Sunday, April 10, 2005

Where the French disappear to in August

We have been taking a few days of holiday in the seaside port of Le Pouliguen on the coast of Loire-Atlantique (that is the region where the river Loire enters the sea, about halfway up the west coast of France, close to the city of Nantes).

We expected to find a traditional seaside fishing port, but instead we discovered a resort town. Not the type of resort you find in Britain and elsewhere with large hotels along the sea front, but a little town of largely empty seaside villas. As soon as we arrived in Le Pouliguen we got lost amongst winding roads lined by these closed-up villas (all French houses have shutters) and so were immediately impressed by the 'ghost town' character of the place. Apart from the odd 'pension' or 'chalet', hotels seem to be absent.

After four days of travelling around the region of Presqu'ile (so called because the area is 'nearly an island' surrounded by salt marshes, we found it was not just Le Pouliguen which is like this but the whole of the Loire-Atlantique region. There are an amazing number of second homes in this part of France. So this is where the French disappear to for a month in August! It makes sense really: they wouldn't be staying in a hotel for a month would they? That would cost around 5000 Euros for a family at current rates. But how strange to have all these thousand upon thousand of houses locked up for the other eleven months of the year. We also saw harbours full of sailing boats such as Le Pouliguen and Piriac-sur-Mer, all waiting for the sun to arrive. In fact, this is a playground of the rich.

And the price of happiness in the form of a three-bedroom holiday villa in Le Pouliguen? About 400,000 Euros at best.

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