Day 10/21 – La Rochelle: its market, aquarium and all

To wrap up our La Rochelle adventure, we finally did what we had always wanted to do – to buy mussels at the famous Wednesday fish market and a visit to the Aquarium, Europe’s largest.

Mussels are a famous fare in restaurants here and we debated if we should eat out or cook our own. By eating out, we can easily spend 60euros if we include wine, but common sense prevailed and we opted to buy our own mussels, shop for the white wine, cook them ourselves and dine al fresco looking at the boats in front of us.

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We have foldable chairs, foldable tables – even our wine has to be foldable so we can cramp everything in a small space. (Actually, the winebox was broken so we disposed it long time ago, even our wine glasses were broken so we are making do with plastic cups, but we still plan to buy proper glasses as wine tastes better on them.

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In searching for the market, we had to go through a maze of streets but the sights always excite us.

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….like this one. It looks like a former church converted into a hotel and a sushi restaurant on the side.

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The seafood market.  La Rochelle is renowned for her shellfish.

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Fromage. ..Formaggio. .they both mean the same – cheese!

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Oysters!

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How to shop in a covered market where dogs are not allowed?
Answer: Get H sit on a café with Charlie.14117883_10205141191447944_2949459156448743998_n
A new addition to our van-ning life: flexible car cooler! So we can finally open and chill that milk and have some cold water readily available. ( yes, we did have a car fridge before but you know how long Made in China lasts these days. This one is German-made so it says in the box.
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Our breakfast earlier – croissants and pain au chocolat (bread with chocolate) bought from a nearby boulangerie. The baguette is for lunch.

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Aperitif before lunch – smoked salmon a la provençale and olives stuffed with anchovies and of course, red wine in plastic cups

14141702_10205141190967932_6440201372577259894_nVoila! Our lunh, moules marinières (mussels with white wine) cooked by the chef of the house, who else but H! Accompanied by baguette (French bread)

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And last but not least, a trip to the Aquarium. Luckily they are open till 11pm in July/August which is great so we went at 7pm, cooler for Charlie to be left in the car.

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Day 9/21 – Still in La Rochelle

Things I’m glad I brought with us on this trip:
1- Fly swapper. Great for swapping wasps that come buzzing around us while eating.
2- Big steel bowl used by Charlie for eating. It’s multipurpose. I use it for washing up plates, as a sink and for collecting water. Spacesaver and easy to wash.

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One of the most beautiful train stations in France is the Gare de La Rochelle. .

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She doesn’t care where her boyfriend takes her..

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Stopping for coffee, and water for Charlie, at this bar-cafe.

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Old town with its two towers and the train station clock tower in the center.

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The wooden village of La Rochelle, new version, as the original one was burned 30 yrs ago. Reminds me of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, USA

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These bags and storage boxes are recycled from old boat sail cloth. Great idea!

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La Rochelle train station

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H’s dream boat

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This bike tandem has a seat for Charlie at the back, ideal!

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Maritime Museum

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Day 8/21 – La Rochelle in the afternoon

We definitely feel fitter and lighter since doing this trip. I don’t get anymore those morning allergies (sneezing), those aches and pains when lifting or bowing (ex. posture when vacuuming), etc.. and H hasn’t had acid reflux for a long time, no muscle aches either. Voila! Seems we are healthier living like nomads!

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Lantern tower

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These are the two of the three towers (parts of the fortification) that welcome everyone visiting the Old Town of La Rochelle.

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Only this clock tower of the town hall is seen because the building is under repair due to the fire that burned the most part of this beautiful historic monument.

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We went to the U-boat bunker earlier but it has been closed to the public for the last 10 yrs. This is another bunker, for the German soldiers, now a museum.

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At the courtyard of the Museum of the New World, Charlie was barking angrily at this statue of a slave. It’s in La Rochelle that the slave trade between Africa and France started. The New World refers to America because it was here on the port of this town that immigration to America commenced.

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Whoah! We thought we are in Bologna, Italy with all these porticoes, but this is still France!

