In and around La Baule

La Baule

24 July

We set out today with every good intention going to the reed marshes of La Biere National Park, hiring a boat to row along the channels between the reeds, doing a cycle ride and visiting Kerhinet, a village that had been restored to its former glory. We achieved one of those intentions!

Loading up the bikes
Loading up the bikes

To start with, the bikes were loaded on top of and in the car, which was certainly a lot easier than I had thought it was going to be. We then drove to Triagnac and up to St Joachim (with a certain amount of discussion when the sat nav lady got confused), which was on the opposite side of the marshes to where we intended to cycle and row. We had a very good couple of coffees and pastries at St Joachim and then had a drive around one of the isles in the marshes, where there were many traditional thatched cottages.

Thatch and window boxes are typical of the houses
Thatch and window boxes are typical of the houses
Once of the channels in La Briere
Once of the channels in La Briere
Thatched cottages in La Biere National Park
Thatched cottages in La Biere National Park

Afterwards, we continued on towards Kerhinet, stopping for a short stroll by the water along the way.  At Saint Lyphard, we climbed the bell tower of the church for a view over the marshes, which cover 20,000 hectares. The ascent was up a steep spiral staircase and wooden ladders, which were a bit narrow to put it mildly. I was also a bit concerned about the bells, which we had to pass right next to and just hoped that they weren’t about to chime!

Modern stained glass window in the church
Modern stained glass window in the church
View from the church belfry
View from the church belfry
Light shining on the chairs in the church
Light shining on the chairs in the church

It was extremely hot and humid and by the time we arrived at our destination, the sky was becoming blacker. There was some sort of fair under way, with a band playing and local produce for sale, so we had a wander around and a look at the village where there were one or two artisans crafting their products. It was a very small place, however, and probably not quite as interesting and well maintained as the ‘lived in’ village we had already visited.

Honey for sale at Kerhinet
Honey for sale at Kerhinet
Basket maker at Kerhinet
Basket maker at Kerhinet
Thatched roofs in Kerhinet
Thatched roofs in Kerhinet

As the thunder clouds rolled in, we decided it was a long time since the coffee and pastries, so we topped up our sugar levels with a delicious crepe before setting out homewards once again. Bt this time, it was too late in the day for rowing and cycling, the weather was looking decidedly ominous, thunder had been clapping for some time and raindrops were falling.

Rural scene at Kerhinet
Rural scene at Kerhinet

We had an exciting shop at Lidl’s on the way back, bought petrol, (the lack of petrol stations along the way having caused some anxiety for the male of our party) and arrived back at about 6.30pm. Feeling deprived of exercise during the day and the weather being the best it had been all day, we then took a short cycle ride before going out to dinner at the restaurangt we had visited a couple of nights ago. The staff had still not learned to smile but the food and wine was still excellent and it rounded off an enjoyable, if not quite what we had planned, sort of day.

Post boxes in Le Pouliguen
Post boxes in Le Pouliguen

La Baule

25 July

After being shown a couple of apartments by a real estate agent this morning, we packed some lunch and cycled along the coast a little way towards Batz to go to the beach. Unfortunately, in order to go for a swim, we had to cross rocks and wade through a seaweed soup only to find that the water, whilst calm, wasn’t particularly warm. Altogether highly undesirable, in fact!

Rocks and seaweed!
Rocks and seaweed!

We stayed for a little while on the beach, had our lunch and decided to cycle back to the apartment for a break from the heat before going down to the beach nearby. We spent an hour or so on the balcony, reading and chatting and then joined half the population of France on the beach.

The balcony
The balcony

However, it is surprising that, even though when the beach is viewed from above and seemingly full of  people, there is still plenty of space for everyone, it being such a very wide beach. There is, also, always a strip behind the sunbathers, left for playing games, such as the ‘click clack’ game, which involves bats and a ball and looks simple but isn’t, and volleyball.

Beach at La Baule
Beach at La Baule

The rest of the afternoon, such as it was, was spent sunbathing, swimming and playing click clack. Even at 7pm, there were still plenty of people on the beach and the temperature was beautifully warm.

Playing click clack
Playing click clack
On the beach!
On the beach!

Tonight’s dinner was moules et frites again and we returned to the same restaurant that we had eaten them in before. It being Friday, it was extremely busy but the waiters were always friendly and smiling. We are still trying to work out why, on both occasions, we were given (on the house) a caramel type liqueur, which nobody else, that we could observe, was given. They either have an abundance of it that they are trying to get rid of, are trying to poison the English, or maybe even trying to be nice to the English!! Anway, we have accepted and drunk them appreciatively.

Another late night with too much wine……..

