Monday, April 25, 2011

Of Biking and Beaches


Even if it had rained all of last week, I'd still count myself as a lucky person. Happily that was not the case during the trip we had planned awhile back for the kids' spring vacation -- a week of bike riding along France's Atlantic Coast. The fleece and long sleeved shirts never left my duffle; even the windbreaker I was usually wearing as we set out each morning pretty quickly made its way into my saddle bag. Truly it was nothing but blue skies, fields of yellow rapeseed, canals and cows, wide expanses of sandy beach, miles of little travelled country roads and bike paths, the occasional 17th century fort, lots of ice cream for the younger set, and a good honest feeling of being physically tired when my head hit the pillow each night.

Among the several guidebooks to France that are on my shelf, this region gets relatively little play.  But a trip to the American Library yielded a Michelin green guide to Poitou Charentes which answered our questions about local history and lore.  We will remember La Rochelle for its three towers and amazing artisanal ice cream, Île de Ré for its picture postcard towns (although I can well imagine the crowds and traffic jams in July and August), and Rochefort for its funny Pont Transbordeur, a late 19th century cross between suspension bridge and ferry.  Most memorable was the lovely day we spent with a childhood friend and his family on the  Île d'Oleron, including a picnic in the forest, sipping the local aperitif, pineau des Charentes, on the dunes of Les Sables Vignier, and walking among the rocks and sealife in the ecluses they maintain, a centuries old technique for trapping fish at low tide.

My only regret is that my camera gave up the ghost our third day out, apparently a victim of the volcanic dust to which it was exposed a couple of weeks ago. So unfortunately, I have but a few snapshots to share.

When the tide goes out in this region, it goes way out, leaving behind boats resting on their keels and plenty of work for clammers and oystermen.


Île de Ré is cute as a button and well equipped for cyclists.   But I'm glad we were there in April, not during the summer when it becomes the 21st arrondissement.

10 comments:

Mr. Capoeira Sydney said...

What a neat post! Looking forward for more post from you. Thank you for sharing!

Peter (the other) said...

I admire you so, and I donna' like anyone (make of that what you will :-) ). But have you never seen this wonderful opening on the bridge?

Anne said...

Peter: Thanks for the link to the video. That's exactly what we looked like crossing the bridge!

Lost In Cheeseland said...

Ha, the 21st arrondissement! I thought that was Deauville? :) Great shots, would love to get back to the beach!

Rebecca said...

Lovely! I just did a biking trip too (albeit just a daytrip) and was looking for new biking destinations. La Rochelle might be just the place. Time to head over to voyages-sncf and check out fares...

Harriet said...

Volcanic dust??? again this year??? I was in France last April when the big volcanic ash catastrophe occurred but somehow I've missed hearing about this year's activity. Perhaps I missed a post concerning this???

Anne said...

Harriet: No, no, do not worry! The dust was from my hiking trip earlier this month up a live volcano in Italy: http://justanotheramericaninparis.blogspot.com/2011/04/climbing-volcanos-and-other-pursuits.html

Starman said...

Did you ride all the way from Paris on your bikes?

Anne said...

Starman: No way, we'd still be on our way there! We took the TGV to La Rochelle (just over 3 hours) and rode from there.

Shelli said...

What an ideal vacation!

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