It was late at night. I had spent a week at my family’s house in southern France, a week full of joyful moments, with each family member of mine. I was alone for the first time in a few days and I enjoyed the nightly silence, the only thing disturbing it being the cars rushing by on the other side of the bridge I was walking on. In a few hours I would be sitting on the first train of my Interrail trip. In a few hours I would be travelling alone for the first time in my life. Alone through southern Europe.
Saturday, August 18th
I woke up at eight o’clock. I had barely gotten any sleep and therefore it took me some time until I was awake enough to make myself some breakfast, which consisted of some black coffee, toasted bread with butter and jam as well as a croissant, you name it – a typical French breakfast. I checked my backpack one last time, in it were all the things I would need within those four weeks of travelling, put it on and walked through the door. The weather had changed, dark clouds were hanging off the sky. I walked through our front yard, opened the white gate separating my grandparent’s garden from the street, and got into my cousin’s car who was waiting for me. Then, we drove off to the nearest train station.
It took me eleven hours by train until I arrived at my first destination, Arcachon, a town at France’s Atlantic coast which my father, who had done a similar trip 30 years ago, had told me about. During those eleven hours, I had continued planning my trip, finished one of the five books I had taken with me and slept half an hour, almost making me miss my last stop. I stepped out of the train, embraced the warm summer weather and walked through the train station’s main entrance. My plan was to take a bus to one of the dozens of camping site’s next to the coastline as well as the “Dune du Pilat”, the biggest sand dune in Europe, and find a camping spot for the night. I got into the bus and there I met Helena and Fritzi, two German girls from Hamburg who were travelling by Interrail as well.
We arrived at one of the camping sites and immediately faced some difficulties: all of them were closed, fully booked out or not available. After a few minutes of despair, which we used to smoke some cigarettes, a security guard, who I had talked with earlier, came out of one of the camping sites and told us that he had found a free spot for us to stay at. Thankfully, we followed him to a small space in between two bigger tents and set up ours. Just in time, to buy some wine from the camping’s supermarket, walk to the beach and sit down on the sand dune. We shared the overprized, yet very delicious, wine, some cigarettes, bread and cheese and enjoyed the darkness of the night and the brightness of the stars shining down on us.
Sunday, August 19th
We woke up in our designated camping spot and decided to make some fried eggs which we then ate while sitting in front of our tents, listening to Jack Johnson and talking about books – recommending each other our latest literary discoveries. We checked out of the camping two hours too late, which luckily didn’t cause any problems, and walked back to our spot where we had left our backpacks. During our breakfast we had decided to go wild camping near the dune at a camping space we had found the night before. We weren’t sure if it was still part of the camping site we had stayed at but decided to give it a try. It worked out.
After setting up our tents once again, we went down to the beach and spend the rest of the day in the cold Atlantic water, reading books and sketching. I, for myself, made some drawings of a tattoo idea that I had had for a long time already, but never really got to realize.
In the afternoon we walked back to our tents, changed and bought some food at the camping’s supermarket. We then made a fire to warm us, looked down the sand dune and watched the setting sun while drinking some more wine. It’s safe to say that this was one of the most memorable evenings of my trip. And it had only been the second day. Even though we were staying directly next to the Dune du Pilat, we hadn’t walked all the way up to its peak yet. Naturally, our motivation to do so grew as we finished another two bottles of wine and so at two o’clock in the night, we hiked all the way up. Let me tell you, walking up the dune is exhausting, walking up the dune at two am while drunk and with nothing but the small light of a flashlight is even more exhausting, the view and the feeling to have reached to peak though, are worth the effort.
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