It’s been blisteringly hot here in the Vendée, and thank God for in-car air con, because today we took a bit of a drive North up the coast to Noirmoutier-en-l’ile to have a look around, as I’d been told it was picturesque and quaint.
Noirmoutier-en-l’ile is an island, and there are two ways to get across; by pont (bridge) or, if the tide is out, by gois (causeway). Le gois is clearly the more interesting route; it’s 4kms long, making it the longest causeway in Europe, and along the entire stretch were people collecting molluscs in baskets (I assume to eat) and generally using it as a vast expanse of beach. Once across, you are bombarded with salt marsh after salt marsh, but eventually, after about a fifteen minute drive, you get to the town of Noirmoutier.
And it’s true. It is picturesque and it is quaint, and it’s real France. Hardly anyone speaks any English; my pidgin French and “parlez vous Anglais?” did not score me any brownie points whatsoever. But, we got by, ordered amazing ice creams, ate our picnic lunch at the edge of the town market, and took a look around the aquarium.
Roo and Elliot were both very taken with the aquarium; Roo especially loved looking at the huge array of different species. Her favourite tank was definitely the one, ubiquitous to aquariums, with the clown fish and the blue tangs which she called the Finding Nemo tank. It took us about half an hour to walk around the aquarium, which I thought was a good amount of time; just long enough to see everything, but short enough to hold the kid’s attention spans. There was a talk we could have stayed to listen to, but not understanding any more than very basic French, we gave this a miss.
By that time, the mid day heat was over and Roo was asking to go for a dip in a pool, so we headed back to the car, stopping on the way for a turn on a classic merry-go-round.
There is a water park on the outskirts of Noirmoutier which looked like a lot of fun, but it was rammed and by that time, Roo was asleep, so we drove on by and took a dip at the Siblu holiday village instead.
Noirmoutier-en-l’ile is definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the Vendée, just be prepared to speak French (in France, what a CRAZY thought!), and if you’re feeling adventurous, try some oysters, a speciality of the area.