A different sort of Remembrance Day

For some years, Jan and I have been pretty consistent in paying our respects on Remembrance Day, which is called Onze novembre (November 11th) in France, by attending the special service at our village’s war memorial. But for a variety of scheduling reasons, on Thursday we wound up on the road for a short trip to Arcachon with good friends Elisabeth and Gerhard.

We had liked Arcachon so much on a trip with friends Kathy and Keith just a few weeks earlier that we thought another visit to the seaside would be fun. As it turned out, it was not only fun but a bit surprising.

No surprises at our hotel (we again stayed at Hotel Le B d’Arcachon), or in the seaside restaurants (we again ate at Café de la Plage and Chez Pierre, which are sister restaurants that are side-by-side and that share the same menu) or in the quality of the seafood (excellent).

What was surprising was the town itself, and how it was buzzing with tourists, despite November’s reputation as a pretty quiet month for travel — to the point that many restaurants close for the winter season in November.

Our first clue to the vibrancy of Arcachon in mid-November was when we tried to book the hotel for Friday night (that is, the day after Onze novembre): Not only was our hotel fully booked, but so was every other hotel in town. That’s why we switched to a Thursday-night stay, when Jan was able to book two rooms in our hotel. Then, on the drive into Arcachon late on Thursday morning, we encountered a massive traffic jam caused simply by the volume of vehicles entering the town.

When we arrived at our hotel, we saw that the carousel on the beach was still in place, and still accepting riders. What was new — and surprising — was a huge Ferris wheel that had been constructed since our visit in late September. Obviously some people must know that Arcachon is a popular destination for vacationers.

Given all this, it was not completely surprising to see how crowded the bars, cafés and restaurants were. For all our meals, it seemed that every table was occupied. And at the outdoor cafés, servers were virtually running from table to table to keep up with demand. (Another positive surprise: Despite the rush, the restaurant and café service was uniformly excellent — friendly and professional.)

Of course this wouldn’t be Radio Free Daglan without a look at the food on offer, so here are two items we enjoyed on our trip. First is the dish that was probably the favourite of our group — a piece of roast cod, topped with a strip of grilled bread and flakes of haddock, surrounded by a pool of vichyssoise and wedges of roasted onions. Here’s my serving:

A delicious variety of tastes and textures.

And here’s my plate of grilled sole, served simply with roast potatoes and a right-sized portion of salad:

Just the right amount, with all the right tastes.

Jan and I are already thinking ahead to our next trip to Arcachon. Clearly, it’s won us over.

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