French Language Blog

Summer Fun in Southwestern France! Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Vocabulary

If you go on a Summer vacation to the South West of France, you can choose between la mer (the sea), la forêt (the forest), la montagne (the mountain)—and you can also enjoy le sable (sand), lots of it!

People there call this place “la dune du Pyla“, (“The Dune of Pyla“)

What is le Pyla?

It’s also spelled with an “i“, and a silent “t” in the end (“Pilat“), as in many French names.

However, “Pilat” (or “Pyla“) is technically not “French”, per se, as it originally comes from one of the six main Occitan dialects known as Gascon (the other five being LanguedocienAuvergnat, Limousin, Provinçal, and Vivaron-Alpin.)

In Gascon, the original word is “pilhar“, which means a “heap“, also phonetically similar to the English word “pile.”


Le pyla (or pilat) is therefore just a “pile of sand“!

A Fun option on the Pyla: LE PARAPENTE (PARAGLIDING)!

A little bit north to the dune, you can discover le Bassin d’Arcachon.

There, you can go through some amazingly beautiful towns and villages such as le Cap FerretPyla-sur-Mer (which is a station balnéaire, meaning a seaside resort), Andernos-les-BainsClaoueyPetit Piquey and Grand Piquey (to mention only these few names), all renown for their excellent poissonneries (fisheries) and fermes d’huîtres (oyster farms.)

The Bassin d’Arcachon is also famous for what it contains in its middle: l’Île aux Oiseaux, meaning “The Island of Birds.

Many riverains (informal French word for “local residents”) who are in good athletic shape like to compete with each other by swimming from the coast of the Bassin all the way to L’Île aux Oiseaux.

Not an easy feat, at all!

French singer Pacal Obispo confesses that he fell head over heels for her: Not the lady in the video, but rather l’Île aux Oiseaux.
His song “Tombé Pour Elle” (“Fell for Her”) is dedicated to both the Island and the Bassin d’Arcachon 


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