Monday, March 20, 2017

France - La Rochelle

Until a couple of years ago, my sister and I did not take a holiday in France - like most Belgians do regularly. Apart from a one-day trip to Paris (with our vicar) and a school trip to Lille, I never thought of going to France - even though it's so near to our country!

The main reason: I don't like speaking French! I guess the underlying reason is to be found in a visit I once made with my (French-speaking) grandfather to a friend in the north of France and I could not understand one syllable of what was being said (at home granddad only talked Flemish).

However, times have changed. Nowadays the French realize they need English to go around.

We went to La Rochelle by train. First with Thalyss to Paris, then with a TGV to La Rochelle. We stayed in hotel Mercure, conviently close to the raillway station and also not too far away from the town center.

La Rochelle is a cosy place. The three towers are the first landmarks you can spot: Tour Saint-Nicholas, Tour de la Chaine and Tour La Lanterne. This one used to be a lighthouse during the Middle Ages and is the oldest remaining more or less intact.

The Atlantic Ocean is present everywhere and you can smell it as soon as you leave the train. Of course there is an abundance of seafood to be had, and we could enjoy all those good things from the sea during our stay. Oysters, shellfish, mussels, crab, just name it.

We also took the opportunity to visit the island of Ré during our stay. A three-kilometer-long bridge connects the island with the mainland, and you can reach it by bike, bus or car. Or if you prefer, you can take a ferry. We rented bikes and tried to discover as much of the island as one days allows.

Here are some pictures we took during our stay:

View from the water: when you reach La Rochelle, the first thing you notice are the two towers. On the left, the Chain Tower. On the right: Saint-Nicholas Tower. In the Middle Ages a chain was drawn up between those two towers to prevent ships (pirates) from entering the old port.

The ramp you see sticking out Tour Saint-Nicholas was used for the World Championship Cliff Diving, which took place last weekend. Some of the divers stayed in our hotel, btw. The drop from tower to water was 27 meter.

And this is the third tower which landmarks the town. It's called Tour de la Lanterne (Lantern Tower) and used to be a lighthouse.

La Rochelle is a medieval town, and thus had town walls and gates which gave entrance to the inner town. Here you see the old gate with the watch, which was used to keep time.

These mules with pants on are typical for the island of Ré (close to the French mainland of La Rochelle). During the past century, a farmer's wife came to the clever idea of protecting the legs of the mules (which they used to carry off the salt or oysters) against insect bites by using an old shirt of her husband as a 'culotte' (= pants).

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