Wow. It’s October already, which means only about three weeks left in France. We WILL come back, but with no firm plans to return, Father Time is clamoring for my attention.
Rather apt then that Saturday Jacky and Pascale took us to Noirmoutier (where the salt is harvested that goes in my favorite butter). This was an adventure that ended up being very much about time. They picked us up at 9:30 for a full day of fun. I had put my camera in the trunk–oops–so missed a few photo ops on the way, including . . . a random Bactrian camel sighting! Yup. Several double-hump camels hanging out in a field at the side of the road.
No worries, though. This day offered plenty more to see.
We left when we did specifically so we would get to Noirmoitier in time to take le passage du Gois, a 4.5 km road that is underwater except for a couple of hours at marée basse (low tide). Arriving on the island, we stopped to take a few photos and were just in time to see these go by:
The people you see walking out on the sea floor are out there to pêche à pied (“fish on foot”) which means to dig for mussels, scallops and the like, but they have to keep an eye on the time as well. I zoomed in to take the photo below and then cropped to enlarge further, so the people in this photo are actually WAY OUT THERE.
If you do lose track of time and/or underestimate the speed of the returning tide (faster than you think), you may need to abandon your car and scramble up one of these:
(Check out YouTube for videos of those who have taken their chances with the tide. Search Passage du Gois and you’ll find plenty.)
Noirmoutier is a good two hours from La Rochelle, but Jacky drove with his customary good humor. Pascale had done her homework, navigating through all the rondpoints (roundabouts), which was fortunate, since the GPS was not terribly trustworthy, and actually insisted several times that we were driving through the middle of fields! Pascale had chosen le chemin des écoliers (the scenic route)–literally “the way of schoolboys,” but we did stay on the roads.
Pascale had also prepared the entire pique-nique. (Sometimes we’re allowed to contribute wine!) This was our third pique-nique with them—here are the first and second–and this time she was holding out for an actual table, preferably à l’ombre (in the shade). Again, timing was everything. After directing Jacky up and down various lanes to no avail, we finally found the last empty table in here right before several other groups came looking.
We took our time and enjoyed it thoroughly. After the usual multi-course feast, we headed out . . .
. . . for a walk sur la plage . . .
. . . and a little scrambling over the rocks . . .
Then a bit more touring around the island before heading back to the mainland, this time over the bridge, and a final scenic stop here:
The gleaming light on the sea tells us it’s time to call it a day.
There’s a story told in one of the French novels I’ve read in the last few weeks, where a game of sorts is explained. Each day you wake up, and the bank has put into your account 86,400 dollars. There are only two rules: 1) You can spend them however you like, but anything you don’t spend by the end of the day goes away. 2) The bank can close your account at any time without warning. So, how would you spend it? The man in the story answered much as most of us likely would: he’d spend it to give pleasure and happiness to himself and those he loved, and even to those in other places that he didn’t know–he didn’t think he could spend that much day after day after day on just himself and his loved ones. The twist in this supposedly theoretical game is that it’s real, and we all have an account with the «banque magique». We are given every day 86,400 seconds of life to spend as we choose, and aren’t seconds of life even more important than dollars?*
Many thanks, yet again, to Pascale and Jacky for spending theirs with us. How will you spend yours?
*Translated and paraphrased from Et si c’était vrai . . . by Marc Levy