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Just checking if we can fit Charlie on this 3-wheeled motorcycle car. If so, it would be great to have one and tow it with the van.

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The most expensive beer we’ve had since this trip..4.20euros a glass

Day 8/21 – La Rochelle, Part 2

It’s our 8th day travelling along the upper half of France and our challenge to ourselves not to stay in paid accommodations for the entire 3 weeks is looking to be doable. Thanks, France for being so tourist-friendly esp. to the budget conscious like us. And the country is indeed the most visited by campervanners, campers and backpackers because they provide the right infrastructure without expecting to make money out of it. Their main principle is, the more tourists, the more business it will bring to the local traders.

This morning, we got up early (before the heatwave sets in) and went for a long walk along the beach promenade. We saw a couple with their dog just getting up from their small tent on a secluded corner. Not far away is another couple enjoying their breakfast ‘al fresco’ with their own table and chairs, just like us, next to their van.
So now we are confident that we could do a repeat of this kind of travelling and can’t wait to do it in Italy or Spain or Austria! In fact, the whole of Europe, one country at a time! We just love this!

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We were on our way back to the van when we saw the Monday street market on so we bought some cheese (called ‘3 lait’ because it contains 3 kinds of milk – goat, sheep, cow) and a piece of dried sausage so we can have sandwich for lunch. We bought a baguette (long French bread) yesterday and still has one juicy tomato left (courtesy of Maria, our Hungarian neighbour who gave us about 2 kilos from her garden on the day we are departing for this trip) and a bottle of olive oil in the van, all the ingredients of a French sandwich on hand. Wow! The dried sausage was extremely ‘out of this world’ so H, after lunch, quickly went back for more. Here’s the photo. The miniscule sausages, although they are also wonderful, will go to Charlie.
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The walk along the beach promenade was more Mediterranean than Atlantic because of the sight and scents coming from the various herbs that lined the entire path, creating an explosion of heavenly scents! There are laurier (laurel), sage, rosemary, lavenders and many more their names I can’t remember! That’s an oyster shell which I picked from the beach (they are also famous for sea shells most of all, oysters).

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And this is the view just infront of our parked van!

Day 6/21 – Le Mans

Le Mans was midway to our destination so we decided to stop over there to break the journey. All we knew about this town was about motor racing – their most famous is the 24-hour nonstop Le Mans Classic held every July. But we were not prepared to be bowled over by its medieval beauty so we decided to explore it twice – one in the morning and another in the evening – yes, we had to pause at midday to escape the debilitating heatwave ( please go away, heatwave!). I took close to 300 photos from my DSLR and will post the best ones when we get back home.

And oh, by the way, the Old Town has been the location for some films: Le Mans of Steve McQueen, Cyrano de Bergerac of Gérard Depardieu, among others.

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This house tells about 900 years of history as seen from its French Gothic (12thC) styled lower floor and half-timbered (16thC) upper floor.

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This tympanum of St Julien church (11thC) shows Christ the King surrounded by the apostles and other figures.

 

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Would be a dream to live in a tower house like this. ..but with Charlie, a garden is a must!

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To reach the cathedral and the old town, you can climb these series of stone steps just like we did in the morning. We went back for a second tour at 8pm (just when the heatwave was abating) and took the sloping ramparts instead, which was better because we got to see more staggeringly beautiful flower-decked façades of houses and buildings.

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If only I could stay here for one day only, a house so steep in history. .

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This Roman fortification is 2,000 years old and surrounds the Old Town with its two beautiful medieval churches, gardens and houses that take your breath away..

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Scouting for a place to have lunch..

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We see a lot of stones like these leaning on houses, they serve as barriers for protection against passing vehicles. The roads are narrow so, yes, it’s so easy to smash those walls especially if the driver has drunk too much wine.

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I told the waiter I’d like to try the specialty of the region and he suggested this Cocotte Sarthoise. It’s a mix of rabbit, chicken and pork ham, bits of cabbage and carrot all stewed in cream sauce. Delicious but I had to share it with Charlie as there’s so much meat on it.

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