Thursday 14 September 2023

Sea, sand and jazz in Brittany - summer's still here!

Thursday 14 September 2023

Nido's parked up on an aire in Kerhillio at the northern end of the Quiberon peninsula.  We're on a grass pitch under the shade of a small tree.  There are about thirty pitches, although a few are still empty.  It's €15.30 per night, including services and electric hook up - that's about £13. The aire is just outside a huge municipal campsite, where vans, caravans and tents are spread all over the sandy areas, separated from the huge beach and sea by dunes. Just outside the aire is a square comprising surf shops, artist galleries and a couple of hipster-like cafe bars; it's a lovely, laid back place.  Right now Le Coota bar's playing some live music, it sounds like laid-back jazz with guitar and cello.  Its wooden decking is lit by coloured lights and there's a friendly buzz of chat over the music, with children laughing as they ride their bikes around the square.  We like it here.

We left La Pommeraie-sur-Sevre yesterday for a long haul towards the coast.  This included an unplanned tour of the docks area around St-Nazaire.  For a number of years I've used a Garmin satnav in the van.  Over time I've loaded it up with a number of Points of Interest - aires, campsites, wild swimming spots.  But I've never really used these.  The Garmin is OK, but it's constantly trying to shave off a couple of metres or minutes from the journey.  As a consequence we often follow it to turn off down narrow roads to cut off a corner, only to rejoin the decent road we were on before.  Yesterday it directed us down past the Airbus factory and towards the cruise liner berths and the docks, down to a dead end!  I now remember it did the same last year, when we were heading south. So this time we plugged our destination coordinates into Google Maps on my phone and ran this in parallel.  We ignored the Garmin's plea to turn off down single lanes and rat-runs and instead followed the sensible route of Google Maps, which was more direct and actually shorter.

We arrived at the Camping Car Park aire at La Turballe.  It's actually in the Loire region, but it feels like Brittany.  It was busy; with the recent heatwave, clear blue skies and warm sunshine; summer was still here and people were naturally making the most of it.  We took one of the three remaining pitches, right next to a road which, although busy, did quieten down at night.  The first thing was to take a walk to the beach for a long awaited walk on the sands and a paddle.  But no - it was not to be.   Approaching the beach we came up with the 'les chiens interdit' signs, even when on a lead.  Salty was not a happy hound!  He could smell the sea, he could hear the sea, he could almost see the sea.  But he was not allowed to go there.  I'd not done my research and with a bit of googling soon realised that Brittany beaches are - in the main - dog unfriendly.  I get it, they want to keep their beaches clean and pristine and people want to be able to enjoy their time on the coast without dogs running around and doing what dogs do.  But it seems a bit strange that dogs are so unwelcome in a country that has one of the highest percentages of dog ownership.  But we're responsible owners and follow the rules, so we just walked along the sandy path that runs parallel to the beach before returning to the aire.  

I'd looked at a few places to stay on the southern and western Bretagne coast, but last night was spent replanning, looking for the few dog-friendly beaches so we could at least walk him in some nice places.  As much as we love having a dog in our lives, it has changed how and where we travel.  Now we have to think about where he's allowed to go.  We have to ensure the pitch is cool and shaded if we want to leave him in the van for any period of time.  It's just a different way of travelling.  I found a few places online where dogs can still go on the beach (albeit on a lead, which is fine), mainly in the far west and north, so our travel plans have been adjusted accordingly.

This morning we stopped off at the Super U supermarket in La Turballe for a top up.  I like this brand of supermarket; it's reasonably priced and the quality of the produce is very good.  In the Auvergne, it was mostly Auchan supermarkets, but Super U reign supreme here. The fish counter was excellent, with some of the freshest seafood I've seen anywhere. The mackerel were stiff-fresh and the brown shrimps I bought (look away now if you're squeamish) were still wriggling, the bouchot moules (our favourite) were glistening and the whole squid white and opaque.  Our drive (thanks to our recent conversion to Google Maps (sorry Garmin lady!)) was easy and enjoyable, with a mix of A roads and drives through small Bretagne villages lined with thatched houses with white lime-wash walls and sea-blue shutters.

Once we'd paid and pitched, we had a tasty lunch sat in the shade of the adjacent tree before packing a rucksack and walking through the municipal campsite to the beach - Plage de Kerhillio. It's a huge sandy beach.  The southern end - towards the tip of the Quiberon peninsula - is mainly used by the kite surfers and the naturists.  Dogs are 'interdit' on that side, so we were glad of a reason to avoid it! Salty had a lovely splash around, a few zoomies and a drink of the very salty water; he always does it and always gets told off for doing it!  Once he settled down lying on the sand watching the world go by, we took it in turns to swim in the exceptionally clear and warm sea.  It was idyllic and we made the most of our first sea swim of this trip.  

Back at the van, showered and changed, Cathy sat in the sunshine listening to an audio book and I prepared the seafood paella (the shrimps had stopped wriggling!), which we ate sat watching the sun set over the dunes.  We've decided to stay another day here.  It's quiet, with a laid back atmosphere that reminds us of Tarifa in southern Spain, with weather to match.  We'll definitely enjoy some more beach and swimming time tomorrow.

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