Groundhog Day on the Île de Ré

Having taken away some interesting reads on holiday, I got to a book that I had been wanting to read for a while: “Jumping Sharks and Dropping Mics – Modern idioms and where they came from”, by Gareth Carrol. Given the interest in my previous ramblings on idioms and hoping I’m not going to nuke the fridge with this one, I thought about this after reading the book and wanted to write a piece for you to spot and explain the modern idioms here. There are 38 of them to find. They have all appeared in reputable dictionaries and are acknowledged to have become accepted as generally-understood words/phrases in everyday use. I will provide the answers, of course, but if you want to know where they came from, then you’ll have to phone a friend or read the book.  So here goes…

If you like beachy things, cycling or sunbathing, then the Île de Ré will float your bateau. It is France, after all, and so expect the usual suspects: drinking things you would never think of drinking at home (like kir); eating too much cheese and splurging in Hypermarchés. Good food, good wine… France does exactly what it says on the tin.

Sadly, I needed inspiration from Gareth Carrol’s book to write about the Île de Ré and could have phoned in a post. Let’s start from the top. When we arrived at the Huttopia Côte Sauvage campsite, the barrier was down. I pulled up and walked through, expecting the patron/ne to open it for me to drive through to check in. The computer said “no”. I was informed that I was blocking the entrance, so had to back up and go to the carpark around the corner. It takes a while to sort it all out and squeeze into our pitch.

The write-up from the camping website had definitely jumped the shark with this one: the Huttopia Côte Sauvage campsite.  It was described as offering spacious pitches. It did not.

It said something about your not knowing where the campsite ends and the beach begins. It was obvious. There was a bloomin’ great hedge and fence between the site and the beach, which you had to access by exiting via the aforementioned barrier and walking up the road a bit. But here’s the $64,000 question: how do these camping sites get their info? I know that some don’t even visit the site, and rely on information provided by the owner, who pays to be on their website. It reads like an all-singing, all-dancing campsite, but not one for my bucket list, for sure. The owner must have had a Walter Mitty moment when writing about his place. Nevertheless, the collateral knowledge from reading “Jumping Sharks and Dropping Mics” makes it fun to write about, even when the place for me is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult to like. But if I were going to like it, then I’d need a bigger boat, to be honest.

Back at the pitch, we were struggling to cope with first world problems: is there room enough in the fridge for beers; squeaky-bum time when Peaches looks like she’s about to run out of petrol and how to find shade when the sun’s turned up to eleven? In the next door pitch, a woman is giving the hairdryer treatment to her partner. She is going postal on him and I am sure it will not be long before Godwin’s Law comes into play. The lady also has the un-nerving habit of engaging in a self-inflicted wardrobe malfunction by pulling her dress up above her waist when she needed to scratch her buttock. Iona’s i-phone won’t charge because it is saying there is liquid in the charging port, and I advise turning it off and on again, which elicits a response of “OK, boomer.”

We end up going out every day just to find some shade. The hairy dog is suffering. To be fair, I knew it was all beach, bikes and watersports: that sliding door moment where I agreed to take the red pill and find out for ourselves, that corridor of uncertainty where the choice is to go with the Île de Ré and keep the others happy, or to park the bus on a trip I would find more interesting. Sophie’s choice.

Tash said to me, one evening, “It’s what I think of as France. Sitting in a bar of an evening looking out over the sea. People trying to sell you things..”. And then the mic-drop moment of: “Of course, you’ll have to drive us there.” I did try to look out for little vignettes of travel. Like when I was sitting on the grass/sand by the beach front. A van from a swimming pool/landscape garden company pulled abruptly to a halt in the no-parking zone over on the road. Three large black men got out wearing nothing but their boxer shorts and sprinted for the decking walkway down to the golden sand and warm sea. I’d seen excited children sprint for the beach, but this was a bit more left-field. After a quick dip, they came sprinting back, pulled on their clothes behind the van and drove off to the next job. Just three working men, on a blistering hot day, jumping the couch and cooling off between jobs.

You may have gathered that I was not too taken by the Île de Ré: no shit, Sherlock. It’s not rocket science, or brain surgery, or even rocket surgery – the Île de Ré was not my sort of France. I don’t cycle, hate beaches and don’t do water sports. So after this little mental safari, I think “The Summer Grinch” is my new middle name. Yes, all is quiet on the Western Font, because this is the Île de Ré.

But I can give you…

Ten things I have learnt about the Île de Ré:

  1. There are no mountains; it is very flat. In every sense.
  2. You are better off leaving three days early and heading north to a charming village like Loyat, near the medieval town Ploermel with its wonderful Friday market and nearby forest and 6000-year-old megalithic standing stones. A spacious pitch too.

3. People are proud of their island and everything seems to be “de Ré”. So you have “les bières de Ré”, “le biscuiterie de Ré”, or villages like “Sainte-Marie-de-Ré”, “Les Portes-en-Ré”,  and “Saint-Martin-de-Ré”.

4. I liked lying on a forest floor, taking a break from a bum-busting bike ride, and looking up at the treetops, or collecting very large pine-cones.

5. It would be hard to break the internet if you write about the Île de Ré.

6. If you hire a bike, be sure that it is not one of those whose saddle is perfectly-designed to give you a very sore

7. It costs a lot of Euros to use the bridge from the mainland.

8. Shade is at a premium during globally-warmed summers here.

9. There is not really much to do. On each day and in every direction, it is the same old.

10. The Île de Ré is the Trigger’s Broom of France as I know (and love) it.

8 thoughts on “Groundhog Day on the Île de Ré”

  1. I had to,laugh. Well, happy you didn’t have a heat stroke or ruin your lungs from forest fire smoke or eat a bad oyster. Des vacances pendant la canicule ! Brillant.

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  2. We’ll, I’m not sure we can be friends any more if you don’t like the island. 😉
    It’s paradise for us and I’m not a beach type either. I liked not having to move the van, to use the bikes as everywhere is accessible, or even to use the cheap buses to get around. I’ll admit that we’ve never taken Ralf nor Boris, so they would have severely cramped our style as far as getting around us concerned.
    We haven’t been since the ill fated BraziBay trip of 2017 which did tarnish our memories somewhat. Tbf it’s as hot here in the County Pallatine today but with less remarkable food!

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    1. That’s what you get from living far from the sea, Martin. And you’re right about the fresh food. Charlie was travelling in a “chariot” when when we got bikes…but there is still the food… Got my passport stamped in and out which meant 1 1/2 to 2 hours queuing. The B word…

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      1. I reckon if I climbed onto our roof I’d be able to the sea at Lytham. I can deffo see Blackpool Tower and that’s as close as I need to be to that particular resort. If our move ever happens we’ll be 20 mins from the North Yorkshire coast which should be good enough for anyone.

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