Les Sables d’Olonne

Monsieur and I recently found ourselves in the searing hot Vendée region of France. On arrival it was forty degrees in the shade and the land was baking. The beach beckoned, so off we set for the coast for a swim. As it was still holiday season, we knew it would be busy, but the scene that greeted us at Les Sables d’Olonne reminded me of a real-life Ken Done painting; there was barely a square of sand free upon which to park our bottoms.

Even from a distance, the beach could be seen to crawl with hot, pink, sweaty bodies.

A short walk away was the lively little port, filled with fishing boats and gin palaces, afternoon excursion boats heading out to sea, yachts and hungry folk scratching their heads as they tried to decide which of the myriad eateries should get their business.

Here’s a romantic little boat we spied setting off for an evening sail:

Across the harbour, it would seem that the Entente Cordiale is alive and well at this frozen storage facility for the maritime co-op:

Back on our side of the water a local waits patiently for his dinner to take the bait:

Les Sables is really quite a pretty town, with an armour-clad winged victory atop its war memorial, looking suitably businesslike, yet stylish.

In spite of the armadillo-style fleece, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a sheep that this wolf is ogling. Dinner time?

It was for us, and now we were the ones scratching our heads as we trotted back and forth along the port-side promenade, trying to decide where to eat.

In summary: Les Sables d’Olonne is a lovely little seaside  town, but don’t go there on a hot, sunny weekend, unless sardining yourself on the sand is your idea of fun. The water isn’t particularly clear, either (read into that what you will). Food-wise, you’ll be spoilt for choice, especially on the port-side, but be warned: you’ll need to be patient to find a good deal in high season – walk around and look at ALL the menus before making your choice. If you go on a weekday, however, the fish market by the port sells all sorts of seafood, sauces and even wine, all of which would make a great addition to any picnic, and at  reasonable prices.

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