[PYLA-SUR-MER, FRANCE] — I didn’t even know this beast was here.

Never heard a squeak of it before. I actually came here in search of a beautiful hotel which mentioned its prime location next to the Dune du Pilat, about an hour south of Bordeaux. Okay. So can I get room?

But when I pulled up, holy cow ! My dumb fortunate luck led me to yet another amazing natural phenomenon — the largest sand dune in Europe.

Dune du Pilat ridge

Almost 3km long and about 110m (300 ft) high, this giant Gibraltar of sand stands between the shimmering Atlantic and an inland pine forest, with fierce winds that add to its height every year, shoving it inland, swallowing up houses and forests in its path. In the 1700s, maps show it was actually way off-shore, now it’s like a living, breathing Le Blob.

By accident, I found my entertainment for the next several days. Running up and down this big dune like a sandy Stairmaster. This thing is so huge that it swallows a up a million visitors a year and you’d hardly know it. People are hang-gliding, paragliding, hiking, taking selfies and rolling down the hill like kids. I felt like I was 9.

But the views way up here are something else. Facing straight west, with the sun shouting at you, the glimmering Atlantic has never looked better. Faint sandbars appear and disappear with the tides, which is why this and the neighboring Bassin d’Arcachon are know France-wide as having the best oysters and shellfish.


So prepare to see a lot of pics of a big sand dune. And one very cool hotel. Click on the pics below and follow along the slideshow.



But this was the real reason why I came here. the stunning La Co(o)rniche boutique hotel.

That big dune was just something I stumbled upon, but this right here was why came to this steep hill overlooking the Atlantic, an hour south of Bordeaux. This exact scene.



It wasn’t easy, actually. Or planned. I was sitting in a rented farmhouse in the Luberon, way down in Provence, wondering where to go next and that’s when I saw it. This.

It was a picture in Maisons Côté Sud magazine, I believe, my compass to all cool things for my random two months in France. I saw this incredible pic of a hotel I’d never heard of….. it looked like a Homer painting. The pale colors of a pool with the pale colors of the beds and the pale colors of the uniform and the pale colors of the ocean islands off in the distance. So surreal.

I was looking to the south, actually. For something on The Med. “Wow, where is this?? I don’t remember Bordeaux looking like this.”

I can’t believe I’d never heard of La Co(o)rniche before, having memorized nearly every listing in Relais & Chateaux, Mr & Mrs Smith and TabletHotels…🔍 It was in none of them. Where did this come from?

Yup. I had to go there. And so I packed up my horse and headed way north, toward the blue coast.

And that’s how I ended up here…



So in summary, here’s why you should go here:

La Co(o)rniche, a small boutique hotel in Pyla-sur-Mer France with a big restaurant where beautiful (and nice) people come to be served by beautiful (and nice) people.

Pre-sunset is the gathering time, on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous bay and Europe’s tallest dune. People walk in, are greeted with smiles and white Adidas and warm sun and, to a person, everyone stops in their tracks, exclaims “holy shit” (or the French or Spanish equivalent) and instantly loses their cool with excitement. No matter how cool or worldly, they all get giddy with the view.

There is no pretense. There are no bouncers, no red ropes, no stupid bottle service. Just nice people, speedy service and impeccable seafood. Everyone gets a view.

And everyone oohs and awes as the colors change from yellow to orange to pink to blue to purple. And they sigh as the sun ducks down and hug their date. Enjoying oysters caught below the cliff, with wine from around the corner. And smoking like it’s no big deal. Just celebrating the sun, the sea and good food. This is the way life should be.


Here’s an article in the Telegraph that calls La Coorniche one of the Top 10 beach hotels in France. In Conde Nast Traveler, which calls it one of the best secret beach hotels. In Trendland. And this is the article in Maisons Côté Sud that brought me here. And a great overview about the area in Travel & Leisure. And this is just a fantastic webpage with extremely helpful facts and information about the Dune du Pilat.

Last visited June 2015


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