The grand plan went something like this:

Friday night the kids and I would meet Luuk at a train station near his work, bypassing the Paris-bound traffic. Luuk had the suitcase in the car, ready to go, and we’d be away early for our weekend by the seaside.

We’d drive to Tours, just a couple of hours away, and find dinner, then stay there the night. Saturday morning we’d continue on, fresh and refreshed, to La Rochelle, find us a patch of sand and wile the day away.

But fifteen minutes from Tours the motorway backed up to a stop. Black smoke billowed in the distance, and the traffic info radio station informed us a truck was on its side, cutting off the entire south-bound route and a few lanes of the north bound A-10.

Four and a half hours later the traffic started to move. By then the kids were asleep, having dined on hunks of baguette and snickers bars that had been too-long in the glove box. We arrived at the hotel half an hour after the restaurant stopped serving dinner. Fortunately (or not) we’d been snacking on peanut MnMs for the past three hours and could wait for the buffet breakfast.

The next day, breakfasted but far from refreshed, we continued on to the coast, bypassing La Rochelle in favour of the Ile de Ré. There’s a fantastic bridge across to the island, which Louis would’ve liked to cross more than just twice.

bridge to the Ile de Re

The bridge to the Ile de Ré

After lunch and a good strong coffee I was fantasizing about a lazy afternoon in the company of a good book, but we’d come all this way for the beach. And I was quickly won over.

Off to the beach, Ile de Re

Off to the beach we go.

making sand castles, or something

The kids loved the sand and both of them seem to be past the sand-in-ears phase. I only told Elena not to eat it once or twice.

Luuk and the kids on beach

The first time Louis had a dip in the ocean it was the Atlantic, but that was at Miami beach and a good fifteen degrees (and then some?) warmer. You never can step in the same ocean twice, eh? Louis wouldn’t touch the water, not even to rescue his Flash McQueen ball (that’s Lightening McQueen if you’re watching Cars en Version Originale, ie. English, but when in France…)

elena taking off down the beach

Elena, on the other hand, on her wobbly walking legs, bowled right in. She chased us around and braved the waves and, of course, fell over. Shame she was fully clothed at the time, but if you can’t go naked on a beach when you’re a baby then-? No need to finish that sentence.

We kicked flash mcqueen and got covered in sand, collected a humble selection of shells, and while the kids dug the sand, I got some of that lazy afternoon in the company of my book.

Both kids conked out in the car, ah the joys of sea air, so we drove up to the lighthouse on the north coast of the island. Luuk and I took turns staying with the sleeping babes in the car while the other looked around. When they woke we went for a walk.

Luuk and Elena exploring Ile de Re

Luuk and Elena exploring Ile de Ré.

not the worst family photo

Not our worst ever family photo.

Ile de Re, north coast

The north coast of the island.
Foreground: aesthetically pleasing fence.
Background: German bunkers from war(s?)

Ile de Re, sunset

Sunset from the lighthouse.

We had a lovely seafood dinner and the kids ate chips and frankfurters… there’s just no selling the ingrates a mussel apparently. Elena was asleep before we got to the hotel and didn’t wake up till morning. Louis pulled his charming manic-over-tired bit but eventually slept. We all did. Much better than the night before.

Sunday morning we explored the waterfront at La Rochelle, a ten minute walk from our hotel.

la rochelle beach

The patch of beach in the city centre
(we were glad of Saturday’s island alternative)

lighthouse, la rochelle

The oldest lighthouse on the Atlantic coast, or something like that.

a la peche

This guy is fishing, apparently.

morning at la rochelle harbour

The inner harbour at La Rochelle – including two beacons for leading ships up the harbour (red one in centre and green on far left).

Sunday morning, early as we were, the place was pretty quiet but for restaurant staff hosing down the remnants of the previous night’s festivities. But things were opening as we worked our way around the harbour.

(p)laying anchor

(P)Laying anchor.

inner harbour at la rochelle

The inner harbour at La Rochelle.

towers of la rochelle

The towers of La Rochelle. The oldest lighthouse is the far one. The closer two flank the harbour entrance.

la rochelle harbour

The harbour entrance from the far banks.
(That blue door above is probably just out of shot on the left.)

pain in la rochelle

Pain, of course, is French for bread, but if you can’t enjoy the double meaning every now and then. what kind of anglophone are ye? There’s a bakery just down the hill from home that is called ‘The Art of Pain’. I have a friend who’s written poems and stories playing on this, all bread and misery.

It takes four to five hours to drive directly from La Rochelle to home but that’s on the motorway and most of that route is just off to the side of the Loire valley. So instead of taking the slightly shorter motorway we headed for the scenic route.

And stopped at a whopping great castle.

the boys by the moat at chambord

This is Chambord.

Chambord, Loire ValleyUnfortunately the ticket office closes at 4.30pm from October onward, and we got there just after, thinking it closed at five… anyway, not the end of the world. Another time maybe.


Spot Luuk and Louis. And the awesome asymmetrical towers.

The thing was so impressive from the outside, I felt like I got my dose of wow.

After a coffee in the town square (yep, castles this big have their own wee towns attached) we continued on to Paris, avoiding all the bouchons (that’s traffic jams) but failing to avoid MacDo. The kids were losing it, but I’m proud to report that both of them turned down chicken nuggets. No matter how much yummy mayo-based-sauce we doused them in. The potato wedges (alternative to fries) here aren’t bad at all. Shame about the rest. Still, just one meal, barely a part of the holiday really. A fantastic weekend all in all.