| Part 5: Atlantic coast
Hotel La Garenne, Bretignolles-sur-Mer.
Today I realise that the ground is dirty - there is sand, dirt and dust
everywhere. This place hasn't been swept for a while. Also the bed
smells a like an old bed. Otherwise the place is ok. The breakfast is
not bad, although perhaps a bit pricey at 7 Euro/person.
Weather: overcast in the early
morning, by noon there is a nice blue sky. Sunny the whole day, but
there is a strong and cold wind blowing the whole day. The temperature
tops out at 24°C.
In the morning we get up after 9am and rush to get the breakfast, which
is only available until 10am. After the breakfast we are back in the
room and take a rest. In between Shirley and Alissia go down to fetch
something from the car. Alissia runs, falls and gets scratches on her
knee and elbow. Big tragedy, a lot of crying.
At 12:45pm we drive by car into Bretignolles. The city is relatively
small, clean and quite cute. Very peaceful. There is actually almost
nothing to see except for a 19th century church, which is relatively
unimpressive. We walk around a bit. At the tourist office I enquire
about things to see and do in and around Bretignolles. There is
actually not that much to do here. Surfing and kitesurfing seem to be a
major activity here due to the strong wind. There is a children
adventure and fun park, which however is a bit expensive if we all go
there (8.50 Euro per person, i.e. for the three of us it's 25.50
In front of the city hall (Place de l'Hotel de Ville), next to the post
office, I notice two guys with notebook computers. I ask and it turns
out that there is a free WLAN hotspot. Near the city hall there is the
biggest supermarket of Bretignolles, the Super-U supermarket. We
in and buy some groceries.
At 1:40pm since we still haven't had lunch
we go to a nearby restaurant (food is unimpressive). At 2:30pm we drive
back to the hotel.
Later, at 4:15pm, while Shirley takes a rest I walk with Alissia to the
beach. The idea would be to have a short look and get back to the
hotel. It turns out that now (around 4:30pm) the beach is full of
people. The sky is blue, the sun is strong, but at the same time a
strong and freezing wind is blowing. Despite this freezing wind lots of
people are in the water. Alissia instinctively starts playing with the
sand, then with the water. She takes off her shoes, then her shorts,
then her T-shirt and in the end is in a pond (a natural water hole)
with another small girl. After a while in this pond she is freezing and
crying. No wonder, considering that the whole body is wet and the
strong cold wind is blowing. I have to carry her in my arms back to the
hotel, where we give her a hot shower. Then Alissia takes a rest in the
I wonder if the wind in this place is always so strong and cold. How to
swim in a place like this? Not to mention that the seawater is very
Around 5:30pm I head into Bretignolles to the city hall with the
notebook computer. The idea would be to check my emails at the WLAN
hotspot. Once there I'm unable to connect to the free WLAN hotspot, but
have no problems connecting to the WLAN hotspot of the tourist office,
which costs 1 Euro/day.
After a while I give up and walk with the notebook
computer into the tourist office. There I connect to the tourist office
WLAN hotspot and purchase a one day pass. At least here I have a chair,
the notebook display is much better readable than outside in the sun
and there is no cold wind blowing.
Around 6:45pm I am done with the Internet stuff. I walk to the Super U
supermarket, buy some groceries, then drive back to the hotel. It's
7:40pm when I'm back in the room. Alissia is still sleeping. I guess
she must be overtired (she didn't get too much sleep over the past days
as our schedule has been quite hectic). At 8pm we wake her up, as we
need to go out for dinner and because otherwise Alissia will not sleep
Dinner is in the Sol'é Mare pizzeria restaurant near the hotel.
This time the food comes relatively fast and by 9:10pm we have finished
eating. By 9:30pm we are back in the hotel. We give up on the idea to
take a walk to the dunes, because of the strong cold wind.
Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> St Gilles Croix de Vie ->
Hotel La Garenne, Bretignolles-sur-Mer.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, with a few
clouds and temporarily a thin clouds layer. Less wind than yesterday,
but still cold. Too cold to swim, especially considering the wind. I'm
surprised I haven't yet caught a cold.
We get up late at usual (after 10am), then leave the hotel after 12pm.
Today we won't do much. We go into town and wash the clothes in the
laundry near the tourist office (laundry more expensive than in Tours:
5,20 Euro + 1,10 Euro for the washing powder, 4 Euro for 36 minutes of
While the clothes are getting washed we have a lunch in an
Italian restaurant between the church and the tourist office. The food
we order (tagliatelle with salmon and pizza with peppers) is so-so: by
far too cheesy and greasy. The tagliatelle are all glued together and
full of cheese.
After lunch, while Shirley explores with Alissia the
local flea market, I'm in the tourist office and check my emails
through the WLAN hotspot. Then I meet again Shirley, we pick up the
clothes and go to the Super U supermarket where we buy some food. We
are back in the hotel before 5pm and take a rest.
After some discussion about what to do around 6:40pm we go out again.
