Another Point of View: Rivedoux – France 2021, Part 11

Under the Trees, right behind the Beach, Hector is Part of the Scene

It is unusual for Hector to stay in one place for such a long time. Today, we move on and settle down in Rivedoux, the village right at the beginning of the island. Le Pont = the bridge is always in sight.

My wonderful van yearns for the beach, and even though our campsite is located on the northern side of the island, we are pretty close. Before I soak in the endless view from Hector’s perspective, I take a look at Rivedoux downtown. It consists of a few hundred meters of a promenade at the shore, with a part of it reserved for the “Aloha Festival”.

Aloha – for real

A real festival! With stands and merchandise and people dancing on stage (or: in front of the stage), with masked spectators and live music. Haven’t seen such a thing in years!

Later on, I fight the strong wind, making my way to Sainte-Marie-de-Ré, looking for the fantastic restaurant my sister detected a couple of years ago. Not sure if we have talked about the same Sainte-Marie: fact is, the village is deserted. Around the church: parked cars, no trace of their passengers. The streets: empty. Further streets: empty. Few, solitude shops: closed down, either for today or for good.

Sainte-Marie-de-Ré

At least I have a bit of movement and get rewarded with a fantastic stormy hairdo. Back in Rivedoux (looking vivid and alive, compared to the other spot), I talk the waitress of my restaurant of choice into a glass of wine on the terrace and look for the sea. Gone for the time being…

Apéritive

Thanks to the wind, Hector’s lounge sofa is the place to be for the chillout-evening. Lucky me that I have such a view right out of my living room!

Outlook

With sundown, it becomes more spectacular. And it looks so much more attractive and warm when witnessed from Hector’s couch, well parked on the island’s shore.

Crépuscule

La Couarde-sur-Mer – France 2021, Part 10

Far from being spectacular, La Couarde sur Mer is charming and an excellent base for my stay on Île de Ré.

In the centre of Downtown

The tiny center consists of a handful of shops, a church and the place des voisins sympas = square of pleasant neighbours. The square counts a carousel, a café and a salon de thé called “Z’adore”.

Just in case that dark clouds approach when strolling through the alleys (more precise: the one alley with shops, ice cream and food options), the best place to end up is the salon de thé.

Raindrops keep Falling on my Head…

Beside tea and coffee, they offer a variety of cakes and tartlets and cup cakes and further patisserie in the most delicious way. And, best of all: About half of the offered fancy cakes are gluten-free!

Life could be worse

Some coffees and cupcakes later, the heavy showers have passed by and I take a look at the beach, the weather and the entire situation.

Looking Left…

Looking south-east: not convincing.

…Looking Right!

The weather in north-western direction is promising enough for another bike tour, deepening the look and feel of the island on my way to Loix.

Loix, Harbour

In former times, Loix has been an individual island. Nowadays, it is part of the Île de Ré. This afternoon, it has lost a part of its charm when low tide took away the blue sea.

A bit further along the way, some of the maritime feeling remains. Still, Loix is another refuge for those seeking calm and solitude. I skip my intention to look for the perfect ice cream shop and find my way back to La Couarde and Hector / Camping Remondeau.

Loix and the in-between: sea/land, sweet/salty, touristic/quiet

Les Portes-en-Ré. Well… France 2021, Part 9

Pr*nce Harry

Another perfect day for a bike tour enfolds on Île de Ré. Today, Prince Harry (the currently unfolded foldable bicycle) aims for the far end of the island: Les Portes-en-Ré.

…then approaching downtown…

Road signs, cafés, shops or any other trace of civilized diversion is rare in the north-east. Still, the typical white houses and small alleys are pretty despite all boredom.

…and yet another beach on Île de Ré

The beaches are deserted and the culinary possibilities limited. I regard an hour in Les Portes-en-Ré sufficient time for a coffee and the search for the cycling path back. Once found, I head home. I assume that in high season an almost lost place like this will work as refuge, tempting only a handful of birdwatchers when other villages burst with tourists.

