European Dispatch | Blank Space
Île de Ré felt impossible to get to. Perhaps it was because we were coming from Puglia. We drove to Bari, flew to Paris, waited six hours (and took a fun vintage car tour around the city while we waited) took two trains to La Rochelle then found a car in the dark to take us across the bridge and all the way to Saint Clement des Baleines at the tip of the island.
We climbed into bed, tired from the trip, hungry from eating only transit food all day and a bit frustrated by an awkward interaction with our Air BnB host.
But when we woke up in the morning and wandered out into the sparkling light, we got it.
Sometimes the itinerary dictates the places we visit, and sometimes the places we visit dictate the itinerary. In the midst of a very busy few weeks, the town of St. Clement des Baleines inspired us to hit the brakes.
Yes, Île de Ré is remote. But it's also quiet and unspoiled by tourism, traffic or noise. The five days we spent there were some of the most relaxing days of our trip. We visited the farmer's market in the square each morning for a fresh baguette and whatever produce was on offer, we rode our bikes to the lighthouse, we walked to the beach in search of heart shaped rocks.
We found a spot in the square that was a coffee bar in the morning and a wine bar in the evening. We wrote postcards and read our books. We took naps.
We visited the chapel in the square and lit candles for my father-in-law who had recently passed, and sat in the cool interior for longer than we intended. Because Île de Ré demanded nothing of us. There were no restaurant reservations, no theatre tickets, no tours. Just a lovely little town on a pretty island, waiting to be explored. Or not.
When we arrived on Île de Ré I did not realize we needed a vacation from our vacation, but the days there reminded me of another trip; at the end of our first sourcing trip after COVID subsided, the anticipation and excitement of traveling again was so overwhelming that by the time we got to Sources de Cheverny at the end of the trip, long walks in the woods, long stretches in the salon reading our books, and long talks were all we could handle.
Those experiences reminded me that planning some blank space in a beautiful place can be just as fulfilling as a packed itinerary. Sometimes even more so.