Nantes – Pornic
Nantes, a city! No doubt about that. It weren’t for the high rises, McDonald’s, Subways and other international slave chains that I so gladly left behind, I’d haven been able to tell by the simple fact that my sense of direction was completely out of the window. It’s 4pm. I’m completely beasted after a more than proper days pushing and chilled to the bone, even after all that skating within an hour of arriving.
There I am, phone in hand, making circles so I can get a grasp of wether in facing north or south, looking like a lost sole. I get my bearings and then spend another 10 mins deciding which way it actually is I need to be facing. Mr brain isn’t working correctly! My RAM is overloaded or something, trying to run a next gen game on a 2600 when the whole idea of this trip was the complete opposite. Fatigue. Must be creeping all the way up from my calf I reckoned. I perch myself on a stone bench, shiver under the grey sky for 15 mins and ponder the next step. Why on earth did I skate into this city? Ok, it was on my coordinates but, by now I really should know not to put too much faith in my planning eh!
A guy from the baguette shop peers over a coupe of time and I mistake his sympathy for an interest in my board. That’s a meal sorted on the cheap! An €8 baguette meal deal for €4. Bring that chickenie bad boy on my friend! Just a shame I had to hunt for the meat but I was stoked with the offer (and, by the tastes of things, I’m sure he was just as stoked with the remaining profit). I wolf it down of course and the discount certainly acted as some kind of flavour enhancer. Actually, no it didn’t. That was the Pepsi.
12.4 seconds later, I’m back in the huddled position and a lady supping a coffee nearby pitched in. She must have heard me my negotiations, recognised my lost look and quizzed my condition. She was was Romanian. No, she wasn’t after my wallet or a smoking hot prostitute (sorry for the generalisation but I have been living in Barking for the last 5yrs!). She was lovely! Spoke 5 languages in fact, stone broke, bitter and openly racist. And I mean openly! She didn’t have a care in the world for what others thought. She’d had enough! Sorry, let me add, she hated her own country just as much as the one we talked in. I wasn’t in a position to argue with the only kind stranger is met that day and simply listened to her point of view actually finding it a little difficult to disagree. It wasn’t real racism, it was about religion, the divide, Charlie Hebdo and how disgusted she was about the fuss that was made over 5 deaths when 200 odd students were mass murdered a short while later, seemingly going unnoticed in comparison because it didn’t happen in Paris or London or Rome or New York. I was actually happy to give her her moment, for her benefit. She responded by showing me the cheapest supply point in town and informing me that my best option for the night was to sleep next “that” homeless guy in the street opposite. “Trust me” she said, you’re safer with him then on your own in this city. Thanks for the vote of confidence sweetheart!
After stocking up at Lidl, I assume my position again. “Gotta get outta this habit Michael!” I say out loud without a care for who’s listening. I can feel the city negativity taking over once again. And then…
“Oi, skater boy!” What the fu…? Three cyclists from London that I’d met in Fecamp a few days earlier! Ha! Awesome. My spirits raise me to my feet. I want to hug them but then it dawns on me that our previous encounter want even worthy of a mention in my blog so I refrain. Nothing more I wanted than s beer with these guys but they’d been there already and we’re just about on their way. They too were following the Atlantic coast route and my cheating train journey had brought me back up to speed with them.
Our journey here on was directly west and possibly a little North. I wasn’t keen on this really as it was hardly getting me to my southernly destination so I was happy to stick with them, head to the train and bunk to St-Gilles-du-blah-blah (or whatever). It got me the hell outta there and back into the comforting stick for €6! That’s all I cared about. Our route may have been the same but or itinery couldn’t have been more different. I was looking for another hedge, they had another luxury hotel! We parted on arrival at our destination and I check the satellites for suitable greenery but, wait, that’s not green! It’s yellow, next to blue – Pornic! – a beautiful seaside resort. And with the possibility of a beach to sleep on, my mind was made up! But it’s getting late I run for the bus to experience my third and most favourite chance encounter of the day – a lady from Rhode Island on her 35th train journey of the lady to meet family for a turn of the century car rally from Bilbao. Man, she’d had enough by that point and our conversation on the bus seemed to alleviate a lot of her strain – she had no choice really as we were the only two people on it. Her son is the CEO of Beuro Boards, a company that makes skateboards out of discarded fishing nets. I say CEO because I believe Patagonia have just given him a golden handshake that put him on the cover of Forbes magazine. Yeah! Fuckin wow eh! Saying goodbye to these individuals is never easy but, alas, we part ways and I skate off to the harbour to get my first real glance of the shore.
Pornic is lovely and I received a warm welcome. English accents in abundance but I was more than happy to sideline the introduction for a lengthy chat with my best buddy, a conversation I didn’t want to end but the sun was going down and I still had a camping spot to find, erect and a meal to cook. Hi fiving a couple of local skater on route to the harbour, I traverse a rickety pathway so narrow I feel the need to hold my phone tight in its already securely concealed pocket for no apparent reason and follow to round to the nearest patch of sand. And what a patch it was! Yellowish white, litter free and so quiet I lift my board up to stop the noise. Pornic beach! One of them anyway and I didn’t have time to search for another. I approach with glee to discover the worlds most expensive fish restaurant pack full of customers looking out to sea whilst they quaff down the €34 chefs recommendation and wonder why he stopped there. It’s regatta week. The place is packed with the kind of people that have gorgeous yachts kitted with stunning kitchens and a hired chef, but decide that they haven’t blown enough money yet and dine on MY beach instead. Now I doubt they want a smelly skateboarder spoiling their view so i creep around the back and stick on the narrow pathway to avoid detection. Bollocks! Eat up would you! I’m tired!! I press on with a grump hanging from my bottom lip. But that didn’t last long! I spot a tiny, whining staircase leading down and can’t help but investigate, regardless of the time escaping me. BINGO! Cove heaven! A small part of the beach set back and surrounded by rockface. Out of sight, sheltered and absolutely perfect! So perfect I make my way back up the steps, turn of the camera and record my findings as of for the first time again, just too good to let slip from my memories.
I jump into the sand and remove my shoes. Socks stinking like that onion vinegar I will never again order with my fish and chips, it reminds me of the moment in one of the Police Academy’s where the fat guy flick his pair at a locker and we watch them slide down like one of those sticky gum toys. I remember that feeling. The sand between my slimy toes! Where do I remember that? What the… Oh, of course, Ibiza! Well, it has been 12 years! No wonder I couldn’t instantly recall the memory.
I get to work cooking the best meal I’ve done so far on the trip – pan fired chorizo and red pepper, jot it in my book of “now that’s what I’m having for dinner every night from now on” and chow down, happy, comfortable and eagerly awaiting a sunrise skinny dip to freshen myself up just hoping they aren’t able to identify a source of instant pollution in these parts.
Camp set quietly as not to risk any possibility of being booted out of this wonderful spot, I crawl into my sleeping sheet (too thin to be any kind of bag) in the dark avoiding the use of my torch. Good night Michael! Yes… It was!