Posts Tagged ‘Soulac-sur-Mer’


Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

I finally solved a mystery that had been bugging me for years! Turned out to be quite simple in the end.

During the closing weeks of World War Two, mid-April 1945, Soulac sur mer and the surrounding area was the scene of several days close combat between French forces and the occupying Germans, who were in no mood to surrender without a fight.

Many books have been published about these battles. One I bought a while back contained a couple of pictures of close quarter action. I was pretty sure I knew the place, but somehow couldn’t figure it. So this year I scanned the pictures and went looking. It didn’t take long as it turned out. Here is the result.


Soulac sur mer in 1945 and 2017

The location is just to the south of the railway station, the line crosses the road to the right where the two tall masts can be seen. the new tree obscures the view of the electrical substation, the equipment of which can be seen to the left of the psot above the soldier. Google view, the red mark shows where I stood. Not quite the same place as the chap in 1945 as the road was a little busier when I was there!


Location for comparison photos, Soulac sur mer

The German forces was pushed back from Soulac on the 17th and 18th April 1945. Their last stand was at the fortfications of Le Verdon a few km to the north. Surrender came on 20th April 1945. The two sides lost 1050 men during the week’s combats.

I have a few more photos from a bike ride around Royan, Vaux Sur Mer and La Palmyre. These I shall add in a day or two.

My train ride home from Bordeaux was very agreeable. Here is what I posted on Trip Advisor :

I travelled on the Sud Express from Írun to Lisbon Tuesday night / this morning.

Some observations – the train was full. I was expecting the farce of heavy handed security and lines for baggage checks at Írun as per my previous trip a few years ago. No such thing, people in seated cars simply walked on board and those of us in sleeper cars showed our tickets to the hostess who made sure we went in the right one – some obviously didn’t! No one demanded to see my passport or made me take my shoes off. All very civilised.

Train left 2 minutes late. The first hour or so of the trip is through the Basque country with its station signs and almost everything else in that incomprehensible language. Nice wooded and hilly scenery, some rain and mist on the tallest peaks.

There are no announcements on board, so if getting off before Lisbon best set a good alarm. One thing will cause despondency among the internet junkies – there is no wifi, no electrical sockets other than a shaver socket in the sleeper compartments, no USB sockets, no nothing like that on board. Your 3G roaming will work for a good while, but once out into the remote country areas, forget it.

I know this may mean actually having to engage in conversation, the hardship is noted.

The train does rumble and clank, although I did sleep reasonably well most of the way. The exception was around 2am (Spanish time) or 1am (Portuguese time), when it sounded like we were running over corrugated iron sheets for quite a time.

The air con /heating system worked well, neither too hot nor too cold, but then the outside weather wasn’t exactly summer. There is no longer a full meal service, just an on board café / bar car. Almost everyone, myself included, was well supplied with their own stuff.

Arrival in Lisbon Oriente was 1 minute ahead of schedule. I then waited for my train down to Albufeira.

I arrived exactly on time in Albufeira this morning after a trip of a 21hrs 57 minutes involving four different trains and crossing two national borders. All tickets bought on line except for the 3 minute ride from Hendaye to Írun on Euskotren’s nice new train, which cost me €1,70 from the machine.

Yes it costs more than flying and is slower, but a much less stressful way to travel IMHO. A nice winding down it was for me after a six week trip around various places.

I started my journey on the TGV from Bordeaux. This was one of the new Duplex (double deck) trains introduced upon the opening of the new high speed line between Tours and Bordeaux. It was absolutely full on leaving. There were no ticket checks at all, my upper deck window seat was occupied by someone with a vaid ticket but in the wrong coach. He had to move!

Passengers alighted in numbers at every stop, by the time we reached the end of the line at Hendaye few were left. Arrival was on time but the schedule has been padded to allow for a few miles of painfull slow running between Bayonne and St Jean de Luz.  Subsidence has caused some minor track damage which has yet to be repaired. Trains must therefore run slowly, for that reason (but excuse actually) SNCF no longer extends most of its trains the extra distance across the border and to Írun.

So, at Hendaye it’s a short walk out of the main station to the Euskotren station. A couple of staff were on hand to assist the many foreigners with the ticket machines (there is no ticket office) and my €1,70 ticket across the border was easily obtained. The trip to the Euskotren station at Írun Colon takes 4 minutes, from there is it 3 minutes easy walk to the main station.


Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

Tagged: , , on August 12, 2017 by cubsur51

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Last day by the coast – updated with more pictures

In France,Médoc on August 4, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , ,

Once again the sun stayed behind cloud until late afternoon, but the beaches were packed nevertheless. It was rather windy, plenty of surf for the afficionados. The picture below was taken at Soulac-sur-mer about an hour after high tide.


I began the day with a short bike ride to the north of Soulac to an area known as ‘Les Cantines’, a long wide beach stretching to the Pointe de Grave, the very northern tip of the Médoc peninsular. It was around 12noon, a very grey and windy day and almost no-one to be seen. The area has sea defences dating from the 1930’s. These were, understandably, neglected during the Second World War and only partly repaired in the 1950’s. Some token efforts have been made since, but wind and tide are slowly prevailing.

Pictures here – will open a new window.

The poor weather lasted a couple of hours, drove me to lunch! But, by 1700hrs (5pm) the sun was out, the temperature a respectable 25ºC and the beaches very busy as the final few pictures show.


Coming to the end of my stay in the Médoc

In France,Médoc on August 8, 2016 by cubsur51 Tagged:

8th August, a grey and overcast day  here in Soulac, very humid and a threat of some rain perhaps. A  big contrast to yesterday, when it was sunny and 29C, although rather windy.

