26 May 2008

A day at the beach

The beach at La Menounière on the Ile d'Oléron
on France's Atlantic coast — 18 May 2008

The first thing we did when we had gotten settled into our gîte in the village called La Menounière on the Ile d'Oléron last week was take a walk to the beach. It was only about a five-minute walk from the house. The weather was fairly warm and kind of breezy.

You can see the mainland across the water.

I thought the ocean was very calm at that spot on the island's southwest facing coast, and I don't know why there weren't bigger waves. There's nothing to protect the coast from the ocean at that point, and this side of Oléron is called La Côte Sauvage, or the Wild Coast. It didn't seem very wild to me.

By the way, Oléron is about 70 square miles in size and is the largest French island after Corsica. (For comparison, Harkers Island in North Carolina is only about 4 sq. mi.) Oléron is about 20 miles long and 10 miles wide at its widest point. (Bogue Banks in N.C. is about 20 miles long but much narrower.) The population of Oléron is 20,000 or so. There's a satellite view here. The island is flat and sandy.

Walt and Callie on the beach at La Menounière

The beach itself is sandy. But after walking on it I realized it was not really sand the way the beaches are where I grew up on the North Carolina coast, or around San Francisco in California where I lived for many years. At Oléron, the "sand" is actually finely crushed seashells — limpet shells, I think. Even below the high tide line, where the beach looks flat and hard, it's actually soft and your feet sink into it slightly When you walk on it.

There was a lot of seaweed on the beach at this time of year.
Wonder if there always is?

The rock jetties that have been built to stabilize the beach are made up of blue-colored boulders, and the dunes are covered with vegetation that is a pale gray-green color. The beach has a reddish cast. All the pictures in this post were taken when the tide was fairly high.

You can see how red the beach sand is where it's wet.

I guess I'm fascinated with beaches because I basically grew up on the beach and in the water in North Carolina, at the southern end of the Outer Banks. The Ile d'Oléron reminded me very much of "home" even though the language and architecture are so different. Another difference: half of Oléron is covered in grape vines and people make wine and cognac there.


  1. Hi,
    Great that you are back from your holday on the Ile d'Oléron. We've stumbled upon your blog (and Walt's) when looking for a comment on the Mange Grenouille restaurant in Saint-Aigan where we plan to have lunch in a forenight's time during our annual stay in the Loire Valley. For the last two weeks we have been reading your blogs with much interest and facination, as they take us back to our previous visits (10 by now) to the Touraine region.
    Without being forward, would you mind very much if we were to pop in to say hello? As we live in Belgium it might be a nice opportunity for you Ken to compare your accent with the real (Belgian) one. I've read in one of your blogs that French people often mistake you for being Belgian :-)!

    Ladybird M.

  2. Ladybird, send me an e-mail so that we can coordinate our schedules. We are going to be busy for the next couple of weeks, but we'll be in Saint-Aignan most of that time.


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