We first drive to the nearby beach where we stop briefly then continue
driving towards Bretignolles to the next beach. The main entry to the
city is blocked right now, so we drive further to the north. Until
about 8pm we stop at a few beaches (Plage de la Paree, Plage de la
Sauzaie, the beach of St Gilles Croix de Vie), before arriving in the
next major town along the coast, St Gilles Croix de Vie.
We explore a bit St Gilles. There is a Hyper U supermarket, which
however has just closed when we arrive (8pm on this Saturday evening).
We then look for a restaurant. I try using the Magellan navigation
system and search for a Chinese restaurant. L'Empire du Dragon is just
400m away. We are there in a few minutes. It appears that now
we are in the centre of St Gilles Croix de Vie, so it takes some effort
to find a parking for the car.
By 8:35pm we have found a parking and are in the restaurant. Some
strange discussion with the restaurant staff about the seating.
Actually a table is readily available, but the waitress seems hesitant
and even suggests that we should go to the upper floor. But how to go
the upper floor with the baby stroller? The staff in this place is not
really friendly, and in fact also the staff in the La Pergola
restaurant in Bretignolles was quite unfriendly. Either these
restaurants have too many customers, don't care about getting more
customers or don't like couples with children or with a baby stroller.
I remember that also a restaurant in Paris (the pizzeria near the
Sorbonne) was quite unfriendly - they didn't want us to get into the
restaurant and insisted that we sit outside in the wind.
In any case service in this Chinese restaurant is very fast and by
9:15pm we have finished eating and have left the place. We then have a
at St Gilles. It's a somehow busy beach town with a small yacht
harbour, but nowhere as busy and crowded as Les Sables (traffic is very
fluid along the waterfront here). Around the church behind the
restaurant there is an open air market selling handicrafts, full of
tourists. The waterfront itself is very nice with houses (not a single
skyscraper), restaurants and shops. Further along the waterfront there
is a big fun fair, where Shirley and Alissia will spend almost the next
two hours, while I walk around and take some sunset pictures.
By 10:45pm I have managed to get Shirley and Alissia back into the car.
We have a four year old girl and a five months old baby and can't stay
out the whole night - the kids need to sleep. We drive back to the
hotel, arriving at 11:15pm. I think we might drive back to St Gilles
tomorrow, weather permitting.
Hotel La Garenne, Bretignolles-sur-Mer.
Weather: rain in the morning and
overcast until the late afternoon. The sky opens up around 5:30pm. Blus
sky with some clouds in the evening. Cold the whole day, top
temperatures around 21-22°C.
Day essentially messed up by the bad weather. We get up around 9:30am,
then at 11:40am we drive into town to buy something at the Super U
supermarket. It's Sunday and the Super U supermarket in Bretignolles is
only open until 1pm.
Unfortunately it's not just us who are planning to
buy something in the Super U supermarket - everybody in the entire
region seems to have had the same idea this morning. Huge traffic jam
on the road to Bretignolles centre. At one point we take a side road to
save some time, only to get again into the traffic jam 1km further on.
I need about 20 minutes to drive 200m. I start to wonder whether it
should be forbidden by law to open supermarkets on Sunday, unless there
are wide roads leading to them.
While Shirley is shopping in the Super U market, I check my emails
through the WLAN hotspot of the tourist office. The weather forecast
for Lyon on Tuesday is bad. All forecasts predict heavy rain, making me
wonder if we really should spend two nights in Lyon. The original idea
was to break the trip from Bretignolles to Geneva in Lyon (there is no
other very interesting site in between - Lyon is the second most
important city in France and should be interesting).
checks in show that further south, in southern France, along the
mediterranean and south of the Alps the weather is good. But deviating
south to avoid the bad weather (for instance by driving to Bordeaux or
to the Mediterranean coast) would add far too many km to our trip, and
we actually have one week left and are on the way back.
So I book two
nights in Lyon (11.8-13.8) and two nights in Geneva (13.8-15.8). All in
Etap hotels because at at very competitive price you get a decent room
with A/C and everything you need and this room can accomodate up to two
At 1pm we drive back to the hotel. It is still raining and
it looks that this day is essentially lost. Back in the hotel we eat
something in the restaurant of the hotel. My fish is good, but the
paella Shirley orders is too oily.
After lunch we go to the room and take a rest. By about 4pm Alissia is
very bored, so I bring her out to take a walk. The rain has stopped and
it looks like the weather is starting to improve. We walk a bit around
the area, then head to the beach.
Around 5:30pm the sky starts opening up and the beach starts filling up
with people. Actually there were already quite a few people when we
arrived. It seems that there are people who go to the beach even when
it rains. Lots of people in swimsuit despite the cold. Quite a few
surfers people wearing a diver's suit. There is a surfing
school on the beach.
At 6pm we go back to the hotel, where we meet Shirley. In the evening
we drive into town for dinner. Tomorrow we have a quite long drive
(800km, i.e. 8 hours) to Lyon.