Nevertheless, as much as we miss those magical moments,
admittedly there are times when we get too wound up in
the one-track-mind-melt of a whirlwind travel adventure.
With too many "to-do" lists and over-planned goal fulfilment --
guilty as charged -- a feeling of overwhelming stress knocks us flat.
Yeah, it's happened to me too.
So that's why, in the middle of my holiday extravaganza
I've started planning a vacation-from-my-vacation.
It's not the usual strategy -- an exhaustive list of must-see stops.
Instead, I cherry-pick an out-of-the-way village that's a
quick train ride away from the city I'm staying in.
A day of just hanging out -- no expectations, limited brain function
and zero stress -- leaving just enough room for the satisfaction of knowing
you've achieved nothing more than a clean bill of physical & mental health.
And you know what -- it works like a charm.
Little Le Croisic is a town so steeped in Breton charm
you'd expect it to be in the heart of Brittany.
Amazingly, it's not.
Just a bit more than an hour's train ride from the unforgettable city of Nantes,
Le Croisic is situated in the seaside sector of the Loire-Atlantique.
Come take a slow walk with me.
"I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
Douglas Adams, English author/screenwriter
Located on the Guerande Peninsula -- where you'll find salt pans gleaming under
the bright sun -- it's a resort town revered for its local seafood specialties.
Tiny pink shrimp* called le bouquet du Croisic, are just one of
the many fresh-from-the-sea delicacies to look for.
The area is charmingly called the Route des Coquillages**,
known and appreciated for their highly specialized cockle farming.
*la crevette rose
**the shellfish trail
Granite houses, colorful creperies and uncommon specialty stores line the harbor.
Since the 16th century, salt has been exported from the nearby marshes.
Delicate fleur-de-sel -- the "white gold" of France --
offers the indescribable salty tang of the beach.
Along with fresh sea air, it's a living postcard, the ultimate
"port in a storm" -- where you'll find instant comfort and perfect calm.
August when hundreds of seafood-loving pleasure-seekers descend
on the small town to celebrate the blessing of the fisherman.
A blowout of food, traditional music, fireworks and dancing make
for one big party though in truth, boats have lined the historic
harbor for this event since 1893.
All come to honor those who have perished at sea.
It hardly surprising that Le Croisic plays host to a literary event each fall.
A book fair is logical when you consider all the writers & poets who
convened on the town gathering inspiration for their work.
The great Honoré de Balzac once gushed over its natural beauty,
comparing Le Croisic to Venice in an open sea.
High praise indeed.
"Vulgar souls look hastily and superficially at the sea and accuse it of monotony; other more privileged beings could spend a lifetime admiring and discovering
new and changing phenomena that delight them. So it is with love."
Honoré de Balzac
It was gloriously crowd-free and the weather was exquisite.
*I recommend going mid-week if all possible to avoid crowds.
This little piece of heaven is tailor-made for a slow stroll.
Drop into the bakery AND the chocolate shop, calories be damned.
Say oui to some gorgeously tinned sardines or a bag or two of the local salt.
Check into a few of the adorable little gift shops where you're sure to
find something to light up your memory years from now.
Coastal walks and pretty parks surround the town but if you've got little
more than rest and relaxation in mind, stop at a local creperie and dig in.
Begin with a savory galette -- that's a crepe made with
buckwheat flour -- perhaps filled with ham and cheese or for the
adventurous palate, one with seared scallops and caramelized mushrooms.
Order a hard cider to go alongside and follow with a with salted butter caramel
dessert crepe if you still find room in your well gratified tummy.
Perfect comfort, perfect vacation food, perfect triumph.
"There are times when we stop, we sit still, we listen and
breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper."
James Carroll, American author & journalist
ocean views and crashing waves you might expect.
Nothing but a narrow channel of water allows boats into the historic harbor.
If you desire wider ocean views, venture a bit further
and the wild Atlantic will greet you.
If you prefer a "deeper" view, head -- close to an hour away -- to the Océarium,
a major tourist attraction that features sharks, penguins
and every category of sea life you can imagine.
in Le Croisic to fly combat patrols.
Seaplanes flew in and out as hordes of American troops landed
to protect the coast and the cause of the French/American alliance.
As told by Jesse George Schmidt, Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Navy, Vanderburg County, Indiana:
"I was attached to the Le Croisic Naval air station which patrolled and convoyed
all vessels in and out of St. Nazaire, France on the Loire River.
It was claimed that over a third of all the American troops landed there and
more left for USA from there after the war, and not a vessel was lost
after the Americans took over the air station at Le Croisic, which was due
to their alert convoy and patrol duty, as stated in a letter to the commanding officer
of the station, by the French Admiral, in commendation of sector."*
*quote from WWIVets.com
During WWII, the tables were turned.
This time, it was the Nazi forces who gained control of Le Croisic.
Their singular goal was to build a radar station.
The mission was clear: Protect nearby Saint-Nazaire
where the lethal fleet of German submarines were stationed.
Remarkably, in 1942, their mission was subverted by the brave efforts
of the British Royal Navy and British Commandos in a historic raid
that helped stem the tide of the war.
Operation Chariot was a stunning success for the Allies' war effort.
"The world must know what happened, and never forget."
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President
Anita Desai, Indian novelist
Uncomplicated, unpretentious, little Le Croisic is a lesson
in the joys found in the simple pleasures of life.
Don't we live for that ONE GLORIOUS MOMENT where we feel
the wind in our hair and the sun on our face?
So settle down and discover your own personal piece of heaven.
This is a great place to take a time out for YOU.
Just like real life, I'm sure there are rainy days on
this gorgeous little maze of streets in the Loire-Atlantique.
But just like real life -- and frenzied holidays -- a day that includes some
time-out time may just revive your vacation spirit -- come rain or shine.
"Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back
and realize they were the big things."
Robert Brault, author
For my money, I prefer to sneak in a mini vacation-from-my-vacation.
A town like Le Croisic is a perfectly lovely way to spend a few precious
hours doing as much nothing as humanly possible.
Remember, you can always be energetic tomorrow.
The moment you start to get too serious on your furlough-from-real-life,
take into account these wise words:
"Life goes by fast. Enjoy it. Calm down. It's all funny."
Joan Rivers, American Comic Legend
Bon voyage friends!