This past weekend was the Cavalcade de La Rochelle, which involved carnival rides and games and an illuminated parade Saturday night.
It seemed like it might offer some photo ops and give me something new to tell you about, so we walked back to the vieux port just before dark. It was absolutely mobbed. The streets from Place de Verdun, where the parade was to start, all the way to Quai Duperré were already lined with people, so the easiest place to walk was right down the center of the street. There were enough of us heading in the same direction that it almost felt like we were our own pre-parade. I did manage to resist the urge to prom-queen wave. Here’s the same street a bit later with the real parade:
Since it seemed we were already too late to get a front spot for the parade, we managed instead to snag a table at a cafe, where we had a drink and then, yes, of course, un café. When you order un café here, you’re actually getting an espresso. If you want more water in it, so it’s more like American coffee, you have to order un café allongé, which David likes. But I don’t like the taste of coffee enough to prolong the experience. I prefer the quick jolt of an espresso that has you wanting to yodel like Tarzan.
It was another great opportunity for people watching. Everyone seemed content to stand for nearly an hour, chatting with friends, watching children, maybe buying a bag of confetti. Even after the parade actually showed up–“got going” would be a misleading choice of words–the legendary Rochelais patience was strongly in evidence. I’ve never seen a slower parade, with five-to-ten-minute stops for who knows what. Note the irony in the photo below: the woman in the speedboat, the fact that they happened to stop in front of a pawnshop offering “Speed Cash,” and the guy dressed as a sailor leaning on the float with his ankles crossed. He knows they’re not going anywhere soon.
It was excellent for photography, though, because it was bright and colorful and there was absolutely no danger of anything going by too fast.
Sometimes the spectators would actually just walk out into the middle of the street and take a few pictures.
Although David and I have now been here for two months, we have not managed to acquire this low-key attitude quite to this degree, so we decided to walk against the flow of the parade to speed the process a bit. Guess we’ll always be American.
We had the night streets nearly to ourselves on the way home.
Postscript: There was another parade Sunday afternoon (presumably sans lights) but we decided to head home after lunch in town and didn’t catch that one. Saw this on the way home. Word to the wise: don’t park on the parade route. Here’s what happens to your car if you do: