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Posts from the ‘beach’ Category

Saint Nazaire–La Baule

After 75 clicks, a 5 1/2 hour ride, and the windy crossing of a 4 km suspension bridge spanning the Loire, we arrived in Saint Nazaire at 17 H Thursday evening…


…and bid adieu to our familiar and friendly bikes…

IMG_2452…called a taxi and sat down with the best beer I’ve ever tasted…

IMG_2456…and arrived in la Baule…

IMG_2459…dipped our toes in the Atlantic…

IMG_2465…and ate some crêpes Saint Jacques a la Bretagne to celebrate our achievement.

582 km (362 miles) in total over 9 days.

So much more to the story, and I’m excited to share it with you when I have more to work with than my iPhone.

Strangely I’m missing my bike and the daily ride, but pleased as punch and looking forward to a few days of chillin’ on the beach, playing cards, and catching up with friends.

Stay tuned for the details…


No. 352: The Paris Plages

paris_plages-beaches.jpgThere is one more cool thing to love about Paris—the Paris Plages. Sunday was the last day of this annual beach party, and remarkably, the moody sun decided to shine for the two hours we were there.

Okay, so it is not quite the Côte d’Azur, but I think it is one fantastic idea to transform a 4-kilometer stretch of the Right Bank of the Seine into a free fanciful faux beach for one month of the year. We have spent a couple of great afternoons on this urban beach enjoying the sand, sun, and gorgeous setting. It seems a bit strange to be lying out on a comfy beach loungers staring up at the Pont Neuf and the Conciergerie contemplating the fate of Marie-Antoinette, but then, this is Paris.

Some pretty great designers must have been involved in developing this concept and the enthusiastic support of the city government doesn’t hurt. Personally, I love all the different types of seating options available. You can choose from blue loungers on a white sand beach to huge colorful bean bags nearly spilling into the river, to large sail-like sun beds made for two, and café chairs on a freshly laid lawn. There are no shortage of things to keep you occupied: ballroom dancing lessons, swimming pools and misters, trampolines and dirt biking, art studios and playgrounds for kids, free massages for adults, foosball and pétanque, and of course, beachside cafés. The street entertainers run the gamut from classical Chinese zither players to opera singers to in-your-face hip-hop troops. If you can’t figure out what to do, you can ask one of the extremely friendly “plagistes”. Or you can simply admire the professional sandcastle builders as they sculpt their masterpieces while you enjoy your speculoos glace.

Ice cream, sand, friends and sunshine equals a perfect day in Paris.


look what I found! (Check out my previous post: Eiffel’s Red Café Chair Tower.)



No. 323-325: The City of Painters, Matisse Encore and André Derain

Making our way across southern France on what we are calling our farewell tour, we passed through the Languedoc coastal region, an area heavily influenced by the Moors, Charlemagne, and of course Spain. We landed in the small resort town of Collioure, 15 minutes from the Spanish border, in what is arguably one of the worst hotels we have ever stayed in, but literally a stone’s throw away from la plage and the action of this enticing seaside village. It takes a good day for the place to grow on you. It is hard to get over the peak season crowds, the complete lack of parking, and the blaring nightlife. But in the end, the pastel houses like so many cool shavings of Italian ice and the perfectly pebble beaches have won us over.

What I find breathtaking about Collioure is the cacophony of color. From the beach umbrellas and bikinis to the rooftops and shutters to the sailboats’ sails and covers, this one time fishing hamlet is a visual banquet. A once-mighty fortress, a winking lighthouse, and a churning windmill enhance the town’s delicious scene, all nestled in the shade of the magnificent Pyrenees. Collioure_france7.jpg The saturation, sharpness, and shifting of colors is terrifically appealing. While Venice has her mystical light and the blending and bending of water and color that sometimes blurs the edges, Collioure has her petulant perimeters and distinctive frames. At any given time of the day, the Mediterranean turns from a calming turquoise to a deep azure to a stark cobalt blue. The rooftops roll from cool clay, to burnt orange, to fiery brown. Broad palm trees bind the boardwalk, their trunks and fronds so deliberate and precise, proof to me at least, that the gods were involved in shaping this marvelous canvas.


I suspect that Henri Matisse, André Derain, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso shared this belief too. Scattered throughout the museums of Europe are marvelous paintings inspired by their own visits to this enchanting seaside town and the colorful Catalan harbor. The tourist office makes it easy to follow in the footsteps of Matisse and Derain with “Le chemin du Fauvisme”, a route lined with copies of their works placed at the spots where they were originally painted, allowing viewers to compare the paintings to the existing view.

Following the narrow cobbled streets through the charming chalk-colored houses dripping with Bougainvillea, the view of the sea is always a constant, and it is easy to understand why Collioure is considered the birthplace of the Fauvist Movement. According to Derain, the rare quality of the light was their muse; and as Matisse claimed, “No sky in all France is more blue than that of Collioure.” Today, Collioure is still a thriving art town with around thirty different artists living and painting here. It is a gem of a ville. If I had the talent to paint, I would make it my home too.


