We have a free day on the schedule and decide to head west to check out the coast of France. We got input from Anais and Celine and decide that Pornic is our destination of the day. Why? Because you say it like it is spelled!
We are moving slowly after our day in the hot sun walking around Nantes (and since we aren’t about twelve months pregnant, we aren’t complaining!), so we sleep in a bit. Then up, shower and into the car for our drive west. The day, for the first time on the trip, is overcast and spritzes rain. We had thoughts of laying out on the beach somewhere and frolicking in the ocean, but we may have to rethink those plans. Pornic is a lot closer than we expected–it is under an hour to get to the coastal town.
We enter into the city limits and are NOT greeted by a deviation which is surprising in and of itself. Our first time heading downtown and not getting rerouted. Our journey takes us on progressively narrower and narrower roads, capped off by passing through an arch holding up part of the town’s chateau. We pass through Pornic without finding a parking spot; I strongly and loudly veto us going back into town on the grounds that my aging heart cannot stand another trip in the narrow streets; we manage to find some free (FREE) parking just outside the city center.
We head back into town by following the ‘water’ front. The water is in quotes because, it turns out that Pornic has 14 foot tides and the water is out. So the waterfront, which has all the normal pieces/parts of a port including:
a. A seawall
b. A mooring field filled with boats
c. Aids to navigation marking the channel out to the ocean
Is less of a ‘water’ front and more mud flats. The ‘normal things you expect (from above) are instead:
a. A wall overlooking a mudflats
b. Boats sitting on the mud (or tilting on the mud), attached to a mooring ball, which is itself sitting in the mud.
c. Aids to navigation sitting on the mud well away from the small stream that heads out to the ocean.
It is surreal. We can see the ocean, we can see the town, but someone played a sick joke on this place and made all the water disappear! And all the boats are SITTING IN THE MUD! It isn’t one or two boats–there are rows of them. We don’t get it. But it certainly is interesting.
After an hour of looking at the mud boats, we decide to see if there is anything else strange in this town like a bridge going under the water or cars parked on their roofs.
We head up the hill and find that there is a huge town market and most of the population is out in the street at the market. Best part of the market is that there is a LOT of food and they are giving out free samples and you don’t have to demonstrate that you can speak French to get anything. Cheese, sausage, sweets; you name it, you could eat it.
When we came to the top of the hill we hit the jackpot. A tent setup under which a couple was cooking HUGE pans of food. There were noodles, fried rice with mussels, beef in a brown sauce, curry chicken, squid something and an enormous paella. The paella was STACKED with what looked like half chickens, prawns bit as my foot, sausages, crabs, lobster, mussels, clams, squid. We had just found lunch. And perhaps dinner. The trick? How to get the nice people to understand our order!
We hop in the queue and pay attention. The food is sold by the kilogram, so you can order the weight, but you can also order by servings. Like I want enough of this dish for three. The nice lady then picks out an appropriate sized container and in goes the food. The containers are placed on a tray which her husband grabs, weighs, wraps, places in a bag and hands to you. Easy peasy.
We get to the front of the line and Jan pops up two fingers with one hand and points to the noodles with the other and the nice lady commences to filling a pan. I hold up two fingers and say Paella, but pronounce it wrong and there is confusion. I try again and there is confusion. I point to the big pan, am rewarded with a smile and off she goes to fill. We then have a shouting match on what I want included. Poulet? No. Something indecipherable? No. She holds up a sausage and give me the ‘want this’ look? Hell yes. And so on. Off to her husband who wraps and bags the food, we pay 25 euros for what will be our lunch and our dinner and Jan asks for forks in perfectly passable French. BOOM! We head off to eat our bounty on the steps of a local church.1
Rain has started to fall and it is more than just a couple of drops, so we have to leave and but we said we were going to a beach, so dammit, a beach we will go see! We hop into the car, Jan pops in the location of a couple of beaches and each and every one of them takes us back into town. Again–I refuse to drive in the small town and finally Jan and Mr. Google agree on a beach just outside of town. It is actually a beach that we have seen signs for–it appears popular!
We arrive and we are the only ones there. Other than three dudes looking for mussels at the oceans edge. The whole ’14 foot tide’ means that the beach is good at hight tide, but at low tide it is more along the lines of ‘a small spit of sand surrounded by jagged rocks.’ We take off our shoes and wander close to the water to pretend we went swimming, then head back up to the car and head for home.
We decide we are going to do one last load of laundry before we leave and swim in the pool, but end up doing one load of laundry and taking a nap. We pack, eat one last dinner in town and then get ready to head to Barcelona.
1Not cathedral. And not named Notre Dame.