The coast in the Landes in 10 questions
You are already on holidays in the Domaine des Oréades in Sanguinet in the Landes or you are planning your holidays on the coast in the Landes. Are the beaches cleaned? Are the beaches supervised? What are these famous « baïnes »? What sports can we practise? Etc. Here is some invaluable information which will allow you to enjoy your stay on our great land.
1. What is a «baïne »?
A « baïne » (it means « small basin » in Basque) is a temporary depression or a residual pond formed between the coast and a sandbank. At low tide, the “baïnes » appear as a succession of regular cavities.
This temporary geological formation can be seen on most of the coasts of the world, but the word “baïne” is only used in the south-west of France where they can be seen mainly along the coasts of Aquitaine and Charente.
2. If I am caught in a « baine » what can I do?
The water coming in the baïne forms a current which often carries the swimmer along towards the open sea. It is useless to swim against the current! You will be exhausted. So keep calm. The best you can do is to swim with the current without any resistance and catch the lifeguards’ attention. The danger is here during the 2nd and 3rd hours of the rising tide when the waves come over the sandbank which separates the “baïne” from the sea, and also during the 4th and 5th hours of the ebb tide.
3. Are the beaches supervised ?
The “Syndicat Mixte de Gestion des Baignades Landaises” (office in charge of the control of the swimming in the Landes) is in charge of the organisation and harmonisation of the security of the beaches in the Landes. Each year, lifeguards (MNS) are hired by the town in order to watch the beaches and the swimmers. Direct observers of the ocean, they can give you the temperature of the water, of the air, the force of the wind, the condition of the sea, etc.
- The red flag indicates that it is totally forbidden to swim by rough sea conditions;
- The authorized swimming area is delineated by two blue flags ;
- It is formally inadvisable to swim out of the supervised areas.
The schedule of the beach surveillance in The Landes and the periods of opening (from June to August) are available in the town councils. Some beaches are also supervised in September.
4. Are the beaches in the Landes cleaned?
Because of some high tides or some tempests, the beaches in the Landes are daily cleaned during all the summer and once a week during spring and autumn.
In order to protect the ecosystem of this fragile environment, a particular attention is given to the area which is under the dune, commonly called “foreshore”, which is an important area of life for the coastal fauna, for example the birds you can also see in the Ornithological reserve in the Teich.
5. What is a « batelier » (a boatman)?
The word« batelier » in the département of the Landes is associated to the Huchet current. This current, a real umbilical cord flowing through the villages in the Landes, Vielle-Saint-Girons, Léon and Moliets and Maa on more than 600 hectares, is one of most diversified and the richest in the region as well as for the ecosystem as the biotope (it is a natural reserve).
A trip down in « galupe » (a traditional flat-bottomed boat) along the stream linking the lake of Léon to the Atlantic Ocean allows to discover a series of landscapes such as swamps, bogs and dunes, where there are numerous rare and protected animal species, of which 200 species of birds, otters, minks, grey herons, European pond turtles and many fish which attract the fishermen.
Therefore, the boatmen will make you discover “the Amazonia in the Landes” particularly rich in flora with notably its famous bald cypress, its arums as well as other species….It is a natural reserve loved by the botanists.
The trip down in « galupe » to the Ocean is an exotic unforgettable trip of 10 km long…!
6. What is the gastronomy in the Landes ?
The Landes is the French département which has the biggest number of farm products known with a quality label.
There are seven quality labels:
- The farm duck of the Landes( “Label rouge” quality label for meat);
- The poultry of the Landes (Label rouge and I.G.P.), the farm chicken of Saint- Sever which is particularly renowned (Label rouge 5) ;
- The Chalosse beef (Label rouge and I.G.P.);
- The Sables des Landes asparagus(I.G.P.) ;
- The Adour kiwi (Label rouge and I.G.P.) and its second cousin the nergi ;
- The Tursan wines(AOC) and IGP of the Landes ;
- The Armagnac and the ‘floc de Gascogne’ (regional wine) (AOC).
