Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Lo! The flat hillsides of this country... that great diarist Adrian Mole might have written;

We're in the flatlands - Nantes to La Rochelle we drove through endless marais, land reclaimed from the sea, flat fields without fences, bordered by ditches and canal, tiny little villages perched on marginally higher grounds and virtually nobody else on the roads.

That night we stayed on the beautiful Ile de Re, where the dense vegetation, boggy sea-board, low slung whitewashed houses and huge expanses of sand at low tide reminded me strongly of the coastline around Malindi or Diani in Kenya.

Today we're heading south over more fenlands - I've never been to Norfolk but I imagine it to be like this - it's a bit too empty to be the Netherlands. We've stopped in Rochefort, originally created as a military town based around grids and squares, now with a slightly dilapidated air. It has an interesting corderie royale and a beautiful centre, falling tenderly into decay and swamped by an unattractive urban sprawl.

It's such strange country, with that odd familiarity I often find in France, reminding me of so many places at once, but also of nowhere else that I've been. It is such a huge and varied place, our near neighbour, La Belle France.

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