Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 5: Atlantic coast

Map of trip to France
27.7: Munich -> Strasbourg
28.7: Strasbourg -> Verdun -> Reims -> Paris
29.7: Paris
30.7: Paris
31.7: Paris
1.8: Paris -> Disneyland -> Paris
2.8: Paris
3.8: Paris -> Chambord castle -> Blois -> Tours
4.8: Tours -> Villandry castle -> Azay Le Rideau -> Tours
5.8: Tours -> Azay Le Rideau -> Chenonceau castle -> Tours
6.8: Tours -> Rigny-Usse castle -> Tours
7.8: Tours -> Les Sables D Olonne -> Bretignolles-sur-Mer
8.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
9.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> St Gilles Croix de Vie -> Bretignolles-sur-Mer
10.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
11.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> Lyon
12.8: Lyon
13.8: Lyon -> Geneva

8.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
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 Euro).

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 briefly walk 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 bed.

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 dirty.

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 at night.

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.

9.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer -> St Gilles Croix de Vie -> Bretignolles-sur-Mer
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 drying).

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 to 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 look 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.

10.8: Bretignolles-sur-Mer
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).

Further weather 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 children.

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.

Copyright 2008 Alfred Molon