After a wet, cool spring, 6 June 2013 it actually got HOT, and I suppose we should have spent the day on the beach, but I had class all morning and then two tickets to the Aquarium I needed to use before we left La Rochelle. Ah well.
David wandered the cimetière while waiting for me to finish class.
These have been here a while.
Just a few people crammed in here! Cozy. The cemetery is so big, David got disoriented and took a while to find his way out.
Once David made it back from the dead, we met at the Aquarium for lunch and a wander round. Turns out we timed it perfectly and walked right in. When we left, two huge lines had formed, one a busload of school children and one probably a hundred plus retirees.
Couldn’t resist this blue.
I wish this photo were more clear. Super weird fish oozing with attitude, but he and his buddy zoomed around the tank so much I had trouble getting a good shot. Plus they didn’t always have their wings unfurled, which was the coolest part. They reminded me of old school vampires (not the hot “Twilight” version).
A slightly prettier fish. Mostly I just like this photo.
Our daughter Chelsea requested a shot or two with us in them, so here I am taking a photo by the shark tank, with the cool infinity mirror thing going on.
This is right before I slipped and nearly fell onto the curved glass. Yikes. Not sure how THAT would have worked out. Fortunately I caught myself before I ended up sleeping with the fishes.
Il y a du soleil aujourd’hui. Which means “the sun is shining today,” inspiring everyone with thoughts of the sea, as it has apparently been doing for centuries.
Hence the coat of arms of La Rochelle, carved above the main entrance into the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville (government offices–nothing to do with lodging).
Everyone (okay not EVERYONE, but way more than you’d imagine) wears some version of the classic French mariner shirt.
So get your stripes on and find an outside table at a fabulous restaurant like Restaurant Les Flots, where we had a mind-bogglingly delicious lunch during our stay in June, beginning with our new favorite, Pineau Blanc de Charentes as an aperitif, followed by . . . never mind.
I won’t torture you with the details of every perfect bite and sip, but do notice the couple sporting their stripes at the bottom center of the photo and, of course, Tour de la Chaine looming impressively next door.
Then on with your lunettes de soleil . . .
. . . and out for your sailing class (the tiny boats with the colorful sails–teachers in the inflatable).
Try not to annoy the big kids on the playground!
If that’s too nerve-wracking, find a quiet gorgeous garden.
We saw this one on a Saturday walk through town. A number of normally private gardens were open to the public one weekend, with a couple of artists in each garden displaying their works–and presumably noting your reaction to their work. That was mostly fine except for the garden with the guy who had made about thirty large origami . . . somethings . . . penguins maybe? Anyway, super basic third-grade origami, totally lame. Fortunately, he was too busy setting them back up every time a breeze knocked them down to notice our stunned disbelief. Seriously. Weak. When he looked our way, we got very busy trying to identify all the herbs in the garden and admiring the architecture and then got out of there as quickly as possible.
With the sun blazing away you can tell by this clock in the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville (well, maybe YOU can–I looked at my watch) it’s about 3:30 in the afternoon and time to walk the rest of the way home to start work. So that’s just what we did.
Portable as we are, a spur of the moment invitation to join some friends in Mexico was immediately accepted, of course. (Did I mention we have excellent friends?) We’ve just returned from six days in a condo on the beach in Akumal, Mexico. Since air travel in coach tends to be a bit of an endurance test these days, David decided to pay a bit extra to give us more leg room. However, since our seats turned out to be bulkhead seats, all my flight comfort gear had to be comfy all by itself up in the overhead compartment. Fortunately, that was the extent of our troubles for the week, so no complaints here.
I never tired of trying to capture the changing light, absolutely breathtaking.
Another view from the balcony. Here’s one of the palapas under which we’d park ourselves whenever we weren’t snorkeling, walking on the beach, or having a drink in the bar (or running up the three flights of stairs to the condo for one reason or another).
Slightly different view in the other direction.
Here is one of our “neighbors” across the street from the condo.
They were a bit shy, but a few times a day, generally around cocktail hour, ten to fifteen of these guys would congregate to see what the trash bins had to offer.
Another view was something we heard before it was something we saw, and we were puzzled. We kept hearing an odd rhythmic sound, several times a day, and finally decided it must be the spin cycle from housekeeping doing the laundry. Then we happened to venture down to La Buena Vida, a beach bar just down the way, and discovered this.
All in all an excellent WARM January mini-vacation. Many thanks to our generous, extremely hospitable friends!
Today’s theme is “Excusez-moi” because when I originally emailed these photos to friends and family, I misidentified La Grosse Horloge in a photo. So, excusez-moi, here is the actual Grosse Horloge.
The restaurant you can just see on the edges of the photo (interior seating on the left and exterior on the right) has a semi-crazed little woman, always in leggings and various bizarre wardrobe items, trying to drag passers-by into the restaurant. The day we ate at an outside table she was wandering around accosting people while holding a big squeegee and we thought she might be homeless and going to offer to clean our table (while we were eating!) like those people you see at intersections sometimes. Now we’re pretty sure she’s actually employed by the restaurant. Who knows, maybe she owns it!
Excusez-moi again. Yesterday I forgot to include the old lighthouse portion of La Tour de la Lanterne. Yes this is the same tower that housed the prison with the inmates and their carving tools creating artwork everywhere. Rather posh, n’est-ce pas?
