Thursday, April 20, 2017

Les Sables d'Olonne - Bookends on a Winter a of Transition

Welcome to my 100th post!  

Les Sables d'Olonne.  I was disappointed that I'd made the choice to return to a place I've already been (after all, there's A LOT of France still to see), but on my second day walking along the beach, I realized that my two trips here were the perfect bookends on a challenging winter of adjustment.
The neighboring town I stayed in

When I was here last, I still felt I had something to prove.  To whom, I don't know, but I felt that I had to prove this was the right decision, that I didn't just move here on a whim.  I had to make friends, especially French ones . . . maybe find a boyfriend too in order to really assimilate.  I had to sink down roots, become fluent in the language, figure it all out.

I no longer feel that way.  Moving here has mostly been a great adventure.  Even if I only stay a year, two years, it wasn't a mistake to come - it was a dream for 10 years that I finally fulfilled.
And life in France shares some things with life in the US - it's still life and can be just as unexpected.  The person I thought I'd be great friends with divorced and moved away.  A friendship that I thought would be brief, due to a large age difference, has instead become a solid friendship that is going on 6 months now.  I just met his parents and he announced to them that he hopes to do his foreign apprenticeship near my hometown next summer, even though it means switching from the food division to hard cider.

I understand more of the common phrases said around me as well. "C'est bon" - it's good.  "Ce pas grave" - it's no big deal, it's not important.  "Le même" - the same.  "Ce comme ça" - it's like that.  I understood enough to survive dinner with four French people, who don't speak much English, without needing constant help.  Even if all of the details weren't clear, I could pick up talk about the elections, the migrant camp burning down and them asking him if he had difficulty communicating with me ("no").  It helped to learn he'd done very poorly in English until recently, meaning he became fluent as a adult, so surely I can too!
As for my actual weekend, it started with a bit of a disappointment.  Even though the ad stated where the flat was, I didn't know the town and so I looked at the map on the site.  The blue "x" represents where the map showed the property . . . the blue dot is where it actually is.  In typical fashion, I made the best of it and set out on the lovely path that continued all the way into Les Sables d'Olonne.  The below photo gives a visual of the distance - it's the city wrapping around the curve!
Even though I prefer to walk on a sandy beach, the rocky shorelines are often visually prettier and make for better photos, so I really did enjoy the walk in every day (less the walk back though)!
Saturday was actually the best day on the beach.  There were surprisingly few people for it being a holiday weekend, so I walked for a while, then sat against the sea wall (there are lower sections and many people sit on or against them and read for a little bit.  If you're looking for a nice coastal town with a lovely beach to just relax on, this is a great place for it!  It also has the best boardwalk area of the towns I've seen - a nice broad pedestrian portion, designated bike lane (a full car lane split in two) and one lane for traffic, although this was closed off on Easter due to the high number of pedestrians.
I don't find Les Sables d'Olonne to be one of the French towns with particular cultural or historic interest (I'm sure a French person could tell me all about why I'm wrong), so I've decided that my long weekends will be spent elsewhere in the future . . . but for a normal weekend getaway, this is still a place that I can imagine owning a "weekend flat!"


  1. Shame that the location of your accommodation was disappointing. I've been to Les Sables a couple of times and enjoyed walking around the harbour, people watching. It's very busy at the height of the season though. Have you been to St Gilles Croix de Vie slightly further north? It's smaller than Les Sables but has more charm I think.

  2. The flat was nice, other than the location not being what I'd expected. :-) I haven't been to St Gilles Croix de Vie - I'll have to add it to the list!

  3. My favorite getaway town is La Rochelle and the beach of Chatelaillon nearby, it's a 2:15 drive from Tours. I don't remember if you've ever been there, but La Rochelle is a beautiful old town with paved and narrow streets, a port, restaurants, etc... And I like Chatelaillon Plage because there's no ugly apartment building, just nice looking villas, and the market is big and really nice (can't remember which day). Also La Rochelle is 15min from l'Île de Ré, which is absolutely gorgeous (white houses, blue/green shutters, beautiful hollihocks everywhere, port towns) and 1h from l'Île d'Oléron which isn't as beautiful but which is wilder and has better beaches in my opinion.

    1. I've been to La Rochelle and the town is beautiful, but there's no actual beach there, is there? I didn't know about Chatelaillon Plage though! Maybe that's what I've been missing. I did love Île de Ré when I went there - I want to go back to see the UNESCO World Heritage site that's on the island now that I know about it. Thanks for the tip on the beaches of Oléron also! I've never been on that island.

    2. well there are a few beaches around La Rochelle but I've never really been there (once in the dark with friends and once under the rain with my sis. So memories not good enough to say if they're nice beaches or not :-D).