La Baule

26 July

This morning, one of us went to visit real estate agents’ offices and the rest of us went on a long cycle ride across the salt marshes and back via Guerande.

Salt marshes
Salt marshes

Navigation proved a little tricky to start off with but was overcome when I realised the male of our party couldn’t read a map. Consequently, we inadvertently ended up in the small village of Kervalet, which was an old fishing village with some very interesting architecture, so we stopped, had a coffee and a stroll around. As it was a worthwhile visit, I forgave the male his navigation skills (or lack thereof!)

Salt beds
Salt beds
Very small window typical of the region
Very small window typical of the region

We then continued on a road that went right across the marshes, up an extremely long and gradually ascending hill, until we arrived at Guerande. As it was getting quite late by this time and everything was closed for lunch, we decided not to stop and took the cycleway back to La Baule that we had used a couple of days ago.

Crosses are typical in the middle of the villages
Crosses are typical in the middle of the villages
House in Kervalet
House in Kervalet
Sign on a garage door in Kervalet
Sign on a garage door in Kervalet
Salt marshes near Kervalet
Salt marshes near Kervalet

Back at the apartment, we were extremely tired, whilst the third member of the party was extremely relaxed, having spent a short time at the estate agents’ offices and the rest of the time reading and doing her nails! However, she had bought us bread and pastries for lunch so we couldn’t complain.

Salt!
Salt!
The marshes near Geurande
The marshes near Geurande
Where else would you hang your washing?
Where else would you hang your washing?

Later on, after a sufficient recovery period, they went to the beach, whilst I read for a while and then walked into town to the wifi cafe, where I had a beer whilst updating the blog and checking emails. There was a Breton fair in progress along the quay but, as I was under the impression, we were going to Le Croisic, I headed back as soon as I had done what I needed to do. I needn’t have bothered! They eventually returned at 8pm, having gone from the beach to the cafe and had a wander round the fair, having completely forgotten about going to Le Croisic.

Saints abound in nooks and crannies
Saints abound in nooks and crannies
Religious figure in a wall in Kervalet
Religious figure in a wall in Kervalet
Representative figure in a wall in Kervalet
Representative figure in a wall in Kervalet
Not sure what saint this is?
Not sure what saint this is?

Much later, we went to Le Croisic for dinner but, as none of us were particularly hungry, we took a stroll through the town, which also had some interesting architecture and was also packed with holiday makers, and then went to a creperie for a galette, where a delightful serving wench attended our table! The meal was just right and I had a boule (or large cup) of local cider to accompany it.

La Baule

27 July

This morning was not as sunny as we would have liked. The plan after breakfast was to walk into Le Pouliguen, so that I could see the Bretons all dressed up in their traditional costumes for the Breton fair, and then drive along the coast a little way to Piriac Sur Mer to see if the countryside was interesting enough to take the bikes for a cycle ride.

The Breton fair in Le Pouliguen
The Breton fair in Le Pouliguen
Watching the festivities in Le Pouliguen
Watching the festivities in Le Pouliguen
Lots of hanging baskets like this in Le Pouliguen
Lots of hanging baskets like this in Le Pouliguen

The Breton fair was in full swing with hordes of people and lots of craft stalls set up along the side of the quay. Alas, though, no suitably attired Bretonne ladies, so I will have to take my friends’ word for it that they were there yesterday. We fought our way through the crowds, bought some fruit in the market and then went back to the apartment to pick up the car.

Carving on a building in Le Pouliguen
Carving on a building in Le Pouliguen
Sign on a building in Le Pouliguen
Sign on a building in Le Pouliguen
Roof line in Le Pouliguen
Roof line in Le Pouliguen

By this time, the sky was even greyer and on the way to Piriac, it started to rain in large drops. However, once there, the rain cleared and we walked (again through the crowds) through the town, which had a myriad of cafes and restaurants.

We had decided to have Sunday lunch in true traditional fashion and then just have a snack this evening. Consequently, we inspected menus along the way and, at one, I was photographing a sign ‘bagpipes spoken here’, (as well as English, and Russian and Chinese late at night!) when I was accosted by the Proprietor. Having established what I was taking a photo of and where I was from, he let me be and we continued on our way down to the port, looking in the occasional shop as we went.

A shop in Piriac
A shop in Piriac
A street in Piriac
A street in Piriac
Creperie signs are many and varied!
Creperie signs are many and varied!
At the port in Piriac
At the port in Piriac

We decided that the bagpipe restaurant was the most reasonable and had the most varied menu so we returned there. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the Proprietor recognised me and announced to the world through a megaphone that we were friends from New Zealand and we had arrived on bicycles! Having suitably embarrassed us, no sooner had we sat down, than a free aperitif arrived at the table. He had obviously decided he had overdone the embarrassment, liked New Zealanders or was compensating for the Rainbow Warrior! (My friends then had to pretend to be New Zealanders for the duration of lunch.)

