Jun
14
2009

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Ile de Noirmoutier

by Tara

We didn't roll out of our loud (but fun) vacation park until noon. The plan for the day was to bike for a little bit and then set up camp right away, having all afternoon and evening free. As usual, the day didn't go according to plan—this time it was even better!

Soon after leaving our campsite we cycled through a very cute beach town called La Bernerie-En-Retz. Blue and white banners were strung over the street in celebration of who knows what, giving the town a very festive feel. Along every possible wall people leaned their bicycles and left them unlocked while they explored the little shops or sat down for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. We were passing one such restaurant called "Le Sud" when we noticed something we had previously thought to be impossible: a French establishment offering free wi-fi! We added our bikes to wall-leaning crowd and found seats on the patio overlooking a bustling street full of people in flipflops heading towards the beach.

I ordered a plate of calamari with aioli sauce to share, a glass of water with grenadine syrup, and a Dame Blanche for our dessert: vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream. The next couple of hours were spent in the shade, eating our delicous food and working on journal posting. Tyler did most of the posting while I sat back and relished the fact that we were sitting at a beachside restaurant in France. We weren't trying to go anywhere or accomplish any massive feat, we were simply enjoying that magical time between 12:00 and 2:00 when everything shuts down and people have long leisurely lunches.

Salad & Calamari with Aioli ICE CREAM

It was a nice change of perspective to be on the "long leisurely lunch" side of the coin versus the "unable to get anything accomplished because everything is closed for a few hours" side. We enjoyed the restaurant's fun atmosphere, as reggae and soul music with a few oldies thrown in came blasting from the kitchen. The three tanned, brawny chefs ranging in age from 25 to 40 sang along to all the songs and were clearly enjoying themselves. They danced around the kitchen for the sheer fun of it as they removed perfectly crusty, bubbling pizzas from the woodfired oven and prepared magnificently colorful salads. Once the dishes were beautifully garnished, they would set the plates on the windowsill and ring a bell so the waitress would know to come get them.

Besides the fact that we felt like we were actually on vacation sitting at the restaurant, it also felt so good to get caught up on journal entries. Once we were done, I paid the bill and we cycled off for an afternoon of pleasure riding. After we left the touristy town, everything became slightly more run-down, but no less quaint. We followed wonderfully flat coastal roads past salt marshes and oyster farms, and off-shore ports where people kept their boats lined up as if they were in a garage. We saw ponies and flowers, and sand dunes overlooking the ocean. Without a set destination for the day, we blithely cycled along enjoying the beautiful sunny day and subtle changes in scenery.

White Ponies Orange Car Wheat

As the day came to a close, we decided we would bike to Ile de Noirmoutier, and spend the night at a campsite on our first French island! The tide was coming in so we couldn't take the causeway. We wound up on a dedicated bicycle path on the big bridge leading to the island. We were treated to stunning ocean views as we crossed from the mainland to the little island jutting off into the Atlantic. From the bridge we could also see the ferry that ran from the mainland to a different island called l'Ile d'Yeu, a little further south and much further from the coast.

Off the Mainland Tara Riding Noirmoutier Bridge Bikepath Ferry to Ile d'Yeu

Arriving on the island, the scenery changed a lot, offering fragrant pine forests and cute beach bungalows instead of wheat fields and flat marshes leading out to the sea. Tyler was somehow reminded of a fake town out west that the goverment might build only to blow up while testing a nuclear bomb. I thought it felt more like a quiet beachy town.

Either way, we cycled along the small main road until we came to a campsite. The reception was closed, but a maintenance man on a tractor rolled by and told us to make our home wherever we'd like. We chose a spot about 100 yards from the path to the beach. Tyler set up camp while I made French onion soup for dinner. We took long, cleansing showers, and went for a walk on the beach.

Beachside Plants Grassy Sunset Goodnight, Island

When we were hand in hand, strolling barefoot along the sand while watching the sun set, it occurred to me that everything pretty much rules.

Freckles
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4 comments

Stunning photographs, as usual! I just want you to know how much I continue to enjoy following your trip and hearing about your adventures, both the struggles and the blissful moments like on the Ile de Noirmoutier. Since you read Tolkien's trilogy in England, I was wondering if you were going to pick up something like The Count of Monte Cristo while in France?

~Julia
Posted by Julia on June 15th, 2009 at 11:43 AM
Hi, Tyler and Tara:

I came back from doing the AIDS ride down the coast of California with a big hole in my schedule, a hunger for more (leisurely) time on the road, and so much more respect and appreciation for your courage, strength, and your steady 'eye' and the thoughtfulness of your reflections. Reading the journal and seeing the photos keeps me going. thanks!
cheers, martha
Posted by Green Jobs on June 16th, 2009 at 1:15 PM
Julia--

Thanks, sweetie! It is wonderful to hear from you. How is your school going? How is Guilford reunion planning going? RE reading: I'm thinking about reading Marcel Pagnol's "My Father's Glory"-- poignant boyhood memoirs of growing up in southern France. You would like it! It's going to have to be in French though, because English books are getting pretty hard to come by. Occasionally campsites have shelves you can take books from and leave some of your own, but usually the few books in English are romance novels. We did manage to find "In Cold Blood" which Tyler is reading, and a book about Captain Cook that I'm going to read next :p
Posted by Tara on June 16th, 2009 at 5:31 PM
Martha--

A trip down the coast of California sounds amazing! We're thrilled our journal provides you with inspiration; hearing things like this really inspires us to keep writing when we just don't feel like it. Thank you for the kind words!

Peace,
T & T
Posted by Going Slowly on June 16th, 2009 at 5:32 PM
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