Before you reach the the bustling City of Nantes, (we use this as our halfway marker as after Nantes the weather always seems a few degrees warmer!!), the strip of coast leading to the mouth of the Loire has a handful of charming former fishing villages, now characterful seaside resorts. We avoid the larger, more pretentious town of La Baule with its huge expanse of white sandy beach and Riviera-like vibe (although everyone should see it once), and instead, head for the prettier, more rustic villages. Piriac-sur-Mer is a dear old favourite of mine. It has a couple of decent Aires. Our preferred one is a paid Aire just across the road from a sheltered, sandy cove, right on the edge of town. Great for the dog and watching the sunset. There is another small free one right in the middle of town which is pleasant enough (no facilities though) if you’d rather be nearer the hub. Piriac is only a small place but it’s incredibly lovely and very quaint. The doors and shutters throughout town are painted in bright pastels. The flowers are still blooming and colourful everywhere you look, even this late in the season, as you wander around the narrow streets, alleyways and squares. Another place I could very happily live. There’s a very quirky old fashioned bar on a corner with tables spilling out onto the street where the locals hang out, a few cafes and other eateries and a good deli too. The beaches and coves are again not dissimilar to our own Cornwall. It still has an active little fishing port and a small marina with boats bobbing around. It’s just a delight.
Nearby Le Croisic was new to us, we hadn’t been here before so decided to drive around the headland and take a look. There was a fab working Windmill on the way in. Le Croisic still has a Port but it’s used more for pleasure these days than it’s former past working life. The weather had turned cool and breezy so, to be fair, by the time we arrived, we weren’t seeing it in its best light. The Aire we chose was beside a fish processing plant and was a bit stinky. I didn’t get a great first impression. The town is nice enough, it has more than it’s fair share of Creperies, literally one every other doorway! There’s a modern indoor fish market on the harbour but it was closed when we arrived. The town somehow lacked charm. It was a bit too geared up for tourists for my liking. Lots of souvenir shops along the water front. It just didn’t blow us away. Time is too precious to waste on places that aren’t super special and neither of us felt like hanging around. Our house has wheels and we still had a few hours of daylight left. Nobody was twisting our arm to stay. Glad we saw it but we wouldn’t rush back.
We stuck a pin in the map and decided to drive on to another old favourite, The Island of Noirmoutier. It was probably not the best decision, a bit too hurried and a few too many miles to tackle this late in the day. Hey ho, off we went regardless. We hadn’t been to this island in a while. The Huttopia campsite we normally use in Summer, right on the beach will be closed for the season now. Highly recommend that one. There is a large, flat, Aire in the main town, Noirmoutier en Ile, though. (Bear in mind this particular Aire is a good ten mile drive from the bridge once you get over the water). In hindsight, we should have bunked down at Barbatre as soon as we got onto the island and done the last few miles next morning. Anyhoo, we soldiered on. Over the first big, (NO REALLY SCARY BIG ) high bridge at Saint Nazaire crossing the wide mouth of the Loire. The approach to Noirmoutier from here can be a bit tedious as it’s through lots of really small villages with low speed limits. It always takes ages. Sod’s law struck and just as we were both getting tired and a wee bit fractious, we hit a Route Barree (my most unfavourite sign in France). They’re not great at offering simple diversion routes the good old French. Our Sat Nav gleefully took us on one of her little mystery tours along lanes just wide enough for our wheels with steep, water filled, dykes on either side. Not fun! I was terrified! Poor Mark had an incredibly tense 2 (of the longest ever) miles of difficult driving with a hysterical navigator!! By the time we picked up the bigger road again it was getting dark and we were no longer enjoying ourselves!! Our spontaneity doesn’t always pay off. I normally sit with a decent road map just in case this happens but today, it was tucked away somewhere. Course it bloody was! There goes a lesson to my fellow travellers!! Thank God we didn’t meet anything coming in the opposite direction! I was praying really hard though. Finally, we arrived at our destination (in the pitch black) and yes, you guessed it, the Gin bottle came straight out. Medicinal, just to steady the nerves you understand 😬.
Next morning started off grey and drizzly but thankfully, it soon cleared up. At least if was warm. We walked along the tidal inlet at the back of the Aire where the little wooden Cabanas line the water with their nets poised, ready to drop at high tide. Their catch is usually sorted and sold at market. It’s an interesting town this. Very typically Vendee with whitewashed, pan-tiled roofed houses and an assortment of classy shops and restaurants. The Church is quite beautiful (it has an amazing Romanesque crypt) and at the side of it stands the 12th Century Chateau. We’re going to visit the Museum inside the castle today. It’s only a few Euros admission and well worth a look. The artwork and old photographs are great.
This island produces an abundance of figs, salt and great spuds!! We purchased a supply of all three! You can buy salt direct from the roadside huts as you drive through the salt flats.
There’s a good little street market here on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
It’s a short cycle (head east of town) to the stunning Plage des Dames to see the old fashioned painted beach bathing huts there.
An enjoyable, albeit fleeting visit.
Off we tootled again next morning. Did a big grocery/wine shop at the massive new Intermarche on the way out. Our next destination was the Island of Oleron. Another favourite, we like to visit it twice a year for our fix of their green lipped Oysters and fabulous Moules Frites! Another day another (effing) bridge. Are you getting the gist that I’m not keen? It’s the only time I encourage Mark to get his foot down!! We would normally head up to St. Dennis first but as it’s been a bit wet, we decide the grassy Aire there might be a no brainer. The one at Chateau d’Oleron is on hardstanding. It’s €11.60 per night with hook up. It’s opposite the beach and a short walk/cycle away from town. I won’t wax lyrical about this island or post too many pics as I’ve covered it before (see previous heading for more info and photos). Suffice it to say, it’s fabulous, you really need to go!! It’s cheery, colourful and the people are especially lovely. The Sunday market brings the locals out in droves. The ukulele orchestra often play. It just has a happy atmosphere somehow. We absolutely love the place. Eat at Le Croix de Sud on the harbour. It has a bit of a Moroccan twist. The food is amazing. Try the Choucoutte and the 3 Meat Couscous! There are also a couple of cute little boutiques. Purchased two scarves and one bag (like I need another), and locally made Pineau.
We stuck around for a few days. It’s a great place to chill. We only got the heck out of dodge when a yellow flood warning was issued for the next day. There be a lot of water around these parts to start with. The canals throughout Marennes on the way in were already very high indeed. We needed to get well past the Gironde area before any nonsense weather hits. Ok, let’s head west!
So it’s time for another farewell folks. We are going to do a big drive today and get well past Bordeaux. I shall say cheerio to you my lovely readers and hope we inspired you all just a little bit with our travels. Take care of you and yours. A bientot, until next time ❤️