Saint Michel Chef Chef—no, the second “Chef” is not a typo, this is the actual name of the small village where I spent my summers as a kid, yes, we do shorten the name!—is on the Atlantic Coast, stuck between the posh La Baule beach and other no-name stretches of sand.
Saint Michel is tiny: there is a small bar, a Unico supermarket (erratic opening hours), a Maison de la presse selling newspapers and tacky souvenirs and a church. A bi-weekly market livens things up and you may pick up a Kouign-amann (the most buttery cake you will ever eat: it is just that, layers and layers of dough, sugar and butter), some fresh fish and some not-so-fresh fruits.
The town is mostly famous for its 1905 cookie factory: Les galettes de Saint Michel, sold just about anywhere in France and yes, I can even find them in Ottawa should I feel nostalgic enough to buy them at a premium. Locals can tell the weather by sniffing the air: if you can smell cookies, it should be nice for the next few days. Or the other way around—I can never remember. Whatever, cookies smell great rain or shine.
The house, built in 1968 by my grand-parents who had just bought the land a year earlier, is a ten-minute walk from the beach. The beach is small and rocky but nice, and if you stay long enough to see it at low tide you will quickly figure out where you can swim without killing your legs on mussels-covered rocks.
The funny thing is, Saint Michel looks very exotic to me now. I hated it when I was a teen: I couldn’t go far without a car, didn’t have any close friends there and there wasn’t much to do but going to the beach and eating the galettes. It wasn’t exactly what I’d call a “trendy” vacation spot. But now I look at these little houses and the old folks going shopping and I feel like I am travelling in some foreign land.
A few days in a traditional French village. Maybe that was what I needed.