The ferry crossing from Fromentine, on the Bay of Biscay, to le d'Yeu is new to me, and yet the island's coastline appears as if it were a remembered shore. Halfway into the eleven-nautical-mile passage through a lazy swell, a faint blur smudges the horizon. In the wind, sea gulls sway and swoop. The blur stretches slowly into a black line that rises between sky and water to embody the reddish-brown, rocky shelf of the island's east coast.
I am visiting France from Australia this European summer with my wife Monique. Dominique Turb and his wife also named Dominique Turb , n e Deschamps, whom we have known for many years, now live in the village of Le Temple de Bretagne near Nantes. We are visiting them from Paris with Monique's sister Edith. I suggested a day excursion to the island. Dominique has family links with the old fishing community on the island, and I am mildly curious about the place to which, in 1945, the French state exiled Marshal P tain, the former President of the Vichy Regime.
The ferry rounds the breakwater and enters the harbour at the capital Port Joinville. A white fleet sits in the water, and, around the harbour, whitewashed stone buildings stand in an arc that is centred on la mairie where the French tri-colour hangs on a pole angled high above the entrance. We disembark and the eye adjusts on a hazy morning to the confined space in the port. Bands and blocks of colour stand out on the white surfaces of the boats and buildings.