The next day was Sunday and France comes to a halt on a Sunday, we had no choice but to relax.
We had a leisurely day in the forest exploring on our bikes. As we had no food and no shops were open we had to resort to our first take-away on the road from the closest town, it was a delicious treat!
We hit the road early doors and, after a brief shop in the local Leclerc (french superstore), we headed south. We again followed the winding coastal road and passed through St Nazaire and Pornic on the journey ,which lasted a good few hours.
After crossing an amazing estuary bridge the landscape changed before our eyes,wooden and slate roof building were now white terracotta topped villas, the land became dry and sandy and the air felt warm and humid, it was as if we had driven into a micro climate. Suddenly we were in south france and things are a little different down here.
We later arrived in a sandy pine forest which stretched down the length of a vast sandy beach, it was called Foret Des Pays De Monts. There we found a nice wood-chipped car park for campers and decided to stay the night. We went for a bike ride and looked at the beach to see if it was fishable but there were too many kiters, wind-surfers and kite buggies. We relaxed instead enjoying a few beers and our Bayeux cider.
We decided to continue south today along the coast and eventually arrived at La Rochelle, a stunning little harbour town with lots of history, shops and cafes. The town looked very appealing as we drove through, out door bars surrounded the harbour over looked by the famous castle walls, we could almost taste the cold wine being served on every last bit of sunny terrace but the place was nightmare to park so we headed out of town.
We found an excellant little parking spot near a pebbled beach which very conveniently had a bike route passing through connecting La Rochelle to Esnandes, a much smaller town . We tested out the bike route but held off visiting La Rochelle itself until the next day. After a wonder along the beach looking for oysters and admiring the sunset we called it a night.
We ate croissants and drank coffee for breakfast before packing our bags for the day in La Rochelle. The bike route was great, well maintained tarmac path along the coast that eventually joins the main roads in the town centre. The route is well marked out and we soon arrived in the town centre near the Hotel de Ville.
We looked around the many shops in La Rochelle, some of which were recognisable from England others were not, and then we ate our packed lunch sitting on the harbour wall. A market was taking place and we looked around it.
The choice in produce seemed much better than England and it was more like a food festival than a weekly indoor market. There was cheese and wine (obviously) as well as several butchers and fishmongers but these stalls would not just sell the meat, they would prepare meals for customers such as lasagne or coq au vin which looked great.
Before leaving La Rochelle, we sat down in Mon Petit Café and had two black coffees. It was the best coffee we have had since arriving in France! The pastries and cakes all looked great too but we were not peckish.
We cycled back along the bike route and decided to move on down the coast in the van. The route passed through Rochefort and Marennes before arriving in a sandy pine forest by the sea called Foret De La Coubre.
We awoke in the beautiful forest and, although keen to explore, we decided to head into the town of Marennes and look for free wi-fi. Unfortunately this lead us to what seemed like the busiest McDonalds in the world. We left as soon as we had finished our coffees. After returning to the forest, we spent the day exploring and walked through the various trails and along the beach. The forest, like many in France, is inhabited by wild hogs and their footprints were clearly visible on the sandy beach. We were still exploring after the sun had set and Heather was convinced that she had seen a large hog at a watering hole near the van although it turned out to be Joe. We also saw a few owls and bats.
Another day spent exploring the forest. Joe went off on his bike but sadly his chain broke whilst climbing up a steep hill. After repairing the chain, Joe realised that there was a lengthy bike trail winding all the way through the forest and this kept him entertained for an hour or two. We hunted for the hogs again until late into the night despite the weather having taken a turn for the worse. There were plenty of prints on the beach but we didn’t spot any hogs.
That night was the worst weather we have experienced since leaving England. The rain was very heavy and kept us both up in the night as it hammered against the metal of the van.
After one last blast on the mountain bike trail, we decided to leave the forest and head south towards Bordeaux. It was a hot day and we were on the lookout for fuel whilst driving. We had a nice goats cheese baguette lunch and head off in search of fuel which was a painful experience again as our card seems to work everywhere but petrol stations and the kiosks are hardly ever manned so a cash payment isn’t possible.
We eventually found a Total garage similar to the fuel stations in England and we topped up and paid cash. We took the ring road around Bordeaux and headed for the coast arriving at Grand Cohot Beach.
We struck lucky. Around the beach is yet another lovely forest with other camper dotted amongst the trees. We immediately headed out on our bikes exploring local amenities, there are a few bars and cafes next to the beach as well as a swimming pool and surfing shop. Not far away is the little french tourist town of Ares where we managed to find free wifi access at the tourist and information shop.
We brought something for dinner and headed back to the beachy forest to relax in for the evening.