Saturday, February 6, 2016

A family day out on La Grande-Cote, Charente-Maritime

French Village Diaries family day out on La Grande-Côte, Charente-Maritime
La Grande-Côte

Today we had good weather, we were all home and we had no plans – this is unusual, especially in February. We packed a picnic, threw in some old clothes (which wasn’t easy for Ed who is a bit of a fashionista) and set off for a family day out at the beach.

Since September Ed has been staying away at Lycée during the week, he often has plans with friends at the weekend and Adrian’s work also takes him away during the week and some weekends. It is a difficult time (for me) as I’m happy to see Ed enjoying his independence and gaining in confidence, but just a little bit sad at the speed in which he is growing up. The last two school holidays, in October and at Christmas, we have packed up, shuttered up and left for the UK to have fun with our families and as Adrian will be away working for a lot of Ed’s fortnight holiday at the end of this month, we have been rather lacking family time together.


French Village Diaries family day out on La Grande-Côte, Charente-Maritime
Ed and Mini on the dunes

It is an hour and a half drive to our favourite off-season beach, which starts with twisting back roads through Cognac vineyards. We are in the middle of vine pruning season, some are neatly pruned and ready for spring, some are still awaiting the vintners who were wrapped up against the chilly air, pruning, even on a weekend. It was a beautiful blue sky today, the air cooled by a breeze, but plenty of sunshine to warm from within and nature was all around us. There were hives half hidden in sheltered hedgerows, hares darting across ploughed fields and buzzards circling in the thermals overhead, as we made our way from village to village. The Charente Maritime villages have an air of elegance, the houses made of smooth cream stone with pale shutters and today windows were flung open to air the bedrooms. Nearer the coast we drove through skeletal fruit tree orchards and passed bright orange hunters watching and waiting at the edge of woodland, before arriving among the coastal pine forests. The last part of the drive can be very busy in the summer and parking isn’t easy, but not in February, even on warm, sunny days.


French Village Diaries family day out on La Grande-Côte, Charente-Maritime
The Atlantic defences

Summer at the beach can be too hot and uncomfortable for me, and the combination of a sweaty body, sun cream and loose sand is my idea of a nightmare. It is also only possible to take Mini the dog to the beach out of season and she loves to run, dig in the sand, climb the dunes with Ed and play endless games of ball. Fully clothed means I don’t have to touch the sand so a day at the beach is much more my thing in the winter.

Between St Palais-sur-mer and La Palmyre along La Grande-Côte, at the top of the Gironde Estuary there are remains of the Atlantic sea defences. Eerie looking concrete blockhouse constructions left abandoned after the German Occupation. Many years of erosion have caused them to slip down the beach where they now wonkily sit in the sand and the sea, depending on the tides.




French Village Diaries family day out on La Grande-Côte, Charente-Maritime
Driftwood sculpture

This stretch of coast has kilometres of flat easy walking and tumbling waves that bring in stones, shells and jellyfish. It was warm enough today to leave the coats in the car, despite the healthy breeze that erased our footprints in the sand as we walked along, which we did for at least an hour and a half. The beach was littered with washed-up wood, worn smooth from it’s travels by sea and providing a sculpture exhibition for the many walkers, dog walkers and even two donkey walkers. We certainly all benefited from fresh air, a change of scenery, exercise and family time together.

French Village Diaries family day out on La Grande-Côte, Charente-Maritime
Donkey walkers

This post has been linked to Paulita's Dreaming of France blog link up. See here for more posts.