Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ile de Ré

Here it is the end of our 5th week in France and I have some catching up to do! We have had an exciting week, including a celebration of Bastille Day, but those details will have to wait. Going back a bit now to the end of our fourth week here in France, we took off early Friday morning for our third excursion, which took us to the Ile de Ré. Just off the Atlantic coast, next to La Rochelle, this flat island that stretches only about 19 miles long and 3 miles wide is part of the department of Charente-Maritime in the region of Poitou-Charentes, and is labeled as B below:
The Ile de Ré is well known for the production of sea salt, which became evident as soon as we drove onto the island since there were large piles of salt scattered across the fields. After about three hours in the bus from the time we left Saumur, we first arrived to a lighthouse called le
Phare des Baleines, which gets its name from the large number of whales (baleines) that can be sighted there. Students had the opportunity to climb the (very long) spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse to take pictures. We had an excellent view of the Atlantic, with the waves crashing into the shore below. After our quick visit there, we continued along the island to a town called St Martin en Ré, where the students ate their lunches (once again, picnics provided by their host families) on a little hill with a nice view of the ocean. One of the most striking things about being in a seaside town is the smell of the salty air that wafts in with a cool breeze. With a bit of sunshine, we had a very agreeable early afternoon, and the students took advantage of it to explore the town and its small streets and shops. Caramels made with the local sea salt (fleur de sel) are apparently well known across France and seemed to be sold just about everywhere here. After a good amount of time in St Martin, we headed to the highlight of our excursion--the beach!

When leaving our beautiful and sunny Saumur, however, there is always a risk of running into some bad weather. While it didn't rain more than a few scattered sprinkles, we unfortunately didn't have as much sun as we would have liked. This of course did not stop us from enjoying our
outing to the beach--the stagiaires made the most of it and ended up having a rather good time. A few of the brave students did a little swimming, though the water was quite a bit colder than that of the Channel a week ago. Students had a great time swimming with the small waves that washed ashore, though after not too long, the combination of cold water and a cool wind coaxed everyone back onto the beach. Meanwhile, some students had been walking along the shore or lying down on the sand. Others began digging in the sand, and then they kept digging, and digging, and then others joined in in the digging,
until a rather impressive pit had been created. Students also helped collect the smooth white stone seen in the photo above to label our latest group photo. Our outing was a great ending to a fairly rigorous week of regular classes, and the students seemed enjoy having the time to relax and have fun together. It was especially good considering that this was their last excursion before Paris, and the time in between is quite hectic (in a good way, of course!).

Coming up soon is a summary of week 5, so stay posted. Unfortunately, the video I mentioned in the last post is in a format I'm not able to post to the blog or the photo website, and I haven't found a good way (or a free way, anyway) to convert it, so unless I find the time to fiddle around with it a bit more, I'm afraid it's a lost cause. Désolé!

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