Weather Development comme ci, comme ca… France 2021, Part 8

It has been a challenge to get used to >30°C, but with a bit of surfing here and a bit of siesta there, it was not that bad. In fact, summer temperatures start at 28°C only, so I have been more than happy in my first holiday week.

#vanlife #iledere
But then one Thursday morning…

However, this is about to change now. The sky hangs low and the quantity of sunscreen usage decreases significantly. Sounds like perfect conditions for bike tours and city hopping!

Thanks to the Clouds, the Cycling Paths are all mine

The tricky part on the highly frequented 100km pistes cyclables on Île de Ré is the mass of users. Unsporty tourists hop on e-bike-monsters without any routine in cycling, leading to a significant number of bike accidents throughout summer season. Now with the drop in temperatures, quite some tourists departed, leaving the cycling paths for the tough ones only – lucky me!

High above Saint-Martin-de-Ré

My dear “Prince Harry” = a decent Brompton bike takes me wherever I want, with not so much of an effort. Today, it is Saint-Martin-de-Ré with its church that presents ancient stones half-demolished, half-rebuilt.

The fortress-like village comes with the typical local charm, topped by a small yacht harbor that may or may not imitate St. Tropez. Similar to the Côte d’Azur hotspot, an endless row of cafés and restaurants frames the pier. Fortunately, it differs in pricing and quality. I settle down for a solid English breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes and sausages and enjoy perfect service in relaxed atmosphere and a very fair amount on the bill.

A Part of the Contorted Harbor

St. Martin has been designed as fortification by Vauban, including a contorted harbor, a nice “vielle ville” and a calm park with meadows, trees and a cute lighthouse on the shore. Once you accomplish it with a white-sanded beach, you could sell it as the perfect image of a touristic place-to-be.

All in all, it is a nice mixture with vivid life and worth a visit.

The Church St. Martin

After some rain during morning hours, the day develops more and more towards a veritable summer’s evening. Perfect setting for a nice sit-in with the neighbours next-door (next-van) and for another ukulele beach concert. I resume that bad weather around here is bearable, as long as it comes with sun and gentle 24°C.

Sunset Beach, Calm Days – France 2021, Part 7

The past days have been filled with surfing and all the excitement about the progress I have made on the board. With life being all about balance, it now is time to lean back, relax, se reposer.

Consequently, I hang around between Hector and the beach, with a chat here and there, with good books and with a bit of live music. Thanks to heartful neighbours, the tranquility comes along with vivid talks and apéritive ensemble.

#travelhector #reisebritta #iledere #ukulele #vanlife

Life can be sweet and cosy on Île de Ré these days 😊

Le Surf – France 2021, Part 6

Ah, finalement! I knew all along that Île de Ré is not surfer’s paradise, yet I had hoped for the best. As this island is a bit like the French version of Sylt, it is more about wind surfing than about wave surfing. Still, I am willing to bite my way through any obstacles until I get there.

First, I approach the catamaran / wind surf location close to my beach at La Couarde. I learn that surfable waves are available in winter time only… June may not be appropriate, then.

Next, I go to the village called “Le Bois Plage”. Internet research has detected a surf school, and when a French site is all about “surf”, then it is about waves. It is all a bit of a flexible scene here, depending on tide and timing, with no such thing as a building to address to – but in the end, I find a cabane at the far end of the beach, opened for some hours each day, and I manage to rent a board for an hour.

Three years have gone by since my last time on a surfboard – and I am the happiest person on the beach when already the third trial works out. I am up on the whitewash, pushed by nothing else than the ocean’s water. I keep to what I know best (broken waves) and work hard for about 45 minutes. In the end, I may not be “queen of the whitewash” again, but close.

When I give back the board, I make sure to be listed among the handful of people up for surf lessons the very next day, all but secretely aiming for surfing au large = in the open.

Ha! The real board of the day has been even smaller!

The next day comes with a bit of nervousness. 90 minutes surfing, now, really? At my age?? Not sure at all, but at least I will give it a try.

