Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Kite Surfers, Le Crotoy, France

Chance or Opportunity?

Kite Surfers LF23024The big skies of the Somme estuary and its flat landscape of drained salt marsh were hidden by heavy grey cloud with occasional patches of blue as we drifted down the minor roads along the coast. We were heading for the Baie de Somme and especially Saint-Valery-sur-Somme where we planned to make our first overnight stop.

We have visited Saint-Valery before and intended to visit the Sunday market and take the Le Petit Train Touristique to get some new pictures of this steam narrow gauge railway in better weather. Or so we hoped. We were a little apprehensive as we have not used a campervan in France before so we did not know what to expect of Aires de Camping-cars. Most French towns and larger villages have these overnight parking sites with limited facilities, or none, for self-contained motorhomes. They are sometimes free but usually cost a few euros except in the popular tourist destinations.

In proper Winding Way spirit we had time to spare so we decided to take the opportunity to explore Le Crotoy on the north side of the river. As we drove towards the centre of town we spotted a sign for the Le Crotoy aire so we diverted to take a look at the sort of place where we were going to be spending most of the next fourteen nights. We turned in; it was just a quiet, almost empty, open space behind the dunes and the fine sandy beach was barely 50 yards away. But the sky was filled with surf kites and we were hooked. We immediately decided to stay the night and drive to Saint-Valery the following morning for the market; we knew the aire there was less inviting. Once parked we spent a lazy hour on the beach watching the kite surfers streaking past as they made the most of a good breeze.

The site was out of town but the centre was an easy twenty minute walk along the beach and the sea front promenade. The town itself was not busy as it was still only late June and we sat in the centre by the harbour for a drink and watch the world go by. We were fortunate as there was more sun than we had seen most of the day and we picked up some bread and cheese for a simple evening meal .

Chateau de Noyelles LF23052Walking past Chateau de Noyelles, which includes parts of the Chateau du Crotoy there is a modest plaque, easily missed, that commemorates the imprisonment there of Joan of Arc (Jehanne d’Arc) between 21 November and 20 December 1430 before her eventual execution by the English in May 1431. Across the road is memorial to sailors lost at sea; a reminder that Le Crotoy has always been a working fishing por. Just beyond, high over the beach, is the strikingly turreted Les Tourelles hotel and restaurant. As we walked back the kite surfers had disappeared with the sea, the tide goes out a very long way leaving sandy mud flats and shallow pools with trapped small wildlife. Staying at Le Crotoy was an opportunity well taken in the best traditions of The Winding Way – seize the moment.

Jean dArc Plaque Le Crotoy LF23050During the evening the aire got busy and eventually filled up completely. It remained quiet but we woke in the night to the sound of heavy rain. The rain was still hammering on the roof of our campervan at breakfast time and we had to make some decisions. We had planned to visit the market at nearby Saint Valery but that was not going to be pleasant in the downpour and the train trip would not fulfil its purpose of getting photographs in better weather. Without time constraints we would have continued to travel slowly and head towards more pleasant weather but for this trip we only had two weeks due to work commitments. After many weeks of constant rain in Britain we were desperate to see some sun and blue skies. Sadly we decided to write off the day and use the time we would have spent reading in the ‘van because of the rain to drive and find some better weather.

So we set off across the Brittany peninsula towards the Vendée and some sun. The market and the train will have to wait. It rained pretty well all day but we had had a pleasant, albeit brief, stop in Le Crotoy, a very pleasant town. There is very much more to explore in due course.

 

Kite Surfers - Panorama LF23025

 

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