John at Le Grande Bleu

The drum roll of thunder woke us both in the early hours. We lay watching as lightning flares shone through the gaps in the blinds, counting the seconds till the thunder rumbled round drowning out the sound of pouring rain. It went on for a couple of hours, so we were glad not to have to move on again and John cooked a relaxed breakfast of tomatoes on toast to finish off the last of our fresh supplies. Afterwards we dug out our chic red shopping trolley and headed off to the supermarket, hoping it would be open on Sunday. Reader it was wonderful. Immaculate, beautifully presented and so well organized, with the more fragile fresh stuff at the end not the beginning. There was a cheese counter to stop traffic. It sold everything we could have wished for and we soon had filled our hopper. Right outside the supermarket was a covered stall selling fresh fish on ice, a fruit stall and a butchers shop with an outside grill selling rotisserie chickens. The smell of them was overpowering and there was a long queue. We promised ourselves a return visit. On our way back we stopped in at a chandlers and enquired about gas, but they were waiting for a delivery. They did have a very smart logbook, in French with different nautical illustrations across each double page spread. As we have only six pages left in our log we bought it and headed back to Lyra with our stash. After unpacking it was back on shore for a coffee, sat outside looking out at the boats before we went for a walk along the seafront.

The Grande Motte is much more attractive than it seems from the photos in our pilot book. In the photographs and on our approach the marina seemed dominated by triangular high-rise apartment blocks, like a Legoland Valley of the Kings. Once you are walking amongst them you see the blocks are individually styled, with different balcony shapes forming patterns across the face of the blocks to yield a dynamic quality to the whole. The blinds for each building are in shades of the same colour to give coherence to each block and there are trees and shrubby garden areas throughout. It seems to be a sort of garden city in the sky. The sea front is equally well thought out, the long beach being split into coves with curved stone breakwaters and artificial reefs, so on Sunday the sea fanned in gently on a series of rippling curves. It was ideal for children and there was a big soft play area with giant Nemo and Asterix figures to climb into and slide down. After walking along looking out to sea, we wandered back perusing the restaurants. One seemed very bustling and a queue had formed at its’ entrance. As we debated whether or not to join it a couple at the front was turned away, presumably for not having a reservation. We moved on. It was hard to decide, the wind blew in from the sea and there were dark clouds overhead, but the interiors of the restaurants seemed cramped.

Eventually we decided to try a place with stylish striped chair cushions called Le Grande Bleu. The interior was spacious and the outside sheltered from the main wind. We wandered in. John asked a passing waiter if there was a table and he nodded, but hurried away. I noticed a couple of dressed up looking ladies standing by a ledger and suggested we wait behind them. Sure enough a harassed looking man in a checked shirt came up, checked their names against a heavily annotated list in his hand and squired them off to a table. We stood and after a moment he returned. I have impressed upon John the value of making some attempt at French as a form of politeness. He resolutely still addresses people in his most gently spoken, polite English, which may have impressed a northern girl like me, but cuts no ice here, especially with the chaps. John explained we wanted a table for two but did not have a reservation. Our host took a big breath, “You have no reservation! You do not speak French! You wish to eat in my restaurant…” loudly expostulated, arms shrugging wildly. I racked my brains for the French for yesterday and opened my mouth to try to explain that we had just arrived and that his restaurant was most beautiful. My mouth stayed open, but no sound came out and Monsieur shut up like a clam. John had thrown an arm around the man’s shoulders and clamped him to his side in an enthusiastic one-armed hug. John grinned from one of us to the other. Still smiling he released our host, who recovered himself and said he had no tables inside but we could chose between a couple outside and led the way. He assured us it would not rain till well after lunch, we sat down and he left us for the waiting staff to cope with. Not only was he right about the rain, the sun came out. As the weather improved people who had booked and been allocated a table inside were clearly electing to eat out and we could see our man here there and everywhere with his piece of paper and biro trying to work out how many free seats he had to offer. Not an easy job even without disconcerting Englishmen. He clearly held nothing against us and came up to ask if we wanted more shade and extended an awning over us. He made sure to come to my side to enquire.

The food was excellent. John had fish soup and I had salmon three ways, then he had pork and I squid, good but very garlicky, people must have been able to smell me coming a mile off. We finished with a layered chocolate patisserie for John and a lovely raspberry gazpacho for me before coffee. If the weather keeps us here next Sunday we will make sure to book.

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