A wall in Piriac
A wall in Piriac
Our lunchtime restaurant in Piriac
Our lunchtime restaurant in Piriac
Restaurant Lacomere sign
Restaurant Lacomere sign
Restaurant awards signs - there was one for every year!
Restaurant awards signs – there was one for every year!

We had odd conversations with him throughout the rest of the excellent meal and he was not averse to shouting to the restaurant at large when his English escaped him and he wanted to know the correct word when we didn’t understand. (Thus we learned that ‘ruillard’ means ‘rusty’!) It was an exceedingly busy restaurant and he told us that he did between 200 and 300 covers a day and was open from March to November. It exhausted us just hearing about the hours that he worked (and he wasn’t much younger than us.)

The dreaded bagpipes!
The dreaded bagpipes!

He also plays the bagpipes, which he did, oblivious of his staff, who were trying to serve around him. He was definitely a ‘character’ but this added to the ambience of the place and presumably made it the success it appeared to be.

Restaurant business card
Restaurant business card

Replete with good food and wine (although the driver was deprived of the latter and it wasn’t me), we returned to Le Pouliguen, where some of us went in search of the Bretonne ladies again. They were still nowhere to be seen and, whilst the fair was advertised as a 3 day event, it certainly wasn’t. We walked along the quay and down by the beach and then adjourned to another Internet cafe for coffee and blog updating.

La Baule

28 July

Today was dominated by real estate. After breakfast, we had an hour or so on the beach, which, at that hour of the morning and with the tide so far out we could hardly see the water, was relatively empty. My friends then went to talk to a real estate agent and I went to the cafe to use the internet. We arranged to meet back at the apartment at 12.30pm. I was late and they were even later!

On the beach at La Baule
On the beach at La Baule
Beautiful clouds above La Baule
Beautiful clouds above La Baule

By the time we had had lunch, the weather had taken a turn for the worse but we decided to go for a bike ride anyway and headed off along the beachfront, where the kite surfers and wind surfers had excellent conditions but the sunbathers were somewhat few and far between. We had intended to go inland a little way to a view point. However, this was in the direction of some very ominous black clouds and when the thunder and lightening commenced, we turned around and headed back towards Le Pouliguen.

Children's holiday programme on the beach
Children’s holiday programme on the beach

The area we were in at the time was Pornichet and, as we wiggled our way through the backstreets, we passed some very beautiful and interesting houses. The architecture is certainly very varied in this area.

Low tide at Le Pouliguen
Low tide at Le Pouliguen

We stopped in one of the main streets to check out estate agents windows but, no sooner had we locked up the bikes and started walking along, when the heavens opened and we took the opportunity to have coffee.

Once the rain had stopped, we were off again, and, a little further on, had a stroll round the main street of La Boule, again, looking at estate agents windows and seeing nothing suitable. The weather brightened as we were wandering so that by the time we were back at the apartment, well after 6pm, it was sunny once again.

Rain in La Baule
Rain in La Baule

Later, we went out to dinner and had the worst meal so far. We had previously had pizza at this particular restaurant but decided to have the pasta instead tonight. The summer vegetables, which was the sauce of choice for two of us, were out of a jar of anti pasto and the house wine was undrinkable. It was most disappointing. We decided not to stay for coffee but go to the wifi cafe.  However, that was closed so we had coffee at home and an early night!

Meeting friends in France

La Baule

19 July

I again awoke to the noise of water dripping from somewhere it shouldn’t be. However, today it came from torrential rain, which sounded as though it was coming into the room through an open window. When I eventually checked a little while later though, I discovered that it was coming into the room but not from an open window. I investigated no further – not my problem!!

The garden of the apartment
The garden of the apartment

I was leaving Portugal today and flying to Rennes, in France, to meet up with my Weymouth friends, who were picking me up from the airport, having driven down from the ferry and Cherbourg. I therefore caught the metro to the airport and Ryanair from there. It all went very smoothly, although I thought I had cut it a bit fine when I realised the trains only went half hourly and I must have just missed one. Porto airport was extremely busy and it took a little while to get through security etc (no passport control though, which I still find strange).

The plane landed a little late but my friends were still an hour away, so I whiled away the time reading. It then took another couple of hours to  reach La Baule, with the aid of the lady on the sat nav, who got very upset and sulked when we didn’t listen!

