Friday, August 15, 2014

From Village to Village

Cornflower blue shutters in La Flotte
Trivia fact of the day: the colours on the shutters in small towns are determined by the mairie, the mayor's office. What colours would our mayor approve of, do you think?

 On Thursday morning, we crossed two rivers to follow the right bank of the Gironde estuary northwest. This is still wine country; in fact it seems as if the French grow nothing but wine or sunflowers. but, of course, that is not true.

Sunflower field
We made a brief stop in Bourg at a Magasin des Vins (wine shop), and then travelled all the way to Talmont sur Gironde, a small village with a large tourist industry. It has been deemed to be one of the beautiful villages of France. We had a late lunch there, and explored the local shops. The main attraction is the church on the edge of a cliff. It is dedicated to Sainte Radegonde. Apparently, part of the original building, erected in the 12th century, fell into the water many years ago.

Hanging on to my hat in Talmont sur Gironde. The church of Sainte Radegonde is behind me
Street in Talmont sur Gironde
Janet and I in La Flotte
At about four, we undertook the final leg of our day's journey to Île de Ré, an island off the coast of La Rochelle. It is a summer paradise for locals. We are very lucky to be staying for several days with friends, Janet and Tom Thomson, in La Flotte, a bustling village on the coast and another of France's prettiest villages.

The harbour at La Flotte
On Friday morning. we first walked to the market. It was very busy, this being a long weekend. The main plan for the day was to travel by "vélo" to two other towns on the island. Janet and Tom both have their own bicycles and an extra one for a woman as well, but Bob went to a place nearby and rented one.
Sampling cheese at the market

Then we were off on a wonderful excursion!! Janet was the leader, Tom, the sweeper, while Bob and I stayed in the middle. We cycled along narrow streets, and alongside the water on paths restricted for cyclists and runners. At times, we found ourselves in the middle of a vineyard. This is a cycling paradise and everyone gets around on two wheels - or so it seems.
Windmill by the bike path
Our first stop was La Couarde, a tiny village where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at La Cabine de Bain. The restaurant is run by another transplanted Irishman. They're everywhere!
La Couarde
Biking past a vineyard outside La Couarde

Bob and Tom biking together
Our next destination was Saint Martin de Ré, the capital of the region. It was so crowded, we were fortunate to find a place to park our bikes.
View from the church tower in Saint Martin de Ré

Lots of people around the harbour in Saint Martin de Ré

The church tower affords a view over the entire island. Janet and I climbed to the top and took some pictures while the guys set off into the town. We all enjoyed an ice cream, then walked to the lighthouse before we got back on the bikes and made our way home.
At the lighthouse in Saint Martin de Ré

Bob and I were tired from our day but thrilled to have seen the island from the seat of a bicycle. The four of us spent a relaxing evening together and enjoyed a rustic dinner of bread, a variety of cheeses, fresh produce - and a not so rustic chocolate mousse. Everything was delicious. C'est beau la vie!

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