One of the problems when you live in a popular tourist destination is justifying leaving it to go on holiday. When thousands of visitors come annually to Normandy, the land of fresh cream and butter, of potent cider and endless coastline and lush greenery, it seems a bit strange to pay good money to go somewhere else. That was my dilemma when my annual holiday date approached, and firstly I spent a good week visiting several wonderful Normandy gardens, which will be featured in my upcoming posts until finally I decided that an entirely different scenery would be uplifting and inspiring. The only question was where to go!
25 years ago we drove as far as Cognac in the Charente region of France in a blue 2CV and I wanted to explore this region again with its fabled 2,400 hours of annual sunshine. I remember back then in my rather more youthful days that I had put my toes in the ocean and it was actually warm, quite a contrast to the chilly waters of my native England. So would the region live up to my expectations and inspire me too?
Our little corner of Charente for the week was neatly placed between the wonderful creeks of the river Seudre, and the sandy beaches of the Cote Sauvage. (Wild coast).
The creeks at low tide were wonderful for all their gloopy muddiness, the wildness of the marshes, known as the Marais, the colourful oystersheds and wooden jetties radiating with the beating sun.
This is oyster territory and we made a mental note to return to sample some in the evening.
We were sure the abandoned boats and closed up sheds would be back in use once the tide came in, but for now we enjoyed the landscape and the evident bird life in the marshes, out of reach of land bound humans!We decided to head where we knew there would be water, the sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast were calling, and were entranced by the different landscapes a mere 15km apart.
Beautiful forest obscured our approach…..before we climbed to the crest of the dune..and suddenly the the sea sprung into view, and what a beach, pristine sand, huge crashing waves and clear blue water.And it was oh so difficult to leave!But in the end the little creekside restaurants were calling, and we just had to try the oysters and Eclade de Moules which we had spotted earlier in the day.Installing ourselves at a table on a wooden jetty over the creek we watched the chef painstakingly stand the raw mussels on a wooden tray.Covering the mussels with a huge pile of pine needles from the abundant coastal pine forests, he struck a match while we tucked into our prawns and oysters.Then sizzlingly hot, the freshly cooked mussels arrived at our table tasting of woodsmoke and the sea.And finally replete, with the growing darkness all around us, we headed home, but not without a backwards glance, and thoughts that we could do it all over again tomorrow!