Life on this peninsula is unlike anything else I have experienced in France: A mashup of Northern California and the Caribbean isles, with a dash of Riviera thrown in for panache. And everywhere oysters, beach cars, sailboats, gingerbread cottages, surfers and sea walls.
Though the nature preserves on the Atlantic side are the widest, most vast beaches I have ever seen, the villages remain dense, quirky and cloistered, wedged among dunes, the tiny gardens walled, the porches secret. Surrounded by coastal pine forests, the buildings are constructed primarily of wood, which is uniquely light and festive in a country otherwise built only of brick and stone.
Despite the Cap’s dressed-down unspoiled appearance, many residents are apparently famous people and wealthy Bordelais whose very purpose in coming there is to go unnoticed for a while. We were lucky that our host knew how to maneuver on side trails around the standstill traffic at the end of the weekend when all of those invisible hideouts hit the one main road home at once.
The Bassin d’Arcachon is tidal, like Mont Saint-Michel, and so twice a day all the boats are drydocked on mudflats while the oysters are harvested and sorted. Those tides were even more pronounced during the supermoon eclipse in the wee hours of Monday morning when the water came up almost to the houses.
But the basin protects the inland shoreline from storms and wind so that the beach cottages can look like those in the pictures, unbattered and stacked as casually with nets and boats, whirligigs and potted plants, as if they were far inland.
Cap Ferret is an inimitable and seductive mix. We hauled home as many fresh oysters as we could, and we will be going back as soon as we possibly can.