Trouble in Paradise
We’d been planning our trip to the Ile de Re for months – not only would we get two weeks with our extended family on the island but also two weeks with the Brazilianvwbay crew as they met in the middle of our three-week holiday.
The journey down to Portsmouth was fine and we met my daughter, Lindsay, her husband Mark and his daughter, Becca, at the ferry terminal. After a lovely meal in the restaurant, we eventually disembarked at around 9am, having had to wait for an inconsiderate family, who didn’t come back to their car until 20 minutes after everyone else, effectively blocking our exit. The crew tried to get Alison to reverse, but, as we all know, that’s just not possible with the trailer attached.
Whilst our journey to the site at Le Bois Plage was straightforward, my other daughter, Jodie and her family had a nightmare getting there. They were travelling by train from Accrington to Preston, then to London, to catch the Eurostar to Paris and that part of the journey went smoothly enough. They’d booked a night in Paris before catching a TGV to La Rochelle on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, all trains were cancelled in and out of Paris and they were sent from station to station, in an effort to leave the city, all to no avail. They had to spend another night in Paris before catching a train to Bordeaux, then one to St Pierre de Corps, another to Poitiers and, finally, one to La Rochelle. When you’ve got two young children (one off whom is only two), a journey like that is the last you need for a calm relaxing holiday.
The final four members of the family were flying in from Gatwick to La Rochelle and guess what, their plane was also delayed – they finally got to the campsite at 11.45pm on Sunday.
Our first week started well with warm sunshine and a trip to the market at Le Bois Plage. It was great to have the family along and to get together at night for a drink and a chat.
On Tuesday night, though, things took a turn for the worse. In the evening. I hadn’t felt too well but thought I’d maybe been in the sun too long, as we’d taken the younger children to the beach and the pool in the afternoon. I was alternatively burning up with a fever, then shaking uncontrollably, feeling cold. We assumed I’d got heatstroke but it also affected my toilet requirements and I was up at least 6 times during the night to head to the toilet block.
All day Wednesday, I felt rough, and was keeping out of the sun and sleeping in the van. I took some Cuprofen but still didn’t feel much better. This continued through Thursday, and meant that Alison was trapped on site with me, going stir crazy. On Friday, when I still wasn’t well, she went to reception and managed to make an appointment to see a doctor in Le Bois Plage. By then we were pretty sure I’d got a urinary infection and, frankly, I was in agony. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics but we had to go to a laboratory in St Martin to give a urine sample and to collect the tablets. Unfortunately, the lady in the lab didn’t speak English so that was an interesting experience.
As a treat, we popped into a fish and chip shop close to the pharmacy but the fish was a bit of a disappointment (soggy batter) and there were no mushy peas (fish and chips without Yorkshire caviar? Surely not…)
Saturday was another day at the van, although the antibiotics were taking some of the burning sensations away. The doctor said I’d need to take the antibiotics for 3 weeks and we had to go back the next week when he had the lab results.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Kombi Krew were on their way from England so I crawled out of my sickbed and we went to reception to find out which pitches they were on, so we could let them know before they arrived. I may have had a rant about some folk wanting to change pitches – organising the trip for everyone hadn’t been easy and feeling the way I did may have pushed me over the edge! We also went to the restaurant to book a table for 9 of them to eat on Sunday evening after the drive down from St Malo.
On Sunday morning we took the Mini and drove to the E.Leclerc supermarket in St Martin to stock up on nibbles and cider to welcome them all to the island – they all arrived around 3pm and it was great to catch up. We all had a lovely evening at our pitch and we were really looking forward to the next two weeks.
On Monday, I wasn’t too good (maybe too excitement the night before?) so we stayed on site for the day.
We had a lie in until 9am on Tuesday and were chatting to Jodie and Simon over a coffee when we were amazed to see a large contingent of the Kombi people cycle past our pitch, headed to La Flotte. No one had told us anything about the trip and suddenly we felt very excluded and sad that our friends would leave us out. Alison was in bits; alternatively angry and then in tears – she’s the most caring of people and would never leave anyone out. So started a horrible few days, where we kept ourselves to ourselves and spent time with our family.
Just before we left home, Alison was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration in one of her eyes and is having a monthly course of injections into her left eyeball – it’s age related, but also, linked to her smoking. She bought an e-cig before we left, determined to stop whilst we were away, but the stress of events has driven her back to her cigarettes. Hopefully, we can get her some help when we get home.
On a lighter note, it’s been great having the spare car to use for trips to the supermarket and one day we took our granddaughter to Ars en Re for the afternoon to give her Mum and Dad a break. It was great fun, as was she. She’s such a lovely smiley child – a real pleasure to be with, as is her sister, Aimee and her cousin, Becca. Alison had a special treat, as she got to do something she hasn’t done for over 20 years; change a dirty nappy! I’m pleased to say that the technique hasn’t changed and neither has the contents…
Lindsay, Mark and Becca left on Friday morning to drive to St Malo where they were staying the night, before catching the ferry home on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, we caught the bus into St Martin and had lunch with other family members before heading back to the site for a tequila night with the young ones.
