So having completed our Helpx assignment at Chateau de Jalesnes, and with 10 days off before our next assignment, we felt the need to feel some sand under our toes and sea air in our hair. The weather for our last four days at the chateau had been really hot and sunny so we were looking forward to a bit of sun, sea, sand and surf somewhere on the Atlantic coast of France. We planned to head due west to Jard sur Mer for a weekend stop at an aire right behind the beach. So far, so good. What I hadn’t planned was how tired I was feeling and the fact that the one cell that is my brain refused to work on our departure from Vernantes. I just couldn’t seem to plan a route to the coast flicking over several pages of our French Road Atlas. In the end we programmed in our destination to satty nav (I know many people name their sat navs but I have such little affection for ours that I don’t feel she deserves a name) and I left her to it. All was apparently going well until an hour into the journey when she tried to take us on the motorway which would have fleeced us of many of our hard earned Euros. We try to avoid toll roads when we can as we now have the time to meander along without a care in the world! After a brief discussion, it was agreed that it was more than likely (read, it was) operator error as Tim had thought he’d programmed her to avoid tolls. So, having faffed and fiddled with the thing for an age we set off again. I can’t say I recall much of the journey over to the coast as I was in and out of consciousness in the passenger seat the entire time. I woke up fifteen minutes from our destination with a sore neck!
We managed to grab the last space on the aire that gave us a sea view between the vegetation and we had a wander along the beach to Jard sur Mer.
It was a pleasant enough little seaside town but nothing memorable. We stayed a couple of nights though to laze about and recover from the last two busy weeks! We were able to watch the first Euro 2016 England v Russia match on Saturday night at a local Tabac. The evening’s drinks were courtesy of our friends Nik and Phil who had kindly furnished us with some Euros before we left the UK so cheers to them!
Tim excelled himself with trying to engage the barman in conversation en francais!!(He’s come on leaps and bounds since the last time we were in France when he just managed to order two portions of chips without the aid of a safety net. He was so chuffed with himself you’d think he’d just negotiated the release of ten hostages!)
Tim asked the barman what the locals were drinking as it looked like a watered down Baileys. The barman explained it was called Pastis de Marseille which is widely quaffed en France. He poured us one on the house and it turned out to be a type of Pernod. I can’t say we’ll be rushing out to buy another one!
On Sunday we headed South down the coast to La Rochelle. We were able to stay at Minemes Marina for two nights for zero euro!
It turned out to be an excellent place to stay as it was a 20 minute stroll, along the harbourside, into the old town of La Rochelle. There was also a solar powered water taxi which took us right into the old harbour.
Two days was enough in La Rochelle and on Tuesday we headed over the bridge to the Ile de Re. The island is apparently a popular holiday destination for well heeled Parisians in July and August. It is 19 miles long by 3 miles wide and is a leisure cyclist’s dream destination.
The highest point on the island is only 19 metres so it is super flat but nothing much stops the wind.
We drove to the West end of the island and parked up at an aire at Saint Clement Des Baleines. The pay machine at the aire was out of order so it looked like we were in for yet another free night! Whoop! (Edit: the Gendarme came and collected our money the next morning – we didn’t argue as he was bigger than us!) We had a cycle around the western end of the island and we can see why it is such a popular holiday destination.
The beaches are all accessible and beautiful. The water is clear, green and clean.
The villages are just delightful and everyone seems to be getting about on a bike.
We decided we would spend the rest of the week on the island as it is such a relaxing place to be. The Ile de Re is famous for its salt and the industry is still going strong today.
The island is also home to many migrating birds with near perfect conditions for them. We were amused to see the town at Ars en Re has been Yarn bombed as nearly every pole and post was covered in colourful knitting!
We were able to catch the France match of Euro 2016 at the next door campsite on Wednesday night.
On Thursday we drove the ten miles to park up at an Aire at Le Bois Plage en Re which is another pretty little town on the southern side of the island. The aire is adjacent to a campsite and right behind the beach. We went for another tootle on the bikes over to the fortified town of St. Martin de Re. The weather was perfect and the town is just superb.
We spent a leisurely couple of hours mooching about soaking up the atmosphere. On returning to the van we had another look at the beach and the surf looked inviting enough to go in. Tim wasn’t convinced – it has to be perfect sunshine and clean, green two foot surf for him to break out his wetsuit so I went in by myself, Billy no mates style. We decided not to bring our bodyboards on the trip as we felt they take up too much valuable room in the van but I did bring my flippers and a little hand paddle thingy that I bought about 10 years ago. It’s enough to surf with and doesn’t eat up much room.
The kitesurfers were out in force – there must be a beach for every wind direction on the island.
We finally found some Ile de Re donkeys on Friday just outside St Martin de Re. They were free range in the city ramparts but had an electric fence around them so we weren’t able to get up too close but I managed a few pictures of them.
Some of them look more like highland cattle than donkeys and a few looked like they could do with a good brush and furcut.
How can anyone not love a donkey???
We’ve spent six days on the Ile de Re having a fantastic time enjoying the relaxed pace of life here.
We’ve cycled the length and breadth of the island so it’s now time to move on to the next chapter of the journey. We’re heading inland again to the Deux Sevres region of the Poitou-Charentes about 100kms from La Rochelle for our next Helpx assignment. This one will be back to working on a small holding with animals – dogs, cats, horses and three donkeys.