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!