We’d been on the beach on Thursday night with a fire log (Scotorch from www.reservoirlogs.co.uk) when the fun police (aka security) came over, one of them turned the log upside down with his foot and pushed it into the sand. He also informed us that alcohol wasn’t allowed on the beach and finally, made it clear that we should put our Carambar bar wrappers in the poubelle. Whatever happened to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?
We’d been using the free island buses quite a lot but one day they seemed to be massively behind schedule. This continued for a few days before they got back to normal and I suspect one of them must have been out of service. Public transport on Re is excellent with regular buses and it’s only €1 return to the far end of the island. To get to La Rochelle over the bridge, a journey of around an hour, is only €5 return – a bargain in any language.
On Saturday, we drove the van to the Aquarium in La Rochelle – its very close to the station where Jodie, Simon and family were getting the train back to Paris on their way home. We managed to fit a visit to the aquarium in, although if you’re a kid, once you’ve seen one fish you’ve probably seen enough. The sharks were impressive and probably a bit scary too, if you’re a little ‘un!
We stayed in La Rochelle for the rest of the day, so missed the Kombi cruise to the island which had been planned by the others for Saturday. The rest of the gang went to the night market in Le Bois on Sunday night, but, again, this didn’t work for us as we had to take the remaining family members to the airport for their flight home.
Whilst in La Rochelle, we stumbled upon the fish market and a small café which allowed guests to collect food from the market on a tray and eat it at their tables. Even though the market was closing I was able to buy a platter of seafood from a nearby fish shop and bring it back for us to enjoy. Alison expected me to bring oysters back but, instead, I chose the crustacean platter, which had half a crab each, langoustines, prawns, whelks and winkles. It was delicious and we washed it down with a glass of wine and a bowl of frites.
On Sunday evening we dropped the youngest offspring of at the airport in La Rochelle, for their flight back to Gatwick.
Free of family, we’ve been using the Bromptons to visit the small towns and villages on the island, although mine needed some work on it, as the front wheel seemed out of line and was catching the brake block, making progress more difficult. I sorted it and the going was much easier the next day.
Tony and Gina joined us on our pitch on Sunday night for a chat, which was lovely of them and it was nice to catch up on what they’d been up to on the island.
The weather on Monday was the best we’d seen since we arrived – wall to wall sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s. Alison dragged me to the beach for a few hours (it’s not my natural environment – not since Greenpeace tried to re-float me into the sea, thinking I was stranded and separated from my pod…) In the evening, a couple of French lads came round wanting to exchange a large marrow for some other vegetables! Not knowing what the current exchange rate was, we declined, but they swapped it for some kitchen roll from our German neighbours, then headed to other pitches to try their luck with other exchanges. I imagine it was some form of Gallic humour, but definitely not as funny as ‘Allo, ‘allo…
We had a couple of great days cycling to Loix and St Marie. This last village is the largest on the island by population but is one we usually just drive past. We biked there on Wednesday and bought some things from the market to eat later, as well as grabbing a quick beer before cycling to the beach path. We had half an hour on the beach then followed the cycle path round to a large park where we bought some frites and a can of Heineken for lunch. The trip turned into one of food stops, as we stopped off later at a boulangerie for a coffee and a cake, before heading back to the site.
The other Campervanners were having a wine and cheese evening but we aren’t up to mixing in a group yet so, whilst Alison headed to the beach, I read a book and chilled on our pitch. A meal of ham, figs, mozzarella and tomatoes was washed down with some Pastis and some wine – another lovely day in one of our favourite places, despite the unexpected circumstances. As I explained to one of the Forum members, we’d always been planning to come back to Re this year, so spending most of the last week on our own wasn’t an issue.
We joined the leaving convoy headed to St Malo and an overnight stop at a Campanile hotel, before we all caught the ferry back to Portsmouth.
We were one of the last on, which meant one of the first off and our Satnav said we’d be back by 10.37, but this proved to be wildly optimistic. Trouble started on the M3 and then we hit a nightmare on the M6 which was closed between junctions 16 and 17.
We eventually got home at 1.44 on Monday morning – fortunately, Alison had switched her working days to Tuesday and Thursday otherwise, she’d have been one sleepy bunny in the office.
So, overall, we had a good time. We probably won’t go on another Kaper in this format, but events didn’t entirely dampen our enthusiasm.
Things we’ve learned:
It can be very cold at night on the island, even in August
Raheem is a star at delivering breakfast
The Ile de Re is still a magical place
Alison and I still love each other’s company
I definitely don’t like Marmite
Nothing beats sitting outside the van on a hot August night, chilling with a glass of wine