Ile d’Yeu, Les Sables and La Rochelle
Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu
Port Joinville is the main harbour on an island as small as its name, Ile d’Yeu. It is a few miles from the French coast but we thought it was worth making a detour to see. We were not disappointed.
In appearance it could be several thousand miles away in Greece with its tiny white washed cottages and narrow streets. There are more cycle hire shops than McDonald’s have burgers and with a little barbecue sauce they no doubt taste better.
The Island of Ile d’Yeu
The men folk all look as if they have spent their lives fishing in hurricanes but now spend their days in the bars recollecting the one that got away. Henri was about 630 years of age and had a small fishing boat near to Cygnus. I don’t know his real name as he spoke a language all of his own but we made hand signals and grunts at each other morning and night. He would show me what he had caught and try to give me live crabs and some decidedly weird-looking fish. Being unable to boil them alive as suggested I politely grunted and refused.
Watching four fishermen turn up one lunchtime, sit on the pontoon devouring bread cheese and copious bottles of plonk was hilarious. Later they tried to get on their boat to go out but just kept falling over. Eventually they gave up and left no doubt to go to the bar and recount the one that got away.
Les Sables d’Olonne
Shell covered houses in Les Sables
From Ile d’Yeu we set out in glorious sunshine for Les Sables d’Olonne, famous for the start of Vendee Globe. The town is all about sailing and has one long sweeping beach. It was lovely to spend a couple of days there but probably no more unless you like building sand castles the size of the O2 stadium. It does have some delightful old narrow streets and even an alleyway where the houses are covered in seashell mosaics. These houses are probably owned by people who don’t like boats, fishing or sandcastle building and could find nothing else to do.
Les Sables d’Olonne to La Rochelle
Les Sables buildings
We left Les Sables on an eight-hour trek to our winter home, La Rochelle . The winds were kind allowing us to sail all the way until we got to a bridge that we decided to go under very slowly.
We were told we would fit easily but still wanted to put Aiden up to the top of the mast to see just how much clearance there really was. What was worse was that he wanted to do it! We arrived early but there was just enough tide to get us up to the entrance to our marina in the heart of town. We had to wait a while for the bridge and lock to open but once inside we secured Cygnus for the winter. We gave her a hearty pat on the decks and a couple of lumps of sugar. Not once did she miss a beat in over 2000 miles and she kept us safe in anything that was thrown at her.
A Brazilian in French toilets
Entrance to La Rochelle
La Rochelle is a place that deserves its own blog and I will write one later but in the meantime I just have to talk about the biggest difference between the French and English. No it is not the language or that we are on different land masses. It is far bigger than both of these put together and is something I have alluded to before. It is the French toilets.
Now, someone like me, with too much time on their hands worked out that the average person spends some 394 days or 56 weeks on the toilet in their lifetime, or at least they do in England. It is one place you can be on your own and contemplate life or 7 down beginning with “W”
Not so with the French. I know they have toilets on their boats, I checked, but they are only used as somewhere to store 400 fishing rods and 600 bottles of wine. If the men need to relieve themselves then out it flops over the side (and girls, I have a picture of the biggest one you have ever seen at the end). Anything bigger goes in a bucket and is thrown over the side for mullet food with a smile at the thought of the British trying to eat one.
Their peculiar toilet habits don’t stop there. We were in a marina laundry room when in Jacques strides in his Breton top and used an open urinal next to us without a thought. There are many urinals around which have half saloon doors or no doors and are completely open to public view. As people walk past it can stop everything mid-stream and leave you with a bladder the size of a dromedary camel.
It gets better. In most places the toilets don’t have those plastic seats all men leave down to annoy women. There is nothing, just cold hard porcelain or a hole to hover over. I was thinking of buying one of those blow-up neck holders you use when travelling but they are too small and fall inside.
I have spoken before about the hole in the floor job where you need to adopt the rodeo position but I tend to give them a miss, literally.
Now I don’t know about you but I have no problem giving a contented “Aaahhhh” occasionally but try to go when the toilets are mixed and Mademoiselle Emmanuel or Lolita is in the next trap. It just does not work for me. It also dispels a few dreams when Mademoiselle breaks wind like Moby Dick and you hear a loud splosh and a “Aahhhh” from her.
It is the same with the mixed showers. Having a bikini line floating around in your cubicle, hooking onto your big toe and all because Josephine has blocked her plug hole by giving herself a Brazilian. It is just not British. The only good point is that there are not many French female “ginners”. To make matters worse you have to pay in most toilet or showers for the privilege of watching female armpit hair float past like a Moses basket. The water is timed and cuts off at the most inopportune moments. You find yourself still with soap in your hair and eyes, a bird’s nest around your toes as you do a can-can to flick it off on Jacques who is walking around with his member out chatting about the one that got away………
A picture for the girls
See, the biggest one
And as I promised. a picture for the girls of the biggest one we have come across.