Leaving La Rochelle

Alors, le premier séjour à La Rochelle est terminé. (Well, the first sojourn in La Rochelle has come to an end.) We picked up the rental car Saturday morning, said au revoir to Jacky and Pascale, drove back to the house to load up, and hit the road. Before I close that chapter, one last image of fun in La Rochelle, courtesy of Pascale:

BBQ chez Pascale et Jacky 19 juin 2014
BBQ chez Pascale et Jacky 19 juin 2014 — le fromage (cheese course)

Then we were off to Tours, where I had stayed with a couple–my “host family”–during a week of intensive French classes a couple of years ago. Just a bit more than two hours away, but it has a totally different look:

Tours
Tours — NOT our apartment

I found a great apartment to rent for a few nights. It’s part of the former cloisters of Saint Martin.

Galerie du Cloître Saint Martin
Galerie du Cloître Saint Martin

Our apartment is directly above where I was standing to take this photo. Bonus points: Where’s David?

IMG_3938And an extra ten bonus points: Where’s Sunny? Taken up in the loft bedroom of the apartment.

Our two-story window is the one on the far left.
Our two-story window is the one on the far left.

Did our usually strolling, then got in the car looking for some wine to taste, but alas les caves (remember, say cahv) were closed on Sunday, so drove to Amboise instead and had a look around.

Amboise from across the Loire
Amboise from across the Loire

The château that still stands is seriously impressive, but is merely a fraction of the original. Lots of beautiful details like this:

Château d’Amboise
Château d’Amboise

This is over the door to the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, where Leonardo da Vinci is buried:

Chapel Saint-Hubert, Château d’Amboise
Chapel Saint-Hubert, Château d’Amboise

A few folks looking ready for a masquerade ball were wandering around to add some authentic flavor.

Château d’Amboise
Château d’Amboise

Just one of the gazillion châteaux of the Loire Valley.

Château d’Amboise
Château d’Amboise

The beauty here in France is almost staggering sometimes, and we were fortunate enough to have a gorgeous day in which to appreciate it. Not a bad way to ease the temporary parting from La Rochelle and our La Rochelle friends!

Fun in the Sun: Brouage and Ile d’Aix

I had to set an alarm to be ready early enough for this jam-packed day, but was it ever worth it — absolutely perfect weather, gorgeous scenery, minimal crowds, delicious food and wine, and of course lots of laughs with our fun friends, Jacky and Pascale.

They picked us up at 8:30 a.m. and took us first to see Brouage . . .

Brouage
Brouage
Brouage
Brouage

. . . a 16th century citadel that used to be on the coast, but now, where the sea used to be:

Brouage
The fields around Brouage — like a watercolor painting
Medieval WC, Brouage
Medieval WC, Brouage

I had the wrong lens on to get the full shot of this, but be sure to note more than the pretty stone. The board with the holes . . . that’s the far end of an eight-seater toilette. Yes, EIGHT. Awkward. Lots of cobwebs, so apparently NOT still in use.

After a walk around the perimeter and a stroll through the village, which apparently had not really ramped up for tourist season, we got back in the car and headed to Fouras to catch the ferry to Ile d’Aix (pronounced eel dex).

Pique-Nique in a bit of shade
Pique-Nique in a bit of shade — Photo by Pascale

First order of business, find a bit of shade pour le pique-nique.

Brouage-Aix 25-06 022Then a stroll (with photo stops) around the island. Do you think I have enough bags and cases to juggle while I snap photos and change lenses? My fab hat did come in handy, though. (These two photos by Jacky)

And for all of you playing “Where’s David?” . . . .

 

 

 

Brouage-Aix 25-06 023

Super photogenic place:

Ile d'Aix
Ile d’Aix
Ile d'Aix
Ile d’Aix

Eventually, of course, we had to head back, and although we managed to score great seats on the ferry for the return trip . . .

Pascale and Jacky
Pascale and Jacky

Malheureusement (unfortunately), they were  not on this boat!

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Les Parcs de La Rochelle

One of the great little parks in La Rochelle is the Parc Animalier, a completely free tiny zoo. Look who lives there:

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This mini-zoo is sort of a bonus tacked onto the corner of the main green space of La Rochelle. Parc Charruyer is enormous, running all along the edge of the centre ville of La Rochelle, all the way to la mer.

IMG_3791It’s big enough that you can choose your experience, a wide paved walkway, lined with benches, that you’ll share with cyclists, dog-walkers, and parents pushing strollers. Or a rockier path down closer to the stream, that you’ll share with the occasional runner . . . IMG_3816

Parc Charruyer

And these guys:

Frog Enhanced

Duck and Duckling Enhanced

But on either side, on the far edges, the Wildwood awaits. If you choose either of two narrow hiking paths tucked into the woods, one by a tiny creek, and one on the far side of the stream, you’ll share it with . . . uh . . . who knows . . . . I save those for when I’m with David.

Into the woods of Parc Charruyer . . . .
Into the woods of Parc Charruyer . . . . the not-so-secluded part.

These aren’t the only parks in La Rochelle, but they’re certainly my favorites. Genuine treasures, they’re free to anyone, including this guy, heading in as we were heading out:

Lizard Cropped

Au revoir, monsieur. Bonne après-midi.

The Writing on the Wall

The spring 2014 visit to La Rochelle is almost over, and I’m realizing there were posts I meant to create that never happened. Better late than never, I’ve decided, so prepare yourself for a bit of an onslaught this week. You’ve been warned.

I read an article today in the New York Times about an artist who crafts “three-dimensional graffiti,” which reminded me that I’d been meaning to do a post on the graffiti of La Rochelle.

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Like most cities, La Rochelle definitely has graffiti, some of it unfortunate, but some of it impressively artistic.

There’s an empty building near the vieux port that has apparently been authorized for graffiti. David saw a guy around lunchtime one day working on a wall, and no one seemed at all interested in stopping him. Here are a few of the best I’ve found:

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Tree Graffiti Cropped

David discovered all these on one of his walks early in our stay, and took me to see them. I tend to think of graffiti covered spaces as kind of sketchy–ouch, sorry about the pun–so I was super nervous walking around this little courtyard, even though it was about one in the afternoon. Not sure what I thought would happen, but once I took a deep breath and regained a bit of sanity, I started to really appreciate the artistry.

Most graffiti seems to gather in certain locations, but occasionally you can just stumble upon a tiny bit of ornamented wall, like the first one and these final two. Yes, I know the last one is not really art, but it makes me smile.

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Je t'aime croppedWhich means, “You, there! I love you!”

Now don’t you feel special?