No, we haven't been stuck on the sand for the last
week, waiting for the tides to rise enough to float free. We've been playing
French island bagatelle, jumping from Noirmoutier (where we just bumped the
bottom at low tide) to the tiny Ile d'Yeu and now the Ile de Re. The laptop ran
out of puff, hence radio silence until now.
Noirmoutier was glorious and swish in an
understated, glimpse-of-a-chateau-through-the-trees sort of a way. It was also
possibly the world capital of the 'peche a pied' - cocklepicking to you and me.
Troops and phalanxes of diligent visitors and locals would be up at the crack of
dawn to march out with hand rakes and baskets and comb through the sand and
seaweed for shellfish deposited there at high tide. It is such a focus of
activity, that the restos, cafes and campsites empty around low tide as everyone
takes to the foreshore. We anchored at Yeu and spent a happy day and a half
pedalling about the island. I think we must have seen every beach.
And now Re, where we've been for the last three
days. We got here after a ripping 50 mile downwind sail, maxing out at 10 knots
and averaging 7. We found a beautiful calm anchorage near Ars-en-Re, tucked
behind a point with a few oyster boats and local moorings. More cycling and more
barbecues on the beach.
Now we're in St Martin de Re, which is like mooring
up inside a 17th century fortress. The town was built by that French purveyor of
star-shaped citadels, Vauban - no doubt to keep the English at bay. In fact, a
headress for local women was called a 'quissenotte' which is said to derive from
'kiss not' - designed to veil their features from amorous invading rosbifs. The
marina in the town is laid out around a little island of cafes, which is all
enclosed in massive, thick walls of stone.
In the distance we can see La Rochelle, but that
may be as close as we get. They're holding Europe's biggest floating boat show
in the marina there at present, so there's not much spare room. We might do a
day trip by coach from here or just set off for Spain directly.