Monday, 31 May 2010

I went to sea to see the sea. And what did I see? I saw the sea!

   A couple of weeks back we went to the seaside to stay in the house of my husband's grandmother.  A lovely place, built by my husband's great-grandfather, it sits wrapped around a creaking wooden staircase, with heavy furniture, old photos almost as old as photography, a dumbwaiter, and strange old devices with needles to measure and print out barometric reports.  To go to the seashore and back in time, what could be better? 

   We spent our days walking ceaselessly up and down the coast, exploring tide pools and sea caves that are only accessible at low tide (and where korrigans, a sort of Breton fairy, are said to have their halls filled with treasure).  We explored tiny chapels and enchanted forests, watched boats come into harbours, ate loads of galettes (buckwheat crêpes), picked clams and cockles, jumped in the sea, and were very happy indeed.

Every now and then we came across little fishing stations. I don't know the name for this in English, I've only seen them in Brittany, but surely they exist elsewhere too.

There were a lot more animals washed up on the beaches than I've ever seen before. 

Usually, every time we go to the sea I bring a flashlight and try to convince my husband to come out at night so we can peer into tide pools, in hopes of spying an octopus or two creeping around hunting the little fish and crabs that get trapped in there.  I know that's probably a little bit odd, but I find octopuses fascinating.  Anyway, I was very dismayed to see, in addition to this huge jellyfish and various other things, about forty octopuses lying dead on the beach.

Inside a sea cave:

   There was no one around when we went into this cave, but when we came out there was a woman standing before us.  A moment later, people started appearing around the edge of a cliff face that hung out over the ocean.  Apparently this family of eight or nine had decided to spend their day climbing their way around all of the cliffs on the coast.  It looked as if everyone was there, from the youngest to the oldest member of the family.
   Another time, when the coast seemed deserted, we saw two identical brown dogs swim past. They didn't have anyone with them, and didn't stop to come ashore.

They passed us on land a while later, going in the opposite direction, running home I suppose.

   We also took a trip to Île d'Yeu.  Before going to the port town where we caught the ferry, we went on the Passage du Gois which is a long road that is only accessible during low tide, and which goes to the Île de Noirmoutier.

Along the road there are little towers that you can climb up if you should happen to find that you are still here when the tide comes in.  This photo was taken from the top of one of these towers.  There are lots of cautionary photos posted around of cars being taken over by the tide as people watch anxiously from the towers.

We ate lunch on Île de Noirmoutier, next to the Bois de la Chaise:

After that, we took the ferry to Île d'Yeu.  My husband's great-grandmother came from the island, from a long line of tuna fishermen.  My grandfather had a rest period here during WW2, while he worked as a telegrapher in the Canadian navy.  It was the only place that he really talked about that he saw during the war... probably because it is unbelievably gorgeous. 

It looks as though it can't have changed much since he saw it.

Down by the main town, was a house covered in seashells!

We took a last look around, and then we sailed on home.


  1. What a wonderful place to all the photos. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Heisann!

    What a fascinating place you have been to! Old culture and strange nature hand in hand.
    And Koster where I spent an evening, is a very nice island not far from Norway. It is connected to the Hvaler-islands just outside where I live. The life is calm there during winter, spring and autumn, but the summer is busy with all the guests coming to relax and enjoy the good life.
    Have a nice week ;:OD)

  3. what a beautiful post--i love the photos you share. that is terrible about all those poor sea animals, i am also mildly obsessed with the octopus...
    the twisty trees are amazing! and what a cool road, that disappears at certain times of the day. perfect magic.

  4. What a cool sea shell house... reminded me of the "shell lady". An old woman who had a huge collection of shells and natural sea stuff that we used to visit in summers where we had a seaside house. As children, it was a VERY special once-in-a-while thing to visit the shell lady with a few dollars and buy some of her precious collections. She had two rooms full. I loved going there.

    And I also like octopus. I lived in Greece and had a few meetings with the same baby octopus on the shore several days in a row. Amazing how he/she climbed over my toes and changed color along the way... keep looking for the live ones, they're worth it!

  5. "To go to the seashore and back in time, what could be better?" Especially when the home remains in the same family, the past would be tangible.

    I'd be wanting to explore with a torch at night too
    the area looks beautiful and sounds amazing and with all the local folklore it would have a sense of other about it. And the twin brown dogs :)