Open the photo gallery >>

Today involved no plans whatsoever. And when we did eventually make a plan, we changed it straight away. So what? We’re on holiday.

We had a bit of a rough night with the Izzy-monster again. The heat of the last couple of days was making her skin very itchy and there’s not much we could do for the poor little mite. However, after last night’s festivities both girls thankfully held out until a reasonable time, Izzy around 7:30 and Ami a bit longer. All very welcome, given that Grandad had gone home.

Kas had as much of a lie in as she could manage while Kev failed to feed either daughter properly and also failed to engage them in mindless TV watching. Just couldn’t get that satellite box to send a signal to the TV.

When Kas did get up, and did feed the kids, and once the kids had done the normal amount of playing outside while everyone else was still in their jim-jams, we decided to go look for the Eco-Museum of the Salt Marshes on . However, at the very moment we decided this, someone outside muttered something about going in the swimming pool, and it rapidly turned into a flood of children getting costumes on and heading off round through the barn, so we ended up spending a busy hour or so with Kev, Ami, Edward, Lucy, Simon, Rachel, Katy, Thomas, Matt, Jemima, Beatrice, Andy, Constance, Suzi and Jessica all dipping in and out of the pool and playing various splashy games, like you do. It isn’t that big a pool really, and all the little ones cluster around the shallow end, so it ends up being a bit like the “people game” on the Wii, with loads of people moving in the water in random directions and banging into each other. Excellent stuff. The weather anyway was nice and sunny, but with a prediction of thunderstorms in the afternoon. We’d better make good use of the sunshine while it’s here.

After much wetness Kas and Izzy eventually arrived, having had a girlie hour in the gite. This coincided with the realisation for most that it was a) lunchtime and b) time to get a shift on if we’re going to do anything but stop at home. Ami was out last and only then on the promise that we’d play with Lucy again later when we get back, if she’s here. Ami has taken a bit of a liking to Lucy. Izzy seems to like Edward too, which is a bit bizarre given the age and gender difference. Ho-tee-hum. More free child care now Granny and Grandad have gone home.

So we set off somewhat later than planned for a brief trip to the lovely little town of St Martin de Ré ( ), capital of the island of , and hence involving a trip over the bridge again. Subsequent research uncovered that the bridge owners do, in fact, add a supplement of €7.50 a trip during the French summer holidays in July and August.

St Martin de Ré ( ) was built as a fortified port and in the middle there’s quite a bizarre arrangement of a near circular (except for one walkway) harbour with a little island in the middle. The tide flows up and around the boats parked at their no doubt very expensive moorings.

The centre of town is all pedestrianised apart from service vehicles and residents, but sadly there seem to be quite a few of those. To be honest, they might as well not have bothered. Anyway, Ami was fascinated by the little red & white stripey bollards that go up and down in the road to allow authorised traffic in.

Once around the water’s edge, two things became obvious fairly quickly. Firstly, the sun was out, so no sign of the thunderstorms yet, but because we all came out with no sun cream on, the sensation of burning skin arrived pretty quickly. Second, Ami was having a grump because she was tired/hungry/bored (take your pick). We think it was most likely just tiredness, but a five year old will never admit to that. So it took some effort but we eventually got her back to a direct course and reasonable speed with the promise of a chocolate crêpe. We stopped at a creperie called the Phare – on the harbour “island” right near the walkway. Nice, except Izzy ate nothing and Ami didn’t eat much. Guess she really was more tired than hungry.

Post-crêpe we had a quick walk around the island and then up onto the sea front in the general direction of home. There’s lots of great big thick walls built as part of the fortifications. These have occasional peep holes. There’s also a little lighthouse which Izzy enjoyed walking around, much to the amusement of the French people she turfed off because they were sitting in her way. Some poor dad never did get that arty shot of his son at the foot of the lighthouse, at least not a shot of him on his own. He might have got one that included our mucky little munchkin’s back as well.

We noticed that the clock had somehow crept round to nearly 4pm, and decided to call it a day, albeit not a very long one.

Getting out of the car park proved the most challenging part of the trip. First, Kev went the wrong way and discovered there wasn’t a loop round at the top, so it was lucky there was an empty space to reverse into. Second, when we did get to the exit we discovered it was also a very narrow and high traffic entry point, so multiple streams of traffic trying to go both ways through a tiny gap. The car park, by the way, is basically a huge graveled area with no markings at all, and it’s much wider at one end than at the other, which means space for parking four or five rows deep at one end narrows in irregular fashion to only two rows at the top end. When it’s busy, it’s chaos. The chaos was made worse by a guy who reversed out of a space right next to us and then despite being positioned behind us decided he absolutely, definitely deserved a place in front of us. So he caused much reshuffling of cars with his persistent attempts to nudge past, regardless of who was coming the other way and what they were trying to do. We tried to position so that he couldn’t possibly shove past, but the pillock did so anyway. Not really surprising that his Megane Scenic had a ‘kin great dent in one of the side doors. It was probably caused by the last person he tried to pass like this. Numpty ! Never mind. No damage done.

Neither of the girls slept on the way home. We were in fact interrupted by a number of loudly voiced requests for food, drinks, music, less music, or recovery of the Ninky-Nonk from the floor. Most of the things requested could not be delivered in a moving car. We must teach them the basics of automotive transportation some time soon.

When we got home, all was fairly quiet. Everyone else seemed to be out. We had a quiet tea indoors ( because the thunderstorms were trying to arrive ). We have begun an attempt on the summit of the European “Terrine de Campagne” mountain, which had been building up quietly over the week. There were also some sausages from last night and a salad including a massive cucumber grown in the owner’s garden and given to us a couple of days ago.

Shortly afterwards Edward and Lucy arrived home from an afternoon in La Rochelle ( ) and they played with us out front for a little while before they went for their tea. This was interrupted a one point by a nappy of mass destruction and the consequent requirement to empty the rubbish bins. Another one of Izzy’s finest that wasn’t ever going to be allowed to sleep in the house.

Alex wandered over a little after Edward and Lucy left too. He and Ami played nicely in the sandpit for a while, with both acting like typical kids of their age, i.e. making up games with rules that neither understand and then getting upset about it, and attempting to occupy exactly the same small piece of sandpit despite the vast acreage of available space, or fighting over the same bucket when they had four to choose from. I will never understand this aspect of small children’s play, but that’s how it goes, apparently.

We found a moth on a wall which Alex decided needed to be sandblasted, a crime which resulted in the mandatory minimum sentence of a trip back to his bedroom. Izzy was being a pickle throughout and ended up in the naughty corner (in fact, just sitting on the grass looking away from us all) a total of three times. If she was in California she’d be on death row by now. After Alex left, William came over to display some fine gymnastics on the swing and the asymmetric bars (which hold the swing together), but by this time it was past 7:30 and therefore plainly time to get the little darlings off into snoozy land. Apparently, the asymmetric bars have been officially renamed the Uneven Bars by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique.

This day could have been much worse given the late night yesterday, but neither child was particularly stroppy for an extended period. Maybe between them they’ve realised it isn’t going to get them anywhere. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt……