Stepping Back in Time in Noirmoutier, France

A little island off the coast of France, Noirmoutier is seaside living at its best. There is a bridge from mainland France that takes you straight to the island, however, there is a better, more “magical” way to get in. Say hello to the “Passage du Gois”, a cobbled path that leads to the island except for twice a day when it completely disappears during high tide. Clueless as we were about this phenomenon we were lucky enough to get there just when the passage was appearing out of the water. Part of the charm of taking this route was watching locals: adorable little children and enthusiastic adults alike gathered on the side of the path collecting mussels and other shellfish, all generous gifts of low tide.

Passage Du Gois at High Tide.

Noirmoutier is a tad difficult to get to and if your budget allows, it is better to fly to Nantes and then drive down. In peak season there are a few buses heading from Nantes to Noirmoutier. We were driving down from Paris and going via the toll roads, it took us nearly six hours to get there. If you can, try and avoid driving through Nantes because the number of roundabouts there WILL drive you nuts.

Once you get to Noirmoutier you have the luxury of camping meters across from the Atlantic. Indigo Noirmoutier  with its sea-side pitches is one of my favourite campsites in Europe. Book early if you plan to go during the peak season which lasts from late June until August. There is a little cafe on the campsite serving coffee, chips and fresh croissants…just remember to order them in advance. The entire island is extremely bike friendly and it’s definitely worth hiring one. At Indigo they rent out bicycles for 12 a day. To me it felt like I was in an old French classic; wearing a vintage dress, buying flowers and just feeling nostalgic and happy about nothing in particular. It all felt so “Joie De Vivre”. Noirmoutier is basically “that” French village that exists in your head. You ride bright blue bicycles through stone washed white houses and sigh at the stunning sunsets while eating lots of cheese. And that my friends, is no exaggeration.

284de-solofemaletravel2-solocampinginfrance
Waking up to this every morning in Noirmoutier
 

The lanes of Noirmoutier are made for bicycles and day dreams

Noirmoutier is dotted with ancient windmills most of them now either abandoned or converted into homes. One of them with a bright green roof was called L’Amour or The Love. That’s about as corny as a name can get but on an abandoned windmill overlooking the ocean, the proclamation of love felt almost ironic and I guess that’s why it worked. Our first day was spent driving around the island spotting windmills, stopping at beaches and running around fields. Eventually, we decided the car moved too fast for the pace of Noirmoutier and swapped it for bikes. We rode amid the salt marshes and oysters farms the island is so well known for, stopping sometimes to take a photo here or pick up a shell or two there. The rest of our time was spent biking past little fishing huts along the river, wandering around an old castle and willingly losing hours in countless art galleries.

On a more practical note, there is a supermarket on the island with ridiculously cheap Brie Cheese, Boursin & Croissants among other delicious things. I chose to forget about the calories and packed a massive picnic instead. Budget wise, Noirmoutier goes pretty easy on you especially if you choose to camp and buy food from the supermarkets.

Benches with views, my favourite thing
Windmills and sunsets, Noirmoutier
Long walks on the beach, sunny skies and brie cheese for company

My favourite memory is from an evening where I sat by the harbour with my legs dangling over the ocean and saw a sunset that no superlatives could do justice to. Even though I was so close to the main town there didn’t seem to be anyone around (my buddy had bailed earlier) and it was as though that sunset was mine and mine alone. The birds were flying home, the church and windmills were silhouetted and the deep orange was reflected in the ocean, the salt marshes and in the tiny bell of my blue bicycle. The sunset went on for a long time and the shades of red kept getting more intense by the minute. I was completely enveloped by all the colour and in that sense, I wasn’t just watching the sunset, I was a part of it. I didn’t have a camera with me and in retrospect that might not have been the worst thing. No photograph would have been able to capture what I saw that day. Even if it did, it wouldn’t have captured how I felt or perhaps, I would’ve spent more time capturing the view instead of experiencing it. In the end, I am quite content with that sunset in Noirmoutier simply being a dog-eared page in my mind’s travel journal.

Noirmoutier’s salt marshes by the harbour where I saw that sunset.

 

3 comments

  1. Wow, this place sounds lovely! I love taking pictures of sunsets, but I have to force myself not to sometimes; it's a nice change to just take it all in without any distractions 🙂

    If I ever go back to France, I want to go here and ride a bike. Bucket list item added!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s