Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Day Ten - Ile De Ré

Well, I've made it to what was always 'Destination One' for me. 'My only real route plan', I would tell people, 'is to go to the Ile De Ré and have a few days off, just to chill out. Then I'll decide from there'. That still stands except I have pretty much decided that I am not going to go inland to my contact in Limoges (again, thanks, and sorry) but keep on the coast for Bordeaux and Spain. France feels a bit like a warm up to the trip proper at the moment. I've done it before and I will be back here again at least twice on this trip. Don't get me wrong - I love it here, but I don't think it will feel like it's started properly until I break some new boundaries - or borders - and now I'm over a week here I want to get on with doing that, and Spain is the place to do it.

Anyway, that aside, the Ile is pretty much as I expected it to be - beautiful, quiet, relaxed. It has a reputation for being the place 'where the French come on holiday' and I can see why that would be (it also made me think whether the same theory is applied by people visiting England. 'Where shall we go?' 'I don't know - I've heard the English go to Blackpool'. Nothing against Blackpool but...you know).

It's actually quite a big island, dotted with (I think) ten main towns. In between the towns are large areas of forest - not unlike the New Forest, strangely - which contain networks of cycle paths. This is, apparently, 'The Island of Cycling', or something like that. I guess the idea is that it's pretty flat. I have to confess, I returned to the roads after about 2km. Not only do they have flatter surfaces (something you really notice with a full load) they also have signs telling you where places are!

The towns (I'm in the capital - St Martin de Ré) are what an older generation would call 'quaint' and what females of my generation would call 'cute'. I'm not sure which I'd feel comfortable using, if either. St Martin revolves around a harbour surrounded by cobbled streets filled with cafes, hotels and restaurants. Branching off of this centre is a network of smaller srteets and alleyways, each one urging you to walk up it or, at least, take a photo of it, as they each seem to promise some hidden treasure or adventure. Very quaint. Or cute, if you like.

My first night camping, last night, made a nice change, despite the cold. And it is cold - I got up to a cloudless sky today and have spent my time cycling to the daily market, eating breakfast in the harbour (not in it, in it - you know what I mean), cycling to the supermarket for more supplies and then waiting for my (first lot of) washing to finish at the campsite, whilst sitting around reading Tuesday's Guardian and soaking up some rays. Out of the wind it's fine, but stick the sun behind a cloud or get up a bit of a breeze and it's bitter - around 5 degrees.

I think I may spend another day here tomorrow, possibly to explore the rest of the island on the bike or maybe, as seems to be the general idea around here, just sit about and relax.


  • At 12:01 am, Anonymous Chimpy said…

    I wish i was there.

  • At 8:25 pm, Blogger Roger said…

    I think the real start to the trip was meeting the flowershop owner, and the bloke that gave you the lift round the town, and JC - its the people, not the places that make it worth it.


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