Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Once or twice a year I am having a little flying holiday. My favorite place to go is the Pyla dune, south of Bordeaux/France. With a maximum height of 110 m (about 350 feet) this dune is the highest in Europe.

The camping is situated right at the foot of the Pyla dune, in the pine forest, five minutes' walk through the quicksand and I am right at the paragliding launching pad.

However, no wind, no flying. The day of our arrival, nearly cloudless sky but no wind. Not the slightest. There were roughly two dozens of paraglider pilots standing in the sand, waiting, waiting, waiting (www. in abbreviation).

Next day, blue sky again but the very strong wind was blowing from the land to the sea. Flying under these conditions would be a suicide mission. So we had another walk on top of Master Pyla, tourists among tourists.

The dune advances inland about 1 meter (three feet) per year, at most places. Thus all those camping sites on the inland side of the dune get smaller and smaller over the years. When walking along the water, you see the remnants of shore defense bunkers, laying half hidden in the ocean. They were built by the German army during the Second World War, now subject to tagging. When they were constructed in 1942/43, they were on top of the dune!!

Pyla is a big tourist attraction and restaurants are aplenty. There I saw a waitress who had a new way of carrying her dish towels. Have a look.

The third day was sunny again but again without any wind. Thus we went to the nearby Hydroplane Museum, featuring this kind of airplanes from about 1905 till now. The museum was closed, exceptionally. No sweat, a real "grockel" (English for tourist)can always fall back on something else. What about a Cappuccino in a good looking Café?

Well, all this is a side line. I came here for some paragliding and now I am reading Patrick O'Brian's "The Ionian Mission". Splendid book, I recommend.

Here, have a look at the camping site, right on the Pyla dune, under big fir trees.

This camp site is one of the best I know. They feature clean toilets and if you feel like it, you can get a kind of paper ring to put on the toilet seat. Hygienic shitting of stand-alone quality. I am always coming back to the place because of this.

Sunday, our last day at Pyla. Again heavy sunshine but no wind. Again those idle paraglider pilots are standing or sitting on the dune, www for some wind. Then suddenly, a paraglider appears in the sky, just one.

Everybody gets excited because there is no wind. We are all running to the other side of the dune to have a slice of this happiness. Alas, when we are there, the lone paraglider is still alone in the sky, slowly gliding down to Mother Earth. He must have had a gust of warm air, for some minutes and was smart enough to act upon it.

Monday morning, we are leaving. Thanks to YouTube, have a look at my beloved activity. I like the video because the pilots are a bit nutty. Youthfully excited as well as the music. This is "Plastic Bertrand" singing a hit of about thirty years ago, very much to the point "ça plane pour moi" (something like 'I am high' - but not in the air but in the head). Naturally, I am not flying like this, coffin lid open, but still flying, peacefully in the sun, over the sand and the water, over the tree tops.

Another post that is a bit too long. Sorry.


  1. Greetings! Thanks for the visit with you and the pictures.

    What an awesome site that is!


  2. i think you waited until you could get a picture of the waitress :) not too long- i get to see places i would never get to see otherwise- i thank you for that. it lets me- and others- see that people in other places do much as we do here. tourists, camping, etc. a little piece of humanity sharing with others- thank you. bon jour!!

  3. This looks a lot like where I live on the southwest coast of Oregon. My farm is on the edge of the Dunes National Park which is a few miles wide and 50 miles long.

  4. Hallo Coffee, Betmo and Patrick,

    Thanks for coming and reading this very long post.

    As to the waitress on Plage Petit Nice, yes it took me some time before shooting this picture, thanks to the 12x-zoom.

    That landscape on Patrick's blog really looks like Pyla dune. Did you ever see people flying there?? It seems steep enough.

    As to Coffee, it might be a long and expensive trip to Pyla (especially at the present Euro exchange rate) but you can always pay a visit to Patrick and have a look at his dune landscape. Avoid however to talk too much about elections and politics, that could provoke electricity through friction.



  5. Georg~
    What a wonderful adventurous spirit you have! I would have loved to seen photo's of you up in the air! perhaps next year?
    I enjoyed all the photo's and information about the area you were staying in! It did not seem long at all, and was a good read!
    Best of luck on your next flying trip!

  6. Hallo Sorrow,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Just one word about paragliding. It is a wonderful activity and gives you emotions impossible to have anywhere else. But for the others, the onlookers, it doesn't amount to much. Bordering on boring, just ask my wife.

    And as to the photos, I don't even recognize myself on them: plastic helmet, sun glasses, gloves in summer and winter. When I see myself I only know it because of the color of my helmet and the canopy.

    As to flying, I'll do it all over the year, weather permitting, Pyla dune is only the cherry on the cake.


  7. wow! I admire that the "adventures-ist" in you, I don't have that... beautiful pictures.

  8. To Frieda,

    I am certainly not an adventurer, like Indiana Joe or so.

    Motorless flying is pleasure sublime and certainly not more dangerous than driving a car. But it must be done according to rules and thus makes for concentration, judgment and humbleness towards nature.


  9. Hi Georg,

    Not long post at all it was no www for it to end! Great snaps..and great spirit. And, boy you love to fly not just in the air!

    That waitress you caught with some determination was certainly not for her two dish towels!!!

    Talking of the German bunkers, I could almost picture the great Rommel inspecting them before the allies landed at Normandy.

    It is always a pleasure reading your posts Georg

  10. oh hi Georg
    what a wonderful hobby you have this one of paraglider, so... even if you say is not more dangerous than driving, it does seem dangerous to me! but i bet you and your wife are very responsible so i do believe you when you say it's not dangerous... and sorry in your no luck with the wind this time! but it seems you found a good time with the book reading and taking pictures around the place... it does seem like a very nice place! lovely landscapes around

    and wow! the pictures are really nice Georg, i think you are one great photographer!

    i am glad you had some nice days around there, and better luck and much-wind wishes for your next paraglider escapade!

    take care Georg and congratulations on the photos again, reading this post of yours made me escape a little to those paradisaical place...

    thanks for such a lovely post! :D

  11. Bonjour Bere,

    Thanks for those flattering remarks.

    It seems we both like to make interesting photos.

    As to paragliding, there seems to be a place near by where you are living, Torrey Pines Glider Port. Have a look at the their homepage

    You can go there as a tourist, on a sunny afternoon. They even give directions. But only go there when the wind is blowing not too strong from the seaside.

    You can even book a tandem flight: this would certainly be the experience of your life.

    Cheers, Bere