When they put one of their smallest boards in my hands, I feel like a real surf pro for about a minute or two. The smaller, the better – once, you learn how to control it, that is. It turns out that most of the others are even more impressed by the challenges of today’s lessons. I take advantage of all I have learned (thanks to Vincent/Vieux Bouceau), and within 15 minutes, I manage to ride my first “vague lisse” = wave at it’s breaking point.

Oh, what delicate feeling, when the upper half of the board is right in the air and the wave pushes gently from behind! Conditions are perfect for beginner’s luck, I’d say, but anyway, I am flashed by the enhanced experience. From now on, I forget about the whitewash and only go for the open!

#surfing #iledere #surf-re #travelhector
Surfing makes me happy!

Being well aware that bigger waves, deeper water or any other change in conditions will put me to the test any other day – still, I am entirely fascinated and more than willing to move on with surfing whenever I can!

Le Phare de Baleines and Ukulele Beach – France 2021, Part 5

#beach #vanlife #iledere Ile de Ré

Waking up on holidays is fine in either way, but even more precious with Hector. I enjoy coffee in the morning sun with no dress code above suitable pyjamas. Coming along with the second coffee is some müsli with fresh fruits from one of the island’s markets, and after that glorious start, the day is ours.

Market in Ars-en-Ré

Before noon, I take advantage of moderate temperatures and hop on my racing bike. In fact, it is a standard folded bicycle and comes with neither engine nor gimmicks. Yet, compared to the e-bikes offered for tourists, it is closer to a racing bike than most of the vélos around. Might be due to the cyclist, though.

Île de Ré offers >100 km of pistes cyclables and I am willing to ride them all. Along the way, I pass by several salines = production fields for Fleur du Sel, the gourmet salt extracted from the sea. I dare say that the routine has not changed much in the last hundred years.

Les Salines

Next stop is the beacon in the far West of the island: Le Phare de Baleines. It stands slim and tall at the edge, right behind a smaller, older beacon, and it contains the most beautiful staircase.

Phare de Baleines

Climbing up all 257 steps while breathing through a surgery mask seperates the wheat from the chaff.

Looking up, half way through: Still some way to go…

I suppose regular sports start to pay off by now, supported by pure marine air right on top.

…just a few steps later…

There is not so much to see: sea, above all. The older lighthouse, a few buildings and coast lines in most of all possible directions.

The View

The way down is easy enough with gravity on my side and the steady spiral of the stairs.

#pharedebaleines #staircase #iledere
Staircase

After a coffee under the trees of the garden café, I focus on Ars-en-Ré being my next stop, assuming that it might offer an accumulation of restaurants for lunch. Like most of the island’s villages, it is a bit sleepy, but comes with some bars, shops and restaurants that gather around the church.

Ars-en-Ré: The Church

After a bit of back and forth, I settle down at a table of “L’Océane” where they serve gallettes in the typical Breton style = rather salty than sweet and made of 100% buckwheat (gluten free!).

Back in La Couarde sur Mer, it is time to constitute a new tradition: Live concerts at the beach, fighting the sun with my ukulele and my voice until it gives up and drops under the horizon. And, guess what?! I even got fans 🙂

La Vie en Rose, Live at the Beach

Beach Life at La Couarde sur Mer – France 2021, Part 4

Ah yes…

Summer holidays are best with a beach. And with 30°C, sun, the sea. While Hector tries to play it cool, I soak in the first beach day, with a green-blue Atlantic Ocean at my feet and sand all over.

Beach Time starts here

If I were to spend weeks and weeks between pool and beach with nothing to do but – well: nothing, it would annoy me within less than 24 hours.

But after four days of travel, having seen quite some places and people along the way, it is great to fall back in the sands and let loose.

The beach is huge with only few people around in the afternoon, and I count even less in the evening.

…then in the evening…

Low tide offers even more of a beach, with a wonderful atmosphere and a wide range of colours. These days (mid June), the sun sets by 10:00 p.m. only, but with no stressful agenda for the upcoming days, this is totally fine by me.

Low Tide Sunset

The beach of La Couarde sur Mer may not be the prettiest one around, but still, it is wonderfully relaxing and offers enough grains of sand for the handful of tourists sharing it. Not before long I will find sand almost everywhere, Hector’s couch included.

