Here it is, the ferry to Porquerolles island. Forgive me if I'm hopelessly enamoured of the South of France, but isn't this quite the most glamorous ferry boat you are ever likely to see? The light scintillates even on the dock at La Tour Fondue (the melted tower) at the end of the Giens peninsula, a narrow spit of land that dangles from Hyeres.
"A hundred years ago the ferry boat was summoned to the mainland by smoke signal – the fire of resinous leaves and twigs lit in a brazier outside the café at the end of the Presqu’île de Giens."
from The Sea Garden
The tower itself, one of the many old forts that dot the landscape, looks golden in the afternoon sunlight as the ferry eases out into the blue, blue sea.
"The engines thrummed and the boat nosed out into sea glitter and salt spray, then powered up to full speed."
The crossing only takes fifteen minutes, and the boat really does go fast once it gets underway. Yachts and sail boats skim across the blue alongside, and anticipation rises. I love islands, the way they are cut off and self-contained, and Porquerolles, with its paths through pine forests and beaches in rocky coves, seems the perfect size for exploration.
"Oleanders and palms waved a sub-tropical greeting from the quayside"
"The white and steel needles of the marina extended out to the ferry dock. A warm breeze rang with clinks of metal rigging. This shore felt far more foreign than the one they had left, as if the sea voyage had crossed much more than the few miles of the strait."
"From the dock she could see pale beaches and low verdant hills berried with red roofs. The fort above the harbour punched up a fist of stone through green trees."