the Coolin and the stretch surrounding it also begins to light up. What appears to be sleepy pub quickly turns into a pumping bar/club night and the surrounding establishments all similarly pack out. One thing to keep in mind is the French, like a lot of neighbouring European countries do things late. So don’t freak out if you get somewhere at 9pm and its quiet because the parties start late and go to early.
It was packed to the rafters every night during Quicksilver Pro with everyone from Europe flocking to rip in, you might meet your best friend, find your future French wife or simply spend the majority of your budget buying rounds of $6 euro pints for strangers you’ll never see again and if you did you wouldn’t recognise them anyway.
Once the Pro is in full swing the towns (and the Coolins) infrastructure can’t cope and it becomes bumper to bumper till people spill onto the streets. Often creating vibrant street parties with some legends providing speakers with enough juice to keep everyone going outside for hours on end, dancing on each other shoulders and keeping the party going until late.
Other good places to party are Rock Food or Dick's Sand Bar at Place des Landai. Both these places also pump and can be found with walking distance of the Coolin.
Bordeaux: If you are looking for a weekend getaway when the waves are flat then Bordeaux is a good option. Bordeaux is a nearby city that is heavily populated with University students who are keen to party. We went to a bar/club called iboat which was an actual boat that was very cool and pumped after mid night.
If you’re a lover of good wine (or just a low key alcoholic) then its a must to go check out the wine areas in St Emilion, notorious for its good wine and historic chateaus. We found out the hard way if you want to have a tour of one of these olden beauties then you will need book will in advance and you can’t simply walk in a put back a glass of their finest. However there are still areas available to the ignorant public who want to just rock up.
The Pyrenese is the mountain range dividing France and Spain that is famous for being the playing field for the Tour de France, the drive is magical and definitely worth hiring a car for a day or two and taking some time to enjoy it (get something fast if you’ve got the coin)
If a European surf pilgrimage is on the cards, then Hossengor has to be on the top of your list. It was certainly the undisputed standout highlight (amongst many good contenders) in a long European road trip, I think that says enough. Our other 2 cents are as follows
- Get up early. The French aren’t early risers and when the Pro is on with every Pro, every man and every Pros entourage full of shredders any respite from crowds is what you need so make sure your on it, no matter the surrounding circumstances from last nights antics.
- Be careful of your possessions. Everyone comes to town to surf and party and thieves come to prey one them. We had a rental bike stolen from out the front of our friends apartment, it cost us 180 euro. Also our friend who is on the Womens CT had her entire quiver of surfboards stolen from a car a few years prior and had to surf on borrowed boards, so keep your eyes open.