Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rather late blog about our hols

We left Kent in a blaze of sunshine, I managed a lovely evening swim at Seasalter the night before we went and vowed to do much more of that when we came back. Unfortunately when we got home 2 and half weeks later (at the beginning of August dear readers) autumn had arrived. So I think I have been in a slump since then and couldn't face writing. But the in between bit, the 2 and half weeks in Noirmoutier was a lovely holiday with as much nothingness as we all needed and a lot of sun, sea, oysters, wine and reading.

We went to Noirmoutier again as we seem to have found a formula that works for all of us - tent practically on the beach, campsite with no frills except for their wonderful canvas tents, with fridges! Our days were slow to start, we always seemed to be washing up breakfast as the grand dames were prepping their lunch. This time Michael and I treated ourselves to bikes for a week which meant I could ride into town for the morning bread.

I treasured that trip - a moment of solitude to start the day and to go at my own speed. I passed this pretty house in the old town each morning and would like to have a go at painting it one of these days.

And we had a lovely trip to a favourite beach Le Danse Rouge - where all the super-posh houses and yachts are. The boys and I all got our sketch books out and georgia added to our haul of seaglass.

One great trip across to the other side of the island on our bikes took us to the dunes at L'Epine. The Atlantic coast is very different from where we stay, wilder but beautiful and the beaches are deserted.

Stan Canute We had two trips over here and if we go again I would like to stay on this side of the island for a day or two. The sea seemed warmer which it can't really have been but I swam out a good couple of hundred metres and it's far deeper that side. One of the other things I always manage on these holidays is a daily swim- up to a kilometre each time - it's always hard to get in but I manage it and then never really want to get out! The first year we went I gave everyone a fright by swimming out and then vanishing in amongst the boats at anchor, but now I can be gone for ages and ages - and it's so peaceful.

This year we decided to take longer coming back. Previously we have packed up our tent - the cleaning and tidying taking the sheen off the relaxation, then all piled into car and belted back, arriving home the next day aand then going straight back to work .... a good way to induce the post-holiday blues! This time we drove east along the Loire valley over 2 days, stopping at various wineries, tasting and buying. The valley is stunning, with the wide fertile plains edged by high limestone cliffs in to which are set houses, castles and the caves where the wine is stored.
After Tours we headed north to Amiens where we stayed in the centre of the city a short walk from the cathedral in a very typical French hotel, narrow stairs leading up to assorted rooms - pretty basic but so much more characterful than the cheapo Hotel F1 we normally afford on the outskirts. The main reason for going to Amiens was my long held desire to visit the Hortillonnages unique ' floating' smallholdings and allotments that stretch - over 300 hectares -but only 25 are cultivated.
They were rescued in the 1970's from a proposed bypass and are now looked after by the Friends of the Hortillonages. They are not really floating , but are cut through with narrow canals called "rieux" and channels, so the only way to get from one to the other is by boat. The Friends association run trips around the gardens in the traditional boats called 'barque a cornet' which are like punts with small electric motors.

The banks and edges of the gardens are extremely fragile and so all boat traffic must be slow and not leave a wake.

We also visited Jules Verne's house which is a stunning art deco piece and of course Raff loved all of the pictures and imagery.