Friday, July 08, 2016

Heading back


In the end we spent four nights in Port Joinville and the longer we stayed on the Ile d'Yeu the less we wanted to go. It may, possibly, not be the most beautiful island in the world, but offhand I can't think of one I like better. The only downside is that the marina has Brighton-style vast walls which are probably needed in winter but are a bit claustrophobic at low water on a hot July day.

House facing the beach

After our first evening and Sam's amazing visit to Mithril Aegis we had a catching up sort of day on Tuesday, with a shop in the morning and a bit of exploring. In the afternoon when the tide was higher and the ramps more manageable I took Sam to see the lovely beach and then into town to explore and enjoy a pression (beer). We agreed to give the petit train a try and accordingly were up bright and early on the Wednesday to get to the start location by 1030. Astonishingly the first train, due to leave at 1100, was already completely full. It is theoretically possible to book on line, but apparently not if you use a 3G connection, because I had just got a "timed out" message immediately. Anyway, we pootled off to the big Super U supermarket, about twice the size of the Casino I'd used the day before, and bought the ingredients of a French bread & cheese lunch. Then we retreated to the beach behind the supermarket for an early picnic - it's not every supermarket which is a few yards away from a rather nice beach. We were back at the train stop by 1300 and with grim determination managed to get aboard, all ready for the 1400 departure. Fortunately the seats on this train faced each other, which gave Sam fractionally more legroom than on the La Roche Bernard train - just as well, as this one had a two-hour route. Also the sides were open and the canopy provided good shade, so it was not a bad place to wait. The trip was lovely and a great way for Sam to see the island, because even the buses didn't look very accessible.

Boats in the old harbour would have been perfect for a painting by my beloved aunt Sonia

Dramatic west coast

Robin hired a bike, which he very much enjoyed, and not wanting to be left out we decided to stay an extra night so that I could hire a bike too, and do a lap of the island on a mixture of surfaced and unsurfaced roads. The weather on Thursday was hot and the light was brilliantly clear, and by getting going at 0930 I managed to have the tracks almost to myself for the first couple of hours. Even once things got busier it was still not really crowded. The west coast is rocky, the south coast picturesque and the east coast reminiscent of parts of the north Norfolk coast, flatter and more shaded with a belt of pine treas between the beaches and the road.

Everywhere is clean and bright with no major developments, and all the houses are low and white with bright-coloured shutters, usually blue. There are beaches everywhere but very little in the way of beach facilities - La Meule has a rather up itself restaurant, where dishes start at €25 and they really aren't interested in people who only want one beer; La Croix had a slightly unattractive kiosk. But I had water and biscuits, and a swimsuit (though no towel) and everything was so beautiful you could easily forgive any slight weaknesses.

La Meule has a rather snooty restaurant (right of pic) but an enchanting harbour

Gazelle of the Sands was spotted at Les Vielles
We decided to leave today (Friday) with the intention of reaching Piriac. At 0700 we said farewell to Rob and Jo who are heading south towards La Rochelle on Cyclone. It was another lovely day with modest force 4 winds but rather a nasty chop and the wind unfortunately almost on the nose. After three hours of crashing to seaward with the wind showing no signs of going more westerly, and also forecast to strengthen, we chickened out and branched off to L'Herbaudière. The last couple of hours were much nicer, with the engine off and wind on the beam, but still a slightly uncomfortable sea and with me checking and rechecking tidal calculations to ensure we would have enough depth. We got into L'Herb just before low water, around 1400, which turned out to be a good move as visitors have been pouring in ever since.

Tomorrow the forecast is for lighter winds with a fair bit more south in them, and a flatter sea, so we may still make it to Arzal before bedtime.

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