Le Pouliguen river front
Le Pouliguen river front

The man in charge of letting the apartment showed us every minute detail of the operation of television, stove etc and, once we had brought everything in from the car, we went out for a stroll and to eat at a creperie. The town was busy with French holiday makers but we were all very tired, so we didn’t stay out long.

La Baule

20 July

Wine under plastic cover in the rain in La Pouliguen
Wine under plastic cover in the rain in La Pouliguen

It was pouring with rain this morning and not at all weather suited to the beach. We took our time having breakfast and, as the rain eased, decided to set forth into town for a walk. Luckily, it wasn’t long before the sun made a reappearance and the sky showed patches of blue.

Le Pouliguen
Le Pouliguen

We walked around the market, admiring the food and making our purchases for lunch, which turned out to cost as much, if not more, than if we had eaten in a cafe, but it gave us an opportunity to drool over the delicious bread, cheese and ham. There is just something about French food and markets!

Church in Le Pouliguen
Church in Le Pouliguen

Oysters in La Pouliguen market
Oysters in La Pouliguen market

Market building in La Pouliguen
Market building in La Pouliguen

Lunch!
Lunch!

We strolled home with our purchases and sat outside on the balcony to eat. It was all delicious and we washed it down with a very acceptable bottle of wine. Afterwards, we raised ourselves from the lethargy induced by the latter and walked along the promenade for a while, admiring the houses and the art forms beside the path, before sitting on a bench and critiquing the people on the beach.

La Baule beach
La Baule beach
Hotel on the beach front in La Baule
Hotel on the beach front in La Baule

House on La Baule beachfront
House on La Baule beachfront

Statue on La Baule beachfront
Statue on La Baule beachfront

Moules frites for dinner!
Moules frites for dinner!

Then it was back to the apartment for a lie down and a read before dinner, which we ate at a small cafe, of which there are many, in town. Tonight it was a saucepan full of moules et frites (mussels and chips) each, which were absolutely delicious. What a lifestyle!

La Baule

21 July

On my bike!
On my bike!
Panama hats for sale in the market in Batz
Panama hats for sale in the market in Batz
Church in Batz sur mer
Church in Batz sur mer

The first stop after breakfast this morning was at the cycle shop, so that I could hire a bike for the next 10 days. There is a myriad of cycle paths in the area and we intend to take full advantage of them. Once the paper work was complete, we were off to play in the traffic on the wrong side of the road and I, for one, was riding an unknown bike. However, the traffic was light and the direction mostly one way, drivers were considerate of cyclists, which is almost inconceivable in N.Z, and we only had to go a short distance before joining a cycle path along the coast.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable ride, the bike was perfect, with easy gear changes, and the scenery, which reminded me of Ireland with the white houses close to the sea, and the weather was beautiful. We stopped periodically along the way to admire the view and for me to take the inevitable photographs (always blog conscious!) before we arrived in Batz Sur Mer, where there was a market in progress.

Ex-German bunker on the way to Batz Sur Mer
Ex-German bunker on the way to Batz Sur Mer
Lunch!
Lunch!
Old windows in a house in Batz sur Mer
Old windows in a house in Batz sur Mer

We had a wander around and went in search of a coffee but the only cafe had a busker outside who, unfortunately, was so bad we couldn’t stay in the vicinity, so we bought baguettes sandwiches and sat on a bench in an almost deserted square to eat them. By this time, it was extremely hot, but we weren’t complaining!

Old ruined fishermen's church at Batz Sur Mer
Old ruined fishermen’s church at Batz Sur Mer
Window in a house in Batz
Window in a house in Batz

Afterwards, we took another stroll, in the hope that we might find coffee somewhere, but were unsuccessful, so headed back to the bikes that were chained to a fence on the way into town. However, instead of cycling off immediately, we walked down to the beach, admiring the old houses and architecture along the way, and luckily spotted a cafe. Unfortunately, the same busker was also lurking, so we waited until he had lurked away, (just to be sure) and then sat down and ordered.

The beach at Batz Sur Mer
The beach at Batz Sur Mer
Beach huts at Batz
Beach huts at Batz
Rocky coast on the way to Batz Sur Mer
Rocky coast on the way to Batz Sur Mer

Thus replete, we set off back towards La Baule, stopping at another bench on the cliff top to eat the pastries we had bought at the boulangerie in Batz.

Back at the apartment once again, we changed into our swim suits and were off to the beach. Here, we all dozed away the rest of the afternoon, being slightly sand blasted in the process. There were people in every direction but, luckily, no one immediately next to us, or I would have been very uncomfortable. (Memories of the beach at Barcelona a while ago still spring to mind!

