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LAcanau-Ocean Aire

Aire/Stellplatz: LACANAU-OCEAN Le Huga (Aquitaine)

GPS Decimal: 45.00555 N -1.16541 W

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Per 24 hours: 10 Euros (2010) payment by card only at machine.

Lacanau-Ocean is a major surf spot, and well it knows it. It hosts the WQS Lacanau Pro surf contest every August, and its main street is liberally dotted with surf culture emporia. Its broad flat beaches stretch to the horizon in either direction, and are populated by blond tousle-haired neoprene clad youths and youthettes proudly clutching (and sometimes riding) surfboards. If the sea's flat there's a generous skatepark along the seafront for keeping one's hand in with all the right moves. It therefore seems a bit of a shame that the only Aire Camping-Car in the town is set some way back from the sea in Le Huga, and only one beach car park (Plages-Sud) isn't height restricted to 2 metres. Sure you'll get your classic Veedub Kombi under, but what about those of us who've done the Veedub thing some years ago and have since graduated to taller vehicles? I mean don't get me wrong, Plages-Sud is large, free, shady, and the beach is both surfable and lifeguard patrolled, but it's a bit out on a limb and not within easy walking distance of the town centre. Maybe campers over 2 metres aren't considered groovy or surfy enough to warrant a parking spot in downtown surf city?

Anyway, be that as it may, one should be grateful that there's an Aire here at all, and it's well served by the adjacent Bordeaux-Lacanau cycle track, which as it approaches the seafront has its own dinky little tunnels and mini-roundabout system - how cute. If your bike has a surfboard rack or trailer you're well sorted at this Aire. As you drive in from the main D6 you need to pay at the ticket machine in the pull-in on the right, and you can only use a bank card (Carte Bancaire) to do this. You need to select which of two areas you're going to park in, and my advice is go left, because although the right hand area is newer, it's also closest to the neighbouring heliport. When one of those beasties takes off first thing in the morning and you're still half asleep you'll think you're having a 'Nam flashback and start screaming "Charlie don't surf!!" and such like. It's best to give the chopper squad some distance if you can.

The ticket machine issues you with a 24 hour ticket that guarantees you entry to a parking place somewhere, but not a specific spot. It has a code that needs typing into a keypad at the barrier, which in theory will lift to allow you in. I say in theory, because I saw at least two instances of people trying to exit this Aire using a valid code and the barrier didn't lift. One of them was us. Either the keypad was sticky, or the barrier wasn't working properly, but the complete absence of an assistance phone number on the information board wasn't helpful. So, I've found the contact details online and here they are:

Mairie annexe Lacanau Océan
Villa Plaisance, 2 Rue Jacquemin-Perpere
33680 Lacanau-Ocean
Tel 05 56 03 21 22

The building looks like this (clearly Lego inspired) and it's just north of the D6 Place de l'Europe in the town centre, a short bike ride away. The best time to contact them is between 9am and midday Mon-Sat, or 2pm - 5pm Mon-Fri. If the barrier sticks, don't waste another 10 Euros on buying another ticket because it won't work - we tried. One option is to ask someone else if you can use their code number to get out, but better still, complain like hell to the local Mairie - 10 Euros is a lot to pay for deficient service. One possibility is that the ticket machine distributes consecutive code numbers, and if someone else accidently keys yours in, you get stuck. That's only a theory however. You can probably guess that I have developed a healthy dislike of automated Aire barriers, and with good reason.

A further gripe is the service points - although there's at least three of them, I've never seen them all in good repair, and for some inexplicable reason you're expected to empty your toilet cassette through a metal grille. You can imagine the noxious filtering effect that this has, especially in the heat of summer. Since first encountering this unpleasantness I've bought a cheap pair of drain lifting handles, so at least I can drag these grilles open and empty my cassette with a modicum of dignity. There's no charge for water, though frankly I'd rather fill up elsewhere because no obvious distinction exists between the drinking water and the toilet cassette flushing taps. Electricity posts are liberally spread around the Aire, especially in the newer section, but are not universally available.

On the surface, this Aire looks like a good one - sadly the reality is somewhat different if you want easy beach access, and/or you don't want to be wondering if the barrier will let you out when it's time to go. That said, if you're in a vehicle 2 metres tall or less and you don't mind commuting to the sea, this Aire will suit you just fine.

Summary:

On the plus side: Well laid out, marked bays, grassy spaces and generally pleasant with some natural shade, and excellent bike access to town centre.

But: Expensive, some distance from the beach, temperamental automated barrier with payment by Bank Card only, occasional helicopter noise, service points not well-maintained, and toilet waste must be emptied through a grille(!)

Alternative Aires: Some folks choose to stop overnight in the Plages-Sud car park, although there's plenty of signs saying you shouldn't, and the Gendarmerie check it out from time to time, so that's a matter of personal choice. There is another Aire with similar facilities at the northern end of the Lac de Lacanau (turn south east off the D6), between Carreyre and Le Moutchic, just off the Avenue de la Grand Escoure

 


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