Another boat is on its way though and will in all likelihood replace the ageing Côtes de Blaye in February 2014: Boulogne-sur-Mer shipbuilders Socarenam are currently putting the finishing touches to a new 13-million-euro, 60-metre vessel of a similar capacity, the Sébastien-Vauban.
It is not necessary to book ahead unless you’re looking to travel with a coach or similar outsize vehicle, and travellers pay once on board. There are between five and ten crossings daily in both directions (the figure changes according to the time of year). A standard single ticket costs €3.20, the concession single fare is €2.50, while children aged 4 and under and disabled passengers travel free of charge. In addition, taking a car on board will set you back a further €13.90 while it costs €1.70 to board with a bicycle. Meanwhile an identical charge of €7.80 is applied to motorbikes and horses!
|The scene today and no sign of any pigs.|
|Disused waiting room (salle d'attente) on the Blaye side of the Estuary. A place to rest for pilgrims?|
Thanks to some sketchy information found on visites.aquitaine.fr and a few minutes spent on Google Maps, I was able to track down the phantom Estuary-side station. Located a few hundred metres north of the modern ferry port, it can be reached via a track which was very muddy the day I was there. Reaching the station also involved carefully cycling past khaki-clad hunters with guns (hoping not to get them upset for whatever reason) and contending with their energetic hound! I did make it though and saw that, today, the two-storey building lies virtually in ruins. It possibly serves as a makeshift workshop and meeting point for fishermen who spend their days on the nearby "carrelet" fishing huts. It also appears to have become a minimalist rubbish dump with a TV set and cooker seemingly abandoned inside.
Presumably the planned railway line would have followed the approximate course of today's muddy tracks. Whatever, the place now feels far removed from any form of rail transport and forms a peaceful setting where the only noise is the sound of the Gironde waters beating against the banks and the carrelet structures. Near the well which dates back to the same period as the ghost station, the fishermen have set up a semi-permanent picnic table and benches with an unbeatable view over the Estuary!