Saturday, October 1, 2011

A few days off: Ondres

Mrs PJ and yours truly decided to take a bit of a break and offed to northern Spain because:
 a) neither of us had been there for more than a fleeting visit
b) that was  way back in the mists of time
c) we have not had a week away from email since 2004
d) it is only a few hour’s drive from Chicken Hill.

Didn’t quite make it to Spain first try and arrived at the beach at Ondres on the French coast just in time to miss the sun setting into the Atlantic, so parked up and opened a bottle of Sancerre. When it was too dark to see anything I decided to have a look at the beach a few metres from the car park. It turned out that the beach, although only a few metres in a horizontal sense was about ten metres down in a vertical sense. From my vantage point I could see the white of the surf breaking on the sand, and with the aid of the torch I had remembered to bring could just make out an object of considerable mass on the beach but was unable to determine exactly what it was.

I returned to the car park and sampled the Glen Grant single malt (ludicrously cheap and just a little moreish from our local InterMarche) and thought no more about it. The following morning was altogether a better time to look at beaches what with it being in daylight and all. The hulk I had seen looming out of the dark the night before was a WWII pill-box (that is a concrete gun emplacement from the 1939-1945 war for younger readers – and they think they invented linguistic economy with texting. Hah!).

Unlike Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and that bloke played by Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator, I do not number military strategy or tactics among my accomplishments. However, I could not see the strategic or tactical advantage of having a gun on the beach when there was a perfectly good cliff edge, offering the usual advantages of an elevated position, only a few metres away.

Also, bearing in mind that the threat was expected to come from the sea and not the good folks of Biarritz a little way down the coast, I was unsure why the gun window (or is it gun port?) gave a nicely framed view of the one-time gambling capital of the French Atlantic coast, now a popular hangout for le dudes de surf.

Inside revealed the grim surroundings which one might expect from such a place...

but time had added a mellow, rusting appeal to the steel-banded roof. 

There were also some very useful rings for hanging things from. One must assume the things in question to be bulky shells, but who knows what a bored gunner might get up to...

A trip around the other side provided a clue as to the present location and orientation of this solitary brick in the Atlantikwall (an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defence against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain). 

The foundations were clearly visible and in no way as the designer had intended.

The jaunty angle of the gun window was not as I had surmised, to give a little quirkiness to this otherwise austere construction, but a result of the displacement of the entire structure. It is clear that at one time it had been at the top of the cliff until forces unknown, but presumably tidal, had persuaded it down to its present, more submissive, position.

Indeed, I found several more further along the beach had enjoyed the same fall from grace but could not be arsed to walk up the beach to inspect them.

Two more bricks in the wall (and in the distance)
 The locals appeared oblivious to them, possibly as a result of familiarity or may be due to the cunning application of camouflage...

...which looks a little like the oysters I would find attached to a concrete breakwater the next day in Hondarriba.

Anyway, the place was pretty much deserted except for a surfer...

...a child-minding dog walker...

...someone on a horse...


...and a couple doing a bit of fishing

Well, he is fishing and she is watching dutifully. Looks like she’s in for a fascinating day (discuss)

Verdict: a fine Sancerre and a very acceptable single malt.

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