Hidden Beach

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Hidden Beach: Noirmoutier Island

July 22, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Noirmoutier, off the west coast of France, touts sunny beaches, bright green grass and blossoming trees. It received the name “black monastery” for the darkly clad monks who inhabited the island in the seventh century. Noirmoutier has been called “a displaced Mediterranean island” because of its whitewashed buildings, fresh cuisine and vivid landscape.

Underwater Road to Noirmoutier

The island is dotted with traditional villages and whitewashed buildings, and features a fishing port and walkable forests full of dramatically sprawling mimosa trees with fluffy pink blossoms. According to France This Way, the island and its unspoiled beaches can only be reached by bridge, or via the Passage du Gois, a traditional road that at high tide is entirely submerged.

Every May, adventure-seekers race against the rising waters of the Passage du Gois in The Great Gois Run.

Others have lost their cars to the high tide, or been caught standing atop one of the poles built along the Passage for hours, waiting for the water to recede. A West Virginia University travel blog provides telling photos of the road, along with other sightseeing opportunities on the island.

Salts of Noirmoutier: Fleur de Sel and Sel Gris

Thanks to its Mediterranean-like climate, a stark contrast to the damp northern coast, Noirmoutier is famed for its salts, “fleur de sel and a larger, chunky salt called sel gris,” said a New York Times article. The expensive salts are coveted by chefs around the world, but in Noirmoutier, the algae-infused treasure is commonly found at the dinner table and used in simple dishes like boiled potatoes. The island’s salt harvesting tradition was initiated by monks in the seventh century, who allowed the crystals to slowly evaporate on the land to achieve its characteristic crunch.

Noirmoutier’s Good Looks

Noirmoutier’s twisty trees, soothing sands and waters, quaint whitewashed cottages with terracotta roofs, and other assorted images are on display in this YouTube video from 2007.

More images of Noirmoutier and all of France are available from France-Voyage.com, just search for the keyword "Noirmoutier."

Getting to Noirmoutier

Arrive at Dinard or Nantes, a town on France’s mainland through which the Tour de France passes. From Nantes, the drive to Noirmoutier is about 50 miles, according to the Web site of Hotel Turquoise, located on the island.

Ryanair has cheap flights from London to Nantes or Dinard, as well as airport information for each town.

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