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on the beach

Must be quick – I’m at an exorbitant internet café in Hossegor, in the south-west of France on the Atlantic. Some English guy is cleaning up with his prices here, since it’s the only internet access in town, except at the tourist office where you can have ten minutes for free if you want to line up with the crowds. The weather is not good – dark clouds overhead, drizzling rain, chilly – and I, travelling light for once for my trip to the beach, with 3 tank tops and 2 little summer dresses! Luckily one pair of pants and Michele, my hostess, has lent me a sweater and today, a raincoat.

Michele inherited this house from her parents, has been coming here in the summers since she was 12 years old; my family stayed here with her in 1965, as our European sejour wound down. Now her children and grandchildren come regularly to share it with her. Both her grown sons, their wives and children were here at first, but have gradually gone on their separate ways so now, it’s just the two old biddies. Michele looks about 50, with thick black hair threaded with only a few strands of white and lively black eyes – when she told me she’s actually 72 I nearly fell over. We are jabbering all day long. She did her Ph.D. in biochemistry with my father in the late sixties, knew both my parents, I knew hers … much to talk about.

I went with her grandsons to the beach the first morning, a huge swath of sand for once – so many French beaches are rocky. Swimming was forbidden in the bad weather and is dangerous anyway, the current is so strong. I was paddling when a huge wave came and knocked me right under the water, which was fun. But what shocked me was the amount of garbage on the beach, brought in on the waves – plastic plates, bottles, bags, string – in a long row all along the sand. Horrible. Sylvestre told me that locals think the Spaniards throw their garbage into the water specifically to land on French beaches.
It’s fun watching the surfers here – this is a big surfing town, with lots of tall blonde boys from Holland and Germany. The only car allowed for surfers is a VW, preferably a battered, painted bus like in the Sixties but a beetle will do too. It’s like Florida or any beach resort in that, the girls in bikinis and the boys with their boards. But here, the parks are full of elderly men playing boules and at the market this morning, Michele and I bought the most sublimely stinky chevre and Reblochon ever.
She and I are thinking of taking a spin to Spain – she speaks fluent Spanish and lived in Valencia for some time. I will get back to you when I can – my bill here is mounting. Back in Montpellier on Tuesday.
Onward. En avant. Or, as they say in Spanish, Arriba y adelante!



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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