The rest of the village is above all: unagitated. White houses, some shops, markets and a small choice of restaurants. French pensioneers are aprox. 92% of the crowd, making me feel like a jeune fille during the first camping holidays. Just without the open air disco and less short on budget. Very relaxing, I’d say.

Is there Life on Mars?

Arrivée sur l’Île de Ré – France 2021, Part 3

1.570 km. Thereof around 320 during our 4th day of driving, most of them through beautiful landscape and only few on autoroutes.

En Route…

It would be smart to make another stop-over at La Rochelle. Now that almost everything has re-opened, but before masses of foreign tourists make their way. Still, I feel more like arrival with a beach and the sea and bathrooms and a shower. I definitely need a shower. Hence, Hector takes the bridge towards Île de Ré and we arrive at La Couarde sur Mer before noon.

Almost there!

The campsite “Le Remondeau” is a typical camping municipal: located between beach and village, proper and relaxed. Settling down gets more adventurous than I would have guessed: I plug in the 50m cable into the socket and jump back a few centimetres due to a flash of light and sparks all around me.

A quick inspection of the cable enfolds that it is broken with damaged isolation. No electricity for Hector or so it seems…

Basically: great. If only we could get electricity without the sparks and the shorted…

While I wonder how long it will take until the prawns in my fridge will start to annoy the surrounding with fishy odeurs, I realize that several campsite neighbours witness my misfortune. I receive recommendations for shopping possibilities (new cable drum), when out of the blue a guy approaches, quickly examines the cable, takes it and promises to come back. I feel a bit lost with my wonderful van and empty hands, but decide to wait before pannicking.

Fifteen minutes later, it is all solved: the cable drum repaired (miraculously!), a new plug + French intersection handed over and Hector is again satisfied. Not sure if the prawns are as happy as me, but at least they turn out to be delicious later that evening!

Preferred Evening Setting

Finally, we lean back for good. Hector, now charged 24/7, me with wonderful sunsets at the shore. Good to know that I have quite some time ahead of me in this scenery!

Périgord – France 2021, Part 2

A bonheur, I wake up and get Hector ready to go. Vineyard stop-overs are a quick win: wine, beautiful surrounding, nothing else. Consequently, all it takes is store the chairs in their compartments and turn the engine.

Early Morning around Sancerre

Obviously, Hector has decided to see mor of France’s rural parts. Tiny roads, marked as slim white lines on general maps, named with 3-digit-Dxxx numbers, make our way. We pass by fields, forests and more forests.

Deep down in France

Then around early afternoon, Hector comes to a halt at Brantôme en Périgord. The town is famous for the ancient abbey and the hand-deep canals. Another highlight seems to be the camper parking, half-filled with mobile homes and all kinds of camping cars, coming from all of France’s corners. I am the one and only tourist from abroad, at least until Frankfurt friends arrive.

L’Abbay de Brantôme

Brantôme is picturesque, but small. In former times, it might have been packed with people: monks, in medieval eras, tourists until 2020. Nowadays, it is a relaxed scenery for a promenade in half-deserted alleys before checking out the abbey and the huge roman church.

Inside, it is huge – and dark. And puristic.

The canals may be a bit of a bore, still slow motion-boat tours are offered, ensuring that inquisitive tourists do not miss an inch of Brantôme’s beauty.

Despite all the charm of this town, I am not here for history or architecture. I came here to see friends for dinner and it starts with a big hello and an apéritive. Usually, we live 400km apart, while now we manage to meet 1.300 km away from home.

Moulin de l’Abbaye

What comes next is a wonderful evening. Although other star-topped restaurants come with better service (or with a sommelier that really knows wine), the queen of the day sparkles with mildness when waving down from her chambers. The dishes are great, the wine acceptable and we enjoy our company during the delightful evening.

Gourmet Queen of the Day

Lucky us that the couvre-feu has been shifted to 23:00h, enabling a full menu before we have to split up. I pity my friends who have to stay in a high-price-mid-class hotel room while I climb up into Hector’s comfy bed, all satisfied with the day.

Bonne Nuit