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Ile de Ré is off the northwest coast of France. You get off the train in LaRochelle and take a bus to whichever of the 11 villages where you’ll be staying. I booked an AirBnb apartment in Courarde-sur-Mer, one of the quieter communities.

Pretty much France’s Cape Cod, it had been on my to-check-out list for a while. Mizzou college chum Janet Westbrook Nauta came visiting from Delaware and said she’d like to go, too. Mid-September, just after the high summer season is optimal timing.


If I were to go again, I would book Saint-Martin, much larger.

Frequent invasions by the English led Saint-Martin to become a walled-in city.

  Saint Martin lighthouse

My afternoon in Saint-Martin included climbing the 118 steps up its cathedral’s spire to get an overall view of the town.

Other finds were the local specialty, soap made from she-ass milk, in other words, milk from female donkeys.

Then the penitentiary sign I walked past. I thought, surely, it was a defunct one, but it turns out to be France’s Alcatraz – where the most dangerous of criminals are sent, still very much in operation. Papillon and other infamous cases left from Ile de Ré for French Guiana prisons (a practice that ended in 1938).


Saint Martin Ile de Ré

Ile de Ré  

All of this was to kill time until a three-hour catamaran cruise started.

It was this kind of a day.


Not to mention skipper Benoit...

skipper Benoit

Ile de Ré  


As on any island, a highpoint is seafood. Of course, I had to try its joues de lottes (fish cheeks), one of the more esoteric offerings.

When I mentioned that I had had cod tongues in Nova Scotia before, the vendor gladly showed me where each part came from. Cheeks are really cheeks (by the side of the mouth). The aforementioned tongue is really the gullet leading down from the mouth toward the stomach.

Maybe this is more information than I need to know, but, boy, am I equipped for the next triva quiz!


In other fish-related news –

I happened upon a group of mostly women walking along staring at the sand with a bucket in one hand and a box of salt in the other. What were they doing?

Looking for razor shell clams. If you see what looks like a barbell outline in the sand and sprinkle salt on it, in about 10 seconds it pops out, and it’s yours. One woman said she got 40 that morning.

  Ile de Ré
Many thanks to Janat for agreeing to go with me to explore this new place as well as recap a considerable past.   Ile de Ré

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