If someone ever quizzes you about the location of the tallest dune de sable (sand dune) in Europe, thanks to today’s French Blog post you will know it: It’s in the South of France, not too far from the city of Bordeaux!
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Well, sure, you won’t feel like you’ve somehow been teletransported to the Sahara, or to the wilderness of the Kilimanjaro desert. Yet, the view offered by this sand dune is still very impressive.
People there call it “La dune du Pyla“, (“The Dune of Pyla“), and sometimes spell its name with an “i” and a “t” in the end: “Pilat.”
The “t” in “Pilat“, as in many French names, is silent.
However, “Pilat” (or “Pyla”) is technically not “French”, per se, as it is originally from one of the six main Occitan dialects known as Gascon (the other five being le Languedocien, l’Auvergnat, le Limousin, le Provinçal, and le Vivaron-Alpin.)
In Gascon, the original word is “pilhar“, which means a “heap“, or a “pile.”
Therefore, le pyla (or pilat) is just a “pile of sand“!
The one thing that you’ll be sure to find visitors of the dune doing all over the place is LE PARAPENTE (PARAGLIDING)!
A little bit north to the dune, you can discover le Bassin d’Arcachon, where you will get across the very beautiful towns and villages of le Cap Ferret, Pyla-sur-Mer (a station balnéaire, meaning a seaside resort), Andernos-les-Bains, Claouey, Petit Piquey and Grand Piquey—to mention only these few, renown for their poissonneries (fisheries) and fermes d’huîtres (oyster farms.)
In the middle of the Bassin d’Arcachon lies L’Île aux Oiseaux, meaning “The Island of Birds.”
Many riverains (informal French word for “local residents”) like to compete with each other by swimming all the way from the coast of the Bassin to L’Île aux Oiseaux.
French singer Pacal Obispo confesses that he fell head over heels for her: Not the woman in the video, but rather l’Île aux Oiseaux.
His song “Tombé Pour Elle” (“Fell for Her“) is dedicated to the Island, as well as the Bassin d’Arcachon in general.
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