The defence and the promotion of the gastronomy in the Landes are realized by a departmental association called ‘Qualité Landes’, which was founded by the “Conseil Général des Landes” (general council in the Landes) and the Chamber of Agriculture in the Landes.
It is mainly from these products that the dishes, which contribute to the fame of the food of the Landes, are cooked. The duck is the favourite animal: many people in the Landes farm ducks or buy them each year to bottle them. The markets dedicated to the foie gras are numerous; the most important are certainly those in Amou, in Dax, in Peyrehorade and in Mont-de-Marsan.
One of the most famous dishes of food in the Landes is the « assiette landaise », composed of asparagus, corn, pine kernels, Bayonne ham (three essential products in the Landes), slices of smoked or dried fillet of duck, gizzards preserved in fat and foie gras.
Finally, as regards pastry, the Landes is the cradle of the “pastis landais” and the “Tourtière (natural, with apples, with prunes).
7. What are the historical sports?
Many sports are practiced in the Landes. Some are more practiced inland such as the basketball in the region of Chalosse (in the east of Dax) and some on the littoral such as the surf.
Surf, which is practiced all year round by surf lovers and during the summer by many tourists coming from different countries, is of course the historical sport in the Landes!
South-West means Rugby of course! This sport, which has been practiced since the beginning of the 20th century, offers to the youngest inhabitants to meet on the ground and for the other generations it is also the way to meet on the Sunday matches during the sport season (from September to June).
The « jeu de rampeau » (a bowling game), which comes from the bowling game known all over the South-West in France, is a traditional sport practiced during village fetes. Each year, the bowling lovers meet for this convivial event during the fetes in Yons which take place at the beginning of September.
8. The forest in the Landes: is it natural?
The forest in the Landes (in Gascon: las lanas) of Gascony of about one million square hectares is the biggest artificial forest in Western Europe.
Along the Atlantic Ocean (côte d’Argent), it forms a big triangle spreading over three départements (Gironde, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne), whose apexes are the Pointe de Grave (in the north), Hossegor (in the south) and Nérac (in the east).
The forest, which is mainly a private one, has some public lands situated near the offshore bar. The sands (from 25 to 60 m deep) come from materials taken from the Pyrenees by the glaciers during the Quaternary.
These sands turn into a thick layer of ferruginous sandstone, the hardpan, at about fifty centimeters deep, which prevent any infiltration of rainwater.
That’s the reason why, during many years, the Landes were only an insalubrious and badly drained region, that the rains turned it into swamps, land of the shepherds perched on their stilts. As soon as the end of the 18th century, Brémontier, then, in the Second Empire, the engineers, Chambrelent and Crouzet developed a plan of drainage and above all they made several dozens of thousands of hectares of maritime pines plant in order to stop the movement of the dunes landward.
9. What is the characteristic of the Landes concerning the fire prevention?
Since 2007 the « Service départemental d’incendie et de secours des Landes » (SDIS) has had a system, that is unique in France, for the detection of the fires: the Prodalis system.
It is a system of detection, location, and surveillance by the means of videos which allow centralizing the images coming from the 18 watchtowers distributed on the forest areas of the département at the SDIS headquarters in Mont-de Marzan. It makes easier to follow the fire and it helps the fire-fighting units on the sinister.
==> Note that, during the summer, there is also the presence of Canadairs (fire-fighting aircraft) which are on the base in Bordeaux/ Mérignac to help the interventions by land.
10. Is the coast in the Landes protected?
Yes, it is! The creation of the actual dune, which protects the inland from the effects of the ocean carrying along big quantity of sand, is the best example. This fragile area, which is administrated by the National Forestry Office, needs many maintenance works (revegetation in order to fix the sands of the protective dune).
That is why it is absolutely forbidden to stroll on the dune in order not to cause damage to the natural environment. Take better the “Plans-Plages”, special paths going to the beach.