No.296: Normandie—Mont Saint Michel


Abbey steep, thrust there, far from land,

as a mansion fantastic, amazing as

a dream palace, strange and improbably beautiful “



“The church was magical

the sun streaming in

the divine voices echoing off the walls

I adored the abbey

the mud was scrumdillilious

the best mud ever…”


Between rock and sea, a sheer-sided citadel-like abbey rises 80-metres out of the sand and water magnificently dominating the surrounding low-lying region of Normandie. This is Mont Saint Michel. Towering above an immense bay beset by the highest tides in Europe, the sea spills in over a dozen miles in the space of just a few hours, creating one of the most breathtaking sites in France.

Mont Saint Michel dates back to the 700s when at the “request” of the Archangel Michel a local bishop consecrated a small church on the point. Over the centuries Benedictines monks settled on the rock and continued building an abbey and monastery. During the Hundred Years War military construction was added to fortify the compound. In the early Middle Ages ascetic Christians known as hermits chose this site to live in complete poverty, and in an attempt to be closer to God, continued to the abbey towards the heavens.

It became a great spiritual and intellectual centre and was one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the western world. Multitudes of men, women, and children arrived by the paths to paradise—hoping for “the assurance of eternity, given by the Archangel at judgment.”

During the days of the French Revolution, the abbey was ransacked and nearly demolished and the remains were turned into a prison. It was restored in the 19th century and is now considered one of France’s national treasures.

Although an active religious community resides in Mont Saint Michel and it is still a place of pilgrimage for the faithful, it is now more of a Mecca of buzzing tourists. Over three million visitors make the trek each year. Aside from the astounding citadel-abbey and IMAX-like vista, tourists come to play in the tides. If you have ever been to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado you will understand exactly what type of sands surround the castle. At times the sea travels under the sand, creating traitorous pockets of quicksand, but most of the time it is merely harmless sinking sand, ready to delighting the young and old alike.

The small Normand village of inns, shops and taverns nestled below the abbey was built to house and water the pilgrims at the end of their journey. Nowadays as Superman rather crankily observed, “it represents the worst of humanity, packed like sardines” and pushing forward without regard for others. I was less bothered by the crowds. Instead they gave me an appreciation for what it must have been like centuries ago. The junky trinkets, hawking vendors, and overpriced scrummy eateries were all there to welcome the original pilgrims. Some things don’t change. At least we were afforded the modern conveniences of sewers and showers, clean drinking water and health codes. No plagues or rats; no stench of unbathed travelers, although the numbers of extremely overweight visitors—French no less—was an unsettling reminder of what awaits us in America.

Nonetheless, this picturesque meeting point of sand, sea, and sky, is a trip worth making.

No. 295: Après-midi à Honfleur

Un après-midi à Honfleur as noted by Button and Maman…


water, sun, and sails

kaleidoscopes of color glide by


soaring skinny houses crisscrossed

and slanted

smashed together

on purpose


climb atop the steep knoll

view le vieux port

the English Channel and the Seine

all at one time

straddling it

the bridge to tomorrow

Normandie’s silver harp


fruits de mer

and black muscles


balls of apple glace

swimming in Calvados

tarte tatin

turned upside down


seafaring chapels eager to float

anchors and flowering croix

glorious cows

startling tongues

longing to plant kisses

on their noses

beyond the fence


artists past and present

remember to paint

vibrant sizzles

hankering for shorts

as the bridge went up

and the sailboats

went under



No. 294: Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville


Moseying along the red ironwood boardwalk today, I finally decided to look up why the beach cabins lining the walkway are named after American actors and directors. What I discovered is that each cabana is named for an American cinema icon who has attended the resort’s Festival du Cinéma Américain de Deauville.

The festival began in the mid-1970s and was first created to “prolong the summer and illuminate the boardwalk with starlight…”

According to the festival’s website, which could use a bit of English editing…the Deauville American Cinema Festival has been the ephemeral site where young and rising American directors are discovered and acknowledged. A space for films where dreams come to life, nurturing the coalescence of the collective imagination linked to the greatest cinematography in the world: yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s projected on the big screen; a whole industry and its stars and its legends. This is the America of the cinema: this is American Cinema.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the festival and, boy howdy, I would love to go. It is the only film festival in the world that offers the general film-loving public 10-day, 24/24 access to every film screened.

Hmm…I feel a girls’ week brewing!

Book your pass here.



No. 293: Un Homme et une Femme

The wide golden seashore in Deauville plays a leading role in Un Homme et une Femme, the 1966 French film by Claude Lelouch that won nearly 50 international awards (including the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film). It also led to decades of romantic road trips and rendezvous to this famous seaside town. While strolling along the storied boardwalk last evening, I came across this plaque, and was reminded that I needed to rewatch this classic romance with the impossibly gorgeous and very French Anouk Aimée.


If you haven’t seen the film, I am sure your subconscious is familiar with the ba-da-ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-ba-da-ba song by Francis Lai and Pierre Barouh which nips in and out of scenes throughout the film.

If you have seen it, as most good Francophiles have, you will remember that much of the film is told wordlessly through either very dramatic action, or through hearing the characters’ thoughts as they talk themselves through life. Watching it again this morning, it was hard not to giggle and I still haven’t shaken the da-ba-da-ba-das from my brain. If you need to swoon and grin and want a groovy soundtrack to carry your day, take a look at this celebrated beach scene from the strands of romantic Deauville. Bonne séance!