Category Archives: France

Cavalcade de La Rochelle

This past weekend was the Cavalcade de La Rochelle, which involved carnival rides and games and an illuminated parade Saturday night.

Cavalcade de La Rochelle
Cavalcade de La Rochelle

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:

Rue du Palais
Rue du Palais

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.

Speed?
Speed?

It was excellent for photography, though, because it was bright and colorful and there was absolutely no danger of anything going by too fast.

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Cavalcade de La Rochelle
Cavalcade de La Rochelle

Sometimes the spectators would actually just walk out into the middle of the street and take a few pictures.

Cavalcade de La Rochelle
Cavalcade de La Rochelle

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.

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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:

Stationnement interdit!
Stationnement interdit!

Friday Night Lights

No, nothing to do with American football, and barely even night. You have to be quite the night-owl to photograph La Rochelle after dark, because the sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 o’clock and it isn’t all that dark even at 10:30. But determined to get some night shots, last night I found a spot to sit while waiting–in vain, as it turned out–for all three towers to light up.

Not long after sunset, around 10:15 p.m. Waiting for Tour de la Chaine to light up.
Not long after sunset, around 10:15 p.m. Waiting for Tour de la Chaine to light up.

There was plenty of other pretty light. Love the reflection on the water of the vieux port:

Quai Duperré
Quai Duperré
Le vieux port after the sun goes down.
Le vieux port after the sun goes down.

And no shortage of people:

Quai Duperré
Quai Duperré

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Since we were getting cold in the chilly breeze off the water and still had a half hour walk back home, we gave up around 10:30:

Still no lights on Tour de la Chaine
Still no lights on Tour de la Chaine

Somebody must have taken the night off. Oh well. We’ll be back. This weekend is the Cavalcade de La Rochelle and tonight there’s a night parade we’re going to try to check out. Wish us insomnia: it goes from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Espresso, anyone? Make mine a double.

Bon Anniversaire

I’ve reached the age where birthdays are more “Gha-a-a-a-a-a” than “Yea-a-a-a-a-a-a,” but we had a pleasant Saturday all the same. We decided to treat ourselves to a nice lunch here:

Les 4 Sergents
Les 4 Sergents

We had been here last year with Pascale and Jacky and loved it, but then we were here for dinner, we had dressed up, and we had a reservation. For my birthday lunch, we just showed up and were wearing nice-ish normal clothes, but woohoo, we got in anyway. So did this chien. Hey, we ARE in France.

Un chien aux 4 Sergents
Un chien aux 4 Sergents

David was smart enough to remember that the menu in French restaurants, which is always some combination of courses, is usually too much food, so we ordered only an aperitif, a main course and a bottle of wine. Here’s what came with the aperitif:

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If you know David at all, you can imagine his lack of delight at discovering the front right one was pureed baby peas with lemon. (Quite tasty for anyone but David.) Then we had the best steak we’ve ever had in France. (We haven’t quite figured out what to order here.) Here’s the waiter doing something fabulous with the sauce:

Our lunch in progress
Our lunch in progress

Then, okay, we did manage to find room for a Café Gourmand:

Café Gourmand
Café Gourmand

After lunch, a bit more wandering around town, our usual people watching, then eventually home for a relaxing evening. It was a quiet, good day, no balloons, no singing, no gazillion candles on a cake causing a fire hazard, just a few here:

Chez Nous -- (And a preview photo for the "Where's David" post)
Chez Nous — (And a preview photo for the “Where’s David” post)

This marker of another year passing reminds me once again of all I have to be grateful for: you, dear friends, this journey certainly, and of course, my companion in adventure who will even eat the occasional pureed pea to help celebrate a milestone. We met 36 years ago today. Now that’s an anniversary worth celebrating. Cheers!

 

Le Marais Poitevin

Sunday Pascale and Jacky picked us up and took us to see le Marais Poitevin, which is classified as un grand site de France. 

Le Marais Poitevin
Le Marais Poitevin

But before we got in a barque we had a bit of time to wander around the town:

Les Roses de Coulon
Les Roses de Coulon
Coulon, Marais Poitevin
Coulon, Marais Poitevin

And then had a traditional grand dejeuner here:

Auberge de l'Ecluse
Auberge de l’Ecluse
Auberge de l'Ecluse
Auberge de l’Ecluse

We ordered way too much food. The set menu included entrée, plat, fromage (optional extra), and dessert. First course for me, fois gras:

Entrée (first course): fois gras
Entrée (first course): fois gras

Then le plat or main course, where I misunderstood the menu and managed to order veal kidneys for both David and me. Jacky asked if I understood what I was ordering, but I assured him yes. David was, of course, at my mercy, since it was all written and discussed in French. Jacky also chose this, so here’s what three of us ate:

Rognons de Veau
Rognons de Veau

Pascale had an assortment of things, including eel, which we tasted and actually liked. Definitely a new experience. Then, the cheese course. I wasn’t able to finish any course but the first, not even the two small slices of chevre, and explained to the waiter, “J’avais les yeux plus gros que le ventre.” This is a well-known French expression just like the English expression, “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.” But because it was part of the set menu, here came dessert after the cheese course. When the waiter set mine down, he said quietly to me, “Désolé.” (“Sorry.”) Too cute. Here’s dessert for me:

Ile Flottante
Ile Flottante

Fortunately, the top part of an Ile Flottante is a very light meringue, mostly air, and the creamy custard part was fabulous. Still, I could only manage to eat a  few bites. After this feast, Pascale and Jacky rented une barque, like one of these, for une petite balade in the marais.

Coulon, Marais Poitevin
Coulon, Marais Poitevin

Marais can be translated “bog, marsh, swamp,” none of which seem to evoke how beautiful and tranquil it all was. Pascale and Jacky were smart enough to rent the boat WITH the guy on the back, le pilote, to do all the paddling.

Une Barque avec  un Pilote
Une Barque avec un Pilote

At one point we caught up to a barque sans pilote, stuck sideways, blocking the entire canal, and the guys paddling managed to get it unstuck only to get stuck again, which was–let’s be honest–hilarious. Other than that, though, it was remarkably serene considering how mobbed the town was.

Marais Poitevin
Marais Poitevin

We glided along, completely relaxed, taking pictures and settling into the peace of the place. I kept feeling the urge to recite from The Wind in the Willows, especially after catching a quick glimpse of Ratty (or one of his French cousins) right before he dived under the bow.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” * 

I agree, especially if you can do it on a perfect Sunday afternoon with delightful friends.

*Rat to Mole in The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. See the quotes page for newly added quotes from Kenneth Grahame.