All That Shimmers
Condé Nast Traveller India|December - January 2020
All That Shimmers
In the age of hyped-up tourist spots, Mahesh Rao takes a chance on golden hour at Europe’s largest sand dune
Mahesh Rao

It is our most beautiful local attraction,” said the raspy voice in the Bordeaux café, as the clink of glasses being gathered up sounded in the background. “You should go to see the sunrise or the sunset.”

The place in question was the Dune du Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune, but the description had left me a little cold. I’m not naturally ambivalent about the attraction of sunrises and sunsets; that would simply be monstrous. Rather, a wariness has crept up on me because of panoramas that have been consistently oversold and over-egged, resulting in a sort of orange glow fatigue. At the crucial moment, a thicket of selfie sticks will probably be thrust into view, or a swarm of mosquitoes will aim for your ankles, or someone will try to sell you a singing doll. The magic of that changing hour has alas become reduced to the mainstay of so many Hallmark cards, cheesy resort posters and tiresome #FeelingBlessed Instagram posts.

I would also have to admit to a slight scepticism about local attractions burdened with a superlative: the deepest gorge in the district, the highest ridge in the state, the loudest waterfall in the region. In the past, I have dutifully plodded along to many of these sites and gurgled appreciatively in the presence of my hosts, but my heart has seldom been in it. Admittedly, the tallest sand dune in Europe sounded a bit more impressive than some of these other draws—but after all, would it involve anything more than a great deal of sand?

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December - January 2020