The French Atlantic
A mere 15km from San Sebastian and we are back in France. I’ve said it before, but it was instantly discernible with the appearance of red trimmed, white washed buildings.
With the promise of beach weather continuing, we didn’t want to venture far from the coast. Stopping in at St Jean de Luz for a stroll, we decided it wasn’t quite where we wanted to stay. I did, however, acquire a lovely pair of espadrilles and we then continued north along the Atlantic coast to Biarritz.
Donal Ryan (see Switzerland) had recommended the spot and we quickly agreed. This town had a lot more going on. We did a reconnaissance of the nearby hotels, worked out the going rate and choose one.
If you venture away from the main tourist promenades you discover little backsteets with a spattering of bars and restaurants. Still under the influence of Spain, they serve sangria and pintxos, but with a french twist. We couldn’t go past the foie gras de canard, washed down with a french moelleux. This is a sweet white wine that goes perfectly with foie gras.
After a brief detour back to Beaulieu to pick-up our deposit (long story for another time), we continue north west arriving at La Rochelle. The old town is a stunning medieval sea port with two old towers guarding the sea entrance.
Whilst clearly a tourist town, it also had the feel of a city going about its business. The Saturday markets are a lively feast of colour. We’ve been to many a French market, but never tire of them; you can tell by the number of photo’s I take!
A weekly produce market occupying an old town square is full of charm and character, they personify French life. The produce is so fresh and inviting, with wonderful smells and colour that overload the senses.
The French passionately support locally grown, fighting the ever encroaching big-box formats. It could be a career limiting comment for me, but I hope the local market does not fall victim to the convenience of the mass retailer.
Our accommodation is the Ibis and whilst 10km out of town, it’s near the beach and also in a small Albert Park-esq suburb. The location worked out well as we managed to fit in a bit of beach time, well aware that this is probably our last hurrah for some sun and sea.
At an exorbitant cost of a €16 toll, we drive across to Isl de Rey (just off La Rochelle), it’s a popular holiday destination for cyclists and walkers with a great network of tracks crisscrossing the island.
After driving around a somewhat uninspiring flat island, we stop at St Martin de Ray for lunch. We feast on freshly shucked oysters and a bottle of local white wine, sitting on the sea wall; the island quickly redeemed itself.
We are counting down the days until we meet our new passenger in Paris, so it is time to continue up the coast.