With the poor old van broken down in a tiny town called Elne, outside of Perpignan (we'd failed to do anything constructive about the strange squeaking/grinding sound that the engine had been emitting for the past six weeks. More fool us) and the end of the holiday season upon us, our boredom levels were being truly tested. I'd heard rumours that the country shuts down after the last holiday weekend in August when the French go back to work and swap late starts, long lunches and plenty of relaxation time for... um, late starts, long lunches and plenty of relaxation time, but I'd not seen it in action. Action being the operative word here. There was none. The campsite was an uninhabited, leaf strewn patch of grass, the bar closed and the pool forlorn and empty of inhabitants. Barely a soul was around as we walked the cobbled streets of town alone in the sunshine, looking for a restaurant or at the very least, somewhere serving alcohol and snacks.
And then of course, because it's France and apparently, aided by some vino I can chat to strangers in French, we stumbled upon a patch of gravel, topped with a few empty wine barrels and a couple of chairs and an hour later we're sharing a decanter of natural wine with the owner, bar staff and local winemaker whilst munching on unbelievable cheese and bread. AM chats merrily away in ever-improving French about wine methods and harvests while next to him I'm hearing the tall tales of the Amsterdam-born proprietor. The wine is delicious, all local (natural wine not being a particularly good traveller), all different to anything I'd tasted before. All good.
Van fixed and wallet emptier we were back in Biarritz (after a brief stop in the magical city of Carcassonne.) It was as lovely as we remembered and I was relieved we still felt it was where we wanted to be. Time to get serious and find somewhere to live! Navigating the French classifieds (possessing none of the 500 bureaucratic documents needed by any official letting agents to rent anywhere) and visiting apartments, it's been another test of language skills and patience. The French style of negotiation seems somewhat lacking. When asked: "How much is your monthly budget?" I responded with a vague but polite "we're not sure of the pricing structure yet really, but were looking at around 500 euros a month. Could you tell me if that's appropriate please?" I was met with "no thank you, we're not interested". Riiight. Merci and all that. Thankfully a few apartment visits were lined up with slightly more sympathetic owners and we've currently got our 'doigts croisés' for a charming little place complete with outside terrace and a dressing room (which AM seemed to think might be put to better use as a second bedroom or an office. AM does not understand dressing rooms, clearly.) In the meantime we've got the horrible job of getting to know Biarritz a bit better. The weather (sorry) is still around 20 degrees and sunny. The adventures continue!