Category Archives: The Grand Tour

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 . . .


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

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!


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:




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.


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:



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.


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

Now don’t you feel special?


Un Week-End à Paris

Beauty was definitely the theme of our spur-of-the-moment weekend in Paris. David’s brother and sister-in-law decided at the last minute to join a reunion choir trip and brought their two daughters along, so we had a mini-family reunion. Despite the rail strike we made it to the Saturday evening concert in l’Eglise Saint-Séverin:

Église Saint-Séverin
Église Saint-Séverin — The concert was a cappella, so the pipe organ was purely ornamental this night.
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum Retour
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum Retour

Magnifique, in spite of the annoying guy video-taping with his phone. I followed instructions and disabled my flash, so the photo is not very clear, but you can see Tom and Meg if you look carefully.

It’s June in Paris, so les trottoirs (sidewalks) were mobbed. We cut through the Louvre courtyard on the way back to the hotel.

Louvre -- Recognize anyone?
Louvre — Recognize anyone?

The beauty in Paris was not just for the eyes. We happened upon this guy on the way through. The acoustics were amazing and he was very good–a little piece of heaven.


On Sunday we all met after breakfast and decided to tour Sainte-Chapelle. Climb up a tiny, winding staircase and WOW. Breathtakingly gorgeous thirteenth-century stained-glass windows 15 meters high. Stunning.

Saint-Chapelle, Paris
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Unless you’re finding yourself actually short of breath about now, I can assure you the photos don’t even begin to do them justice.

After lunch, Tom and Meg had to get ready for another concert, and Amy and Ellie were planning to go to the Louvre, so we said our au revoirs. It was too nice a day to stay inside, so David and I found a couple of chairs in the Tuileries to enjoy the afternoon along with the locals — boules, also called petanque, for the big boys and girls. . . .*

Boules / Petanque
Boules / Petanque — Note the ball just leaving his hand. Hope I didn’t mess up his shot!


Sailboat rentals for the little ones.

Les voiles
Les voiles

Love these little boats. The keels are weighted so they don’t capsize, but the wind can catch the sails and send them heeling over and skimming across the pond like they’re competing for a silver cup. The different colors let the “sailors” keep track of which boat is theirs. The sticks are for sending it on its way again when it gets to the side. Saw a few parents get whacked, accidentally I think, as they tried to help a bit too much. Best to keep your distance and enjoy the whispering breeze and the sun glowing through the multicolored sails.

Sunday in the Tuileries
Sunday in the Tuileries

*As I was taking the petanque photos, and David had walked a bit ahead, a friendly gentleman came over to tell me it was fine to take photos (or to chat me up, I’m not quite sure). He explained the game and their league amicale, and I told him we have this game in the states, but “les français sont plus . . . ” (the French are more . . .) and as I hesitated and wracked my brain for a French word for “skilled” he offered, “Cool?” Haha. Another comedian. His buddies wanted their picture taken, but they don’t seem to quite fit the beauty theme, so here’s a last shot of one of the bouquinistes’ stands along the Seine.

Les livres d'un bouquiniste de Paris -- Rive Droite
Les livres d’un bouquiniste de Paris — Rive Droite

Now that’s beautiful!