The first four nights of our Big French Summer Holiday were spent on Île d'oléron, France's second largest island after Corsica. The Rough Guide says it's a laidback and tranquil place until July and August when it becomes filled with campervans.
I'm sorry to be one of those campervans and sorry too that I don't recognise that description. Sure we arrived on the island in a slow convoy of vehicles crossing the bridge from the mainland in both directions. But following our sat nav's directions, after a couple of turns off the main road, there wasn't a single other vehicle on the road.
Our campsite, Camping Indigo Oleron Les Chenes Verts, was the only such settlement on about four miles of unspoiled beach. The dunes and woodlands behind the beach are a protected nature reserve and laid back and tranquil are both very fitting adjectives.
After squeezing Cleopatra and her awning between the trees we set off to explore the beach. We walked for about 45 minutes, seeing the groups of beach dwellers lessen, grow again around a water sports hut and thin out once again. We quickly decided which part of the beach we'd set ourselves up the next day.
We walked through the woods on the way back and it was here I was bitten on both ankles by mosquitoes. We were both very hot and sweaty and then it began to rain. But, as I think I alluded to in my previous blog entry, I already knew I would enjoy these first four days of our Big French Summer Holiday.
Showered and feeling human again we cooked chicken breast pieces in a Moroccan inspired sauce, enjoying them piled on top of tortilla chips with tomato and cucumber salad. It was washed down with a strong lager we'd bought during a quick stop at Lidl just before we crossed the bridge to the island.
Our first full day started with the sun shining; a perfect beach day and we walked back along the sand until reaching our ideal spot. It stayed sunny until 3pm and we read our books and swam until the clouds persuaded us to head back to the van for a late lunch.
Lunch was a large pork pie cut into three slices each, with salad and potato salad. Once devoured we decided to put the evening's beef stifado on to cook. One of our favorite Greek dishes, a cinnamon and dill infused stew with meat and baby shallots, it is best when slow cooked for several hours.
It felt just like our usual Greek-island summer holidays when we came to enjoy it that evening, using the remaining end of our French stick to mop up the sweet juices.