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.