We had dinner at a pizza place, which was very nice but, by this time, we were already for bed again. It is so tiring enjoying yourself!

La Baule

22 July

We had a leisurely morning and, at about 11am, set forth on the bikes to ride all the way along the beach front to the other end of the bay. This also was quite leisurely, as we stopped to watch the activities on and off the beach, which included sailing, windsurfing and some rather odd bicycle exercising in the sea, which amused not only us but quite a few others as well!

Activities at La Baule
Activities at La Baule
Water exercise bicycle?
Water exercise bicycle?
Biking on the beach front
Biking on the beach front
La Baule beach
La Baule beach

It took about an hour to reach the pier at the other end, where we admired the view and then decided to continue along further.

We arrived at St Margeurite’s beach feeling a bit hungry, so stopped for lunch at a cafe. This proved to be no simple activity as we ordered three different baguette sandwiches, which apparently was too much for the chef to cope with. The first time they arrived, one order was correct. The second time, two of them were right and by the third time, it was such a close proximity to what we had ordered we gave up!

At the other end of the bay at Pornichet
At the other end of the bay at Pornichet
Lighthouse at the end of the bay
Lighthouse at the end of the bay
Got no idea?!
Got no idea?!
Rocky cove at St Margeurite's
Rocky cove at St Margeurite’s

Whilst we were eating, something strange was happening on the road next to us, which involved a van pulling a trailer with a circular tent (for want of a better word) and several people. At one point, they appeared to be acting a scene from a play and we came to no obvious conclusions as to what they were doing.

Afterwards, we went to the beach, which, at the time we arrived, was fairly empty, but by the time we left several hours and a good sleep later, was extremely busy. Bearing a slight resemblance to lobsters, we cycled all the way back to the apartment, wondering why we had chosen to go to a beach so far away!

The beach at St Margeurite's
The beach at St Margeurite’s
On the beach
On the beach

Later in the evening, we enjoyed an excellent meal selected from the menu of the day at a restaurant in La Pouliguen, where the staff were somewhat dour but by the end of the meal, had thawed a little, obviously affected by our joviality (which had been helped along by a couple of pichets of the house wine). After dinner, we joined the rest of the holiday makers in their ‘paggiatta’ along the waterfront before heading back, rather weary, to our apartment after a most enjoyable and entertaining day.

La Baule

23 July

It was dead!
It was dead!
Countryside next to the bike path
Countryside next to the bike path

We attempted to have an earlier start today as we wanted to cycle to the Geurande market and arrive before the hordes. We almost achieved it and only left half an hour after intended!

There was a cycle way for almost the entire 10 km between La Baule and Geurande, which was excellent, once we had found the start of it. This involved a collision with one member of our party and another cyclist, after she stopped to ask directions, and resulted in the odd bruise or two. Once found, the track sloped gently up towards the hill town and was a very pleasant ride with a few other cyclists, some serious ones in very ‘attractive’ lycra, but not so many as to be a nuisance.

Geurande
Geurande

Crepe in the market place in Geurande
Crepe in the market place in Geurande
Salt of Guerande
Salt of Guerande

Church roofs in Geurande
Church roofs in Geurande
Painter on the side of a house in Geurande
Painter on the side of a house in Geurande
Creperie sign at Geurande
Creperie sign at Geurande

Geurande is an old walled town and today, being market day, was exceedingly busy. We wandered around, had a coffee, two members of the party bought hats (and it wasn’t the male!) and a couple of them bought jewellery (also not the male). We bought bread, cheese and strawberries for lunch and then cycled back along the same route, with a ‘scenic’ deviation once we had reached La Baule, and back to the apartment. We ate our provisions on the balcony, which were very tasty, (the food not the balcony) although the strawberries were somewhat the worse for wear, having been obviously squashed in my bicycle basket even though I thought I had been careful with them.

Market packing up in Geurande
Market packing up in Geurande
Outside a jeweller's shop in Geurande
Outside a jeweller’s shop in Geurande

Afterwards, two of us visited a real estate agent (again not the male), whilst the third (the male) went to the beach. My friends are considering buying an apartment in La Pouliguen and are taking the opportunity to look.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the one and only cafe that we have found so far that has wifi so that I could update the blog and we could both check emails. I’m sure the cafe man is going to start dreading the sight of us arriving as we spend so much time over a cider/beer or two.

The hats!
The hats!

As we had had lunch quite late, were not particularly hungry and, unusually, didn’t feel like eating out, (two of us also having spent our daily allowance on extravagances at the market!) we bought some food from the supermarket to prepare at home. We then spent the remainder of the evening on the balcony, eating, drinking and chatting.