On the southern coast of mainland France, the Presqu’île de Giens is a ribbon of land dangling into the Mediterranean. At the end of the single road that reaches the sea is a beach and a simple café, a small ferry terminal and places where cars must be parked; they do not cross.
White sails dance across a blue infinity. A line of parked Vespa motor scooters stand by the picture windows of the café and, below, children play on a strip of stony beach. On a low rocky promontory over the water, La Tour Fondue sits squat and defensive: The Melted Tower. It slumps on its half-hearted crag, trailing rock roots through the shallow sea.
When a ferry arrives from one of The Golden Islands, the empty expanse between the café and the harbour buildings fills with movement and colour. Late in the afternoon, the crowds surge from the boat, bags bumping. Day-trippers. There are surprisingly few other travellers for the five o’clock return. Without a hotel booking for the night, no-one could can stay on the islands.
A simple ticket office and a stroll up the gangway on to the ferry. The sun is still fierce on bare arms and heads. Three miles across the water is a small paradise of pine trees, sandy paths and the clear peacock blue of the sea: Porquerolles.
The island lay in wait, a smudge of land across the water.