This one fits the theme because it and the next one are taken inside a room at one of the Chambre d’Hotes of La Rochelle that was converted from a former cave (pronounced cahv–pretend you’re very British), which means wine cellar. There are actually still bottles of wine at the end of the room to the left of the tub. I keep picturing le proprietaire wandering through for a bottle (although presumably he does not!) while the guest reclines in the tub.
The other end of the super-cool room with the lit tub.
Not terribly attractive or memorable buildings by day, but excusez-moi, they light up rather well at dusk, don’t you think?
David and I wandered into the beautiful grounds of the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle and took a few photos. I was waiting for this guy you can see at the end of the covered walkway to get up and move on so I could take a photo, then decided, whatever, I’ll take it with him in it, just as he decided to move. So I took the photo, then walked through toward him and out the other end, kind of smiling at him as if to say, It’s fine that you were in my photo. He sort of grimaced at me, then sat down to take a photo. Turns out HE was waiting for ME to get out of HIS photo. Excusez-moi!
Apparently Subway also wants to live in France (note their sign on the far right), but excusez-moi, they really need to work on a French looking logo . . .
Because here, even the tattoo parlor sign is classy!
My French classes lasted all morning every weekday for the two weeks we were in La Rochelle, but at around 12:30 I would meet David for lunch, then we’d do the tourist thing for a few hours. On one of our early days in town, we spent an afternoon climbing all three of the famous towers.
First bit of interior stairway. Note the worn stairs about half-way up this flight. That took a few feet to wear down stone!
View from most of the way up Tour Saint-Nicolas.You can see Tour de la Chaine just across the narrow part of the port and in the distance Tour de la Lanterne, which had been both a prison and a lighthouse.
One of the super tiny, winding staircases in Tour de la Lanterne, definitely NOT sized for MY giant feet! This tower is loaded inside and out with 18th century graffiti carved into the soft stone by the prisoners. Hm. Prisoners with carving tools. Is this a good idea? Sounds terrible, but the graffiti is actually interesting and some is pretty impressive. Lots of ships, names and dates from the distant past carved into the walls.
Here’s a better view of the beach closest to our house, from atop Tour de la Lanterne. The tide varies significantly from high to low so boaters must be aware and stay in the marked channel or be prepared to be stuck until high tide returns.
View of La Rochelle from atop Tour de la Lanterne. Note the two towers (Tour de la Chaine and Tour Saint-Nicolas) on the right and the Ferris wheel (La Grand Roue) to the right and a bit behind the two towers. All are excellent places to rendez-vous with David after my morning of French classes, because my bus stops near all of them, but mostly because they stick up high enough for David to find them as he’s walking from the house, not so challenging now, but the first few days he was a bit lost in all the old winding streets.
We’re not the kind of people who need eons to make decisions, but we do prefer to have reasonably adequate information. A mini-trial run would be even better, we knew, so we decided to take a reconnaissance mission : three weeks in France in the late spring of 2013. As you’ve no doubt figured out, all went well and plans proceed apace. Here are a few highlights of that trip.
Although this was not our first trip to Paris, we generally try to avoid the usual Paris sights checklist that has all the tourists looking so hag-ridden by day two. Consequently, this was the first trip the Musée D’Orsay made it to the top of our list. I managed to catch a quick second when the famous old station clock was not thronged, and snapped this shot looking out through the gentle spring rain to Sacre Coeur in the distance.
A beautiful little park in Paris we only discovered because David noticed an impressive tower bristling with gargoyles and he wanted to go check it out. This photo was taken from under an umbrella protecting my camera from the ever-present Parisian rain. After recovering somewhat from jet-lag, and ready for a bit more space than the tiny Parisian hotel room, we caught the TGV, short for Train à Grande Vitesse (Train of Great Speed) and were in La Rochelle by mid-afternoon.
Close-up of the front of our house in La Rochelle, home for two weeks last spring and home for the bulk of our upcoming adventure. No screens of course, this being France, and no curtains either. You open the windows, reach out and swing the shutters closed every night if you want privacy. Although the house is within a very private walled garden, the two bedrooms upstairs–with windows just like these–are in full view of the houses across the street, so shutter-closing is a nightly activity.
The view from the main street that abuts the very end of the old port, looking out to two of the three famous towers.
If you look closely you can see the diving platform attached (temporarily) to Tour Saint-Nicolas for the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championships which are typically held the last weekend of May. We climbed all three towers a couple of days after settling in, up the tiniest, twisty-est, worn-stone spiral staircases you’ve ever seen. Yikes. Nice little work-out for the legs, though, and spectacular views.
A view out to the Atlantic. The beach is just over the short stone wall past the benches. This is the closest beach to us, about a 30 minute walk. We spent about an hour there on one of our first days in town, not actually in swimsuits on the beach, instead sipping a drink at a table under an umbrella, but I did go dip my toes in. A bit chilly still, since it is the Atlantic Ocean and it was only the end of May.
Beautifully lit café we noticed on our walk home Friday night. Taken at about 9:45 p.m. when it was just starting to get dark. You may notice David on the far right, patiently waiting for me to take yet another photo. Unfortunately, the lighting is better than the food, which we discovered when we decided to try it for lunch. Oh well, many other options.
So much to do before we’re off on our adventure. Favorite (and only) husband is doing productive things like packing boxes for storage, donating too-long-hoarded possessions, arranging movers to take the piano to its temporary home. Just packing our books will probably take weeks.
I, on the other hand, am sitting on the couch creating a blog. And he hasn’t complained once. Excellent quality in a husband!