There was plenty going on, it being the annual blessing of the sea, music events, a parachute display and more.


Crowds gather at the top of the beach

Various religious figures and civic leaders intone solemn speeches above the beach. They send a wreath to be rowed out to the waiting boats. Meanwhile, the skydivers come down onto the beach. No I do  not know what this has to do with the sea!



Skydiver landing Sollac sur mer beach


A small flotilla of boats receives a wreath rowed out to them.


The beach was very busy on a bright and sunny day.


There was even a fly-past of sorts


Soulac sur mer town hall – Mairie.

The town hall looking suitably elegant in the afternoon sunshine.


Soulac sur Mer Festival of the sea

Sunday 9th August was the annual Soulac sur Mer festival of the sea. The great and good, plus many others, gather for a morning service in the historic 11th century church. After that they proceed, escorted by a band and a general throng, through the town to the seafront. There various speeches are made, blessing the sea and all who sail on her, remembering those who have died etc.

There were only a few boats out to sea, I had somehow expected more. But the weather had been poor that morning, with a lot of wind and rain. There was some skydiving and a flypast by four or five aircraft from the local aerodrome.

The great and good no doubt head off for a good lunch, the band plays on and various other little events go on throughout the day. All in all a good example of a local tradition being maintained.

It’s a bit difficult to take pictures because of the crowds, but there are some here.

Soulac sur Mer Festival of the sea

Tagged: , on August 11, 2015 by cubsur51

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Soulac sur Mer August 2015

It’s been a mixture of sunny but windy days, then like today, cloudy and fairly dull days. It’s not cold though, averaging 22C on even the cloudy days. Today, Saturday, it is grey and cloudy once again with occasional light showers.

A few pictures.

Only in France would I expect to see people queuing at a bakery shop at 830am. Soulac is a small town, but with thousands of campers in the nearby sites, it supports five bakery shops. This one seems to be particularly popular.
Queuing at the bakery

Elsewhere, to the south of the town, the effects of the sea can be seen. Erosion of the sandy cliffs continues. Some say it might be a soon as 30 years when the sea breaks through somewhere and changes the landscape completely.

This picture shows a camping and caravan site now right on the edge of the dune, protected only by a layer of rocks. A little further south, the once popular beach of L’Amélie has partly disappeared.


The sandy cliff nearby is 40 metres or so further back and losing ground every year.


The black lump is the remains of a Second World gun emplacement, which 70 years ago was safe on the beach.


The apartment block top centre was evacuated and slated for demolition last year but it is still there. Former residents are continuing their protests. The sea is now within a few feet.


The inexorable march of the sea is demonstrated by this water pipe protruding from the sand. The building it supplied has gone.


Soulac sur Mer August 2015

Tagged: , , on August 8, 2015 by cubsur51

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A windy day – pictures part one

These are the pictures I took during the morning along the beach between Soulac sur Mer and the Pointe de Grave, Le Verdon.

It’s a big album but you can use the thumbnail view to home in on pictures you like. The beach is wide and sandy but at high tide is mostly underwater. That’s I waited for the tide to be right.

The beach extends about 6km to the very tip of the Médoc peninsular. It is a very fragile area and is being battered relentlessly by the sea. Defences constructed in the 1920’s and reinforced in the 1960’s are now being overcome. The sand dunes are retreating and exposing a lot of World War Two and earlier structures that were previously buried. The dunes in some parts are 70 or 80 feet (20 – 25 metres) high, but behind them is flat land. If the sea should break through, Le Verdon would be flooded and a new island will be formed. One old reference I found said that in the 1780’s they said the sea was advancing 13cm per DAY. I don’t think it’s as much as that now but certainly the changes are obvious every time I visit.

The whole town of Soulac was abandoned at one point and people only moved back almost 100 years later.

The Atlantic Wall

This map shows the extent of the fortifications in this area – the one marked S300 at the very tip is the one I have pictures of at the end of the album. I see that the Soulac tourist office is now offering guided tours of the fortifications conducted in German!

The red line on the map is the anti-tank ditch behind which the Germans retreated when the Free French forces attacked in April 1945. It took them a week as, despite having no hope whatever of rescue or relief, the occupying forces only surrendered when they had run out of ammunition. Their big guns were useless, pointing out to sea.

Pictures part two, in a couple of days, will be of my boat trip around the estuary.

A windy day – pictures part one

Tagged: , , on August 2, 2014 by cubsur51

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This morning I took a two and half hour walk along the beach northwards from Soulac to Le Verdon. From recall the sand dunes have receded here as well. Certainly there was a lot more water left behind in the ‘Cantines’ (artificial lagoons behind sea defences) and some long buried railway track has been uncovered.

After lunch the chance of a boat trip presented itself. Two and a half hours were spent around the Gironde estuary, going to the lighthouse, sandbanks, along the coast past Royan and the fascinating cave houses at Meschers-sur-Gironde.

I took far too many pictures which will take a day or two to edit. In the meantime, if you can read French, try this page about the ‘residences troglodytes’.

There is a short article in French at concerning the original construction of the sea defences in the mid 19th century and this Youtube video ( of the sea crashing against the defences in 2011.

Winter storms have hurled some of the huge rocks over the sea wall and also have started breaking up some of the concrete laid down in the late 1960’s. Nothing much has been done since and it seems the forces of nature will soon have their way here as well.

A windy day

Tagged: , , on August 1, 2014 by cubsur51

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