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Another Day at “Wow, Check Out This Car!”

Mark and I spent another day at La Baule when the latest heat wave started on Tuesday. It’s not my favourite destination, but it’s one of the closest seaside towns, plus I found cheap TGV tickets—a treat since we’re used to slower TER trains commonly used for short trips.

We were feeling lightheaded and silly because of the heat, and at one point during the day, we agreed to rename “La Baule” the “wow-check-out-this-car-city” because this is what Mark was saying every two metres pointing to a Porsche, a Lamborghini, a Tesla or some kind of fancy ride, most of them I didn’t know existed outside of Batman’s garage. We even saw a guy double parking a torch red Corvette with a California licence plate, go buy a baguette, and jump back in the car nobody but Mark and I were admiring.

Most sociological subtleties are lost on Mark—to him, La Baule is a “rich people’s place.”

But to me, the “what planet am I on?” feeling always starts on the train to La Baule.

If you’re going to Saint-Gilles, Les Sables or other normal seaside towns, trains are full of unruly kids, teenagers who can’t stop kissing and gossiping, parents handing out travel-size packs of chips just to get a break, and regular passengers with regular backpacks or tote bags going places.

Passengers to La Baule don’t look like they’re going to the beach—women wear heavy perfume and block the aisles with spotless Hermès luggage; men wear immaculately pressed Ralph Lauren polo shirts and pants. If they have kids, you can expect four of five siblings very close in age, all dressed in navy blue as if they were page boys and flower girls going to a wedding.

Posh passengers usually board the train in either Paris or Nantes, and their final stop is La Baule—where else would they spend their summer holiday? They are always expected by relatives at the station and it’s always a unique “overheard in La Baule” moment—“Jean-Charles, Louise-Marie and Pierre-François, will you join us at the horse racing event tonight?”, “I asked the maid to get the pool ready!” or “I can’t even wear my gold ring with this heat, it gets hot on my finger.”

Meanwhile, I’m heading to Carrefour to buy a couple of water bottles that should last the entire day because it’s priced like champagne close to the beach.

And yes, it’s easy to spot La Baule’s upper-class society on the sand as well. Kids take $100/hour jet ski lesson, old men show off their trophy wife—the Ursula Andress look, but with a one-piece swimsuit, is popular—, and kids call their mum “Mother.”

I may have screamed “eat the rich!” as a teen during protests but I’ve mellowed a bit since I’ve discovered the real world. I don’t resent wealthy people. In fact, unlike most French—this is probably an attitude I picked up in North America—I don’t think money should be taboo because it’s a wonderful thing to have as a tool to make life easier. Basically, I don’t have anything against people who work hard, make money and enjoy it—good for them.

However, I do find it completely baffling that in 2022, this old bourgeoisie is apparently still enjoying century-old inherited privileges—around Nantes, most of them got their wealth from the slave trade…

I know these people. I accidentally went to school with them—not a private school, obviously, my family doesn’t have money, connections or religious beliefs. But I had good grades and I took Chinese as a major so I ended up in a posh school where my classmates lived in huge apartments (families usually owned the entire building…), went to La Baule in the summer, spent the winter holiday skiing and flew to some exotic place for Christmas. They were all white, Catholic, supposed to marry each other eventually and perpetuate the same lifestyle which isn’t terribly hard when you’re offered a good education, money, access to a network of powerful people, and good jobs.

Mark and I ended up at Le Pouliguen, another town at the far end of the beach—still posh, but more relaxed.

I’m solidly working-class, borderline anarchist, and married to a Chinese—I don’t belong there… still fascinating to see, though.

Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Plage de La Baule, La Baule-Escoublac
Phare du Pouliguen
Phare du Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Plage du Nau, Le Pouliguen
Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguen
Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguen
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Mark discovers meringue, Promenade du Port, Le Pouliguens (
Le Pouliguen
Le Pouliguen
Le Pouliguen
Le Pouliguen
Bd Darlu, La Baule-Escoublac
Bd Darlu, La Baule-Escoublac
TER train back to Nantes
TER train back to Nantes

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