Tag Archives: La Rochelle

Postcard From Île de Ré, France

Ile de Re Postcard

“The French cannot get the hang of queueing.  They try and try but it is beyond them… you see orderly lines waiting at bus stops, but as soon as the bus arrives the line disintegrates into something like a fire drill at a lunatic asylum….” – Bill Bryson – ‘Neither here Nor there’

Today we planned to take a bus ride to Saint Martin-de-Ré on the Ile de Ré that was about an hour’s journey away, so, knowing that the French are the World’s worst queue jumpers we arrived at the bus station in good time to find the departure point and stand with sharpened elbows at the front of the line.  There was no line of course, just a disorderly crowd of people that was steadily getting larger and more excitable as we waited for the bus.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Life Imitates Art

La Rochelle Market Art

Vegetable Art – La Rochelle, France

Outside the vegetable stalls offered appetizing produce that was so fresh it still had one foot in the countryside and was all arranged in spectacular displays with an elaborate attention to detail.

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market-stall

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

La Rochelle Market Art

Vegetable art – La Rochelle, France

Outside the vegetable stalls offered appetizing produce that was so fresh it still had one foot in the countryside and was all arranged in spectacular displays with an elaborate attention to detail.

Read the full story…

La Rochelle, the French Language and Strange Driving

La Rochelle France

“You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said  – ‘Parking Fine’.”
Tommy Cooper (English comedian)

Another thing about the French is that air of haughty superiority that they do nothing to try and disguise and which practically borders on contempt.  I don’t mind them being proud of their country and their heritage but when patriotism tips over into nationalism that can be unpleasant.  There is the language thing of course which I don’t really have a complaint about because why should I expect them to speak to me in English if I haven’t had the good manners to learn a few simple words of French to return but beyond that there is always the suspicion that for them we are unwelcome in their country and only just tolerated through gritted teeth.

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La Rochelle, Markets and Dogs

La Rochelle France

Our final day in La Rochelle began exactly the same as the day before.  A Hotel Ibis breakfast and then out into the city bathed in a soft blue sky and the early morning sun burning off the remains of the sea dew.  It was going to be another fine day.  We decided to explore the town today and set off first to do that thing that has become a bit of a ritual and go and visit the local market.   And it was a very good one indeed, just the place to get our market envy fix.

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La Rochelle, Language Difficulties and a Mad Motorcyclist

La Rochelle France

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making them understand their own language.”
Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

We were ready for lunch about now so we stopped at the first brasserie that we came across, La Corniche, which was beside the road overlooking the beach and was encouragingly busy with locals, so we took that as a good recommendation and selected a pavement table in the sun.

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La Rochelle, a cliff top walk to La Pallice

La Rochelle France

Another magnificent unblemished blue sky greeted us when we woke and after breakfast at the hotel with gratefully a never ending supply of hot tea we set out to walk along the coastline and find the old German u-boat pens at the main port of La Rochelle at La Pallice.

During the Second World War, Germany established one of its main submarine bases here to support their operations in the Atlantic Ocean and it was such an important stronghold that they were very reluctant to leave and La Rochelle was the last French city to be liberated at the end of the War.  There was a siege that lasted between September 12th, 1944, and May 7th, 1945, in which the stronghold was held by twenty thousand defiant German troops. The French troops only finally broke the siege and entered the city on May 8th.

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La Rochelle, Cycling on the Ile de Ré

Saint Martin-de-Ré on the Ile de Ré

“It has always been a marvel to me — that French language; it has always been a puzzle to me. How beautiful that language is! How expressive it seems to be! How full of grace it is!  And, oh, I am always deceived – I always think I am going to understand it.”
Mark Twain, a Biography

Our plan was quite simple – to hire bicycles and cycle along the coastal paths for as far as we could, or for at least as far as our bottoms would let us, so we made straight away for a bike hire shop opposite the bus stop in Saint Martin-de-Ré.  This was a real challenge because the bicycle-hiring clerk could speak not a word of English and I was a bit stumped as soon as I got beyond ‘Bonjour Monsieur, deux bicyclettes sil vous plait!’ which I had been practising to myself for about half an hour and was practically word perfect.

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La Rochelle, Bus Ride to Ile de Ré

Bridge La Rochelle to Ile de Rey

When we woke the next morning there was a cheerful blue sky and we decided to walk out from the hotel and find a traditional brasserie for a continental breakfast.  There was a chill in the air when we left but we found what we were looking for, took a table and ordered our food.

Unfortunately it turned out to be most disappointing with just a single bread stick and a croissant and a most unsatisfactory pot of lukewarm tea and at the table this morning we were accompanied by another dog, this time one that insisted on sneezing everywhere.  Bloody charming, absolutely bloody charming!  Some of the hotel reviews had recommended this option in preference to the hotel buffet breakfast and I deeply regretted having read them and even more having taken any notice of them.

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La Rochelle, Sheer Drops and Difficult Waiters

La Rochelle France

“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making them understand their own language.”
Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

The flight to La Rochelle was in the mid afternoon and after a short time in the air we arrived at a garden shed in the French west coast city that doubled up as the arrivals hall of the local airport, hardly an international arrival hub but it was nice and welcoming and on our way through woke the customs officials from their prolonged siesta as we were the first through to show our passports and make a dash for the taxi rank and a journey into the town.

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