After our last post, we went out and had lunch at Restaurant 28, which is overlooking Le Vieux Port (The Old Port). I had curry mussels (yummy!) and David had cod with risotto. While we were there, they started a car rally or race, which was actually on the wide pedestrian walkway that La Rochelle has. The cars didn’t seem to get to go very quickly, as the signage was not very obvious so people were constantly blocking the path of the cars. We got our bags safely over to Uchimata (it took two trips!) and then decided to reward ourselves with some ice cream from Ernest le glacier. I had salted chocolate while David had cherry.
We continued our walk all the way down to the beach on the west side of the Old Port and enjoyed a nice view out over the water and into the Passage of Antioch, which we will sail before too long! Dinner was at La Galletiere. The day before I had tried a gallette at a place in the marina and I was not too impressed. This one was much better! A gallette is a buckwheat thin pancake…like a crepe. My gallette was stuffed with cheese, bacon, and sauteed onions. After dinner we continued with a small walk through the old town, which is very picturesque.
La Rochelle is certainly beautiful, but we have observed a few things that are not so fun. Like most of Europe, smoking is very prevalent. I barely ever see smoking in the states any more, but in France everyone smokes. The other problem I have seen is that not many people clean up after their dogs. It is important to watch where you walk on the cobblestones.
As I said in my previous post, most French people say that they do not speak English, but for the most part we find their English to be very good. David and I are picking up more and more French words, but most of them revolve around food. David has two translation apps that we use. One is a text translation called Translator which he picked because it works without internet connection. We find that it works well most of the time, but there are some instances where it does not translate well. For example, we looked up noix, and the app told us it is walnuts, while in reality it is actually just nuts. Noix de coco makes a lot more sense which you know the correct translation of noix. The other app is WorldLens, which is an augmented reality app. You hold your phone with the camera up to the words, and on the screen the words should change to English. We have used this app a bit less, as it takes a stable hand and is not that reliable.
The next morning (Saturday for those keeping track) we packed up and went to Paris. David and I had both been to Paris before, so we could skip a lot of the things to do for your first visit to Paris.
The train system works very well and we were on time to meet our friends Vishnu and Frido. Vishnu is one of David’s friends from High School. She now lives in Zurich with Frido, her husband. They were vacationing in Paris and it happened to overlap with our schedule. We spent the day with them, enjoying Moroccan food for lunch at 404, and then walking around the Marais neighborhood of Paris. Saturdays are the big shopping days, so the small streets were flooded with people. We stopped at a few scenic places, such as Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church on Rue de Rivoli, and Place des Vosges, which is a park where there were people picnicking, playing instruments and smoking hookah (we sat away from those people). Rue de Rivoli is filled with shops and cafes. Shops are specialized, so there is an entire shop dedicated to honey, or another one for jams, and boulangeries (bakeries), patisseries (pastries), and fromageries (cheese mongers). Almost every place gave out samples and many helped me learn the French words for items. All we bought was some Moroccan green tea with mint (because we enjoyed it so much at lunch) and some orange juice (gotta boost our immune system against all the traveling).
Finally, Frido and Vishnu took us to a French play. Of course, we didn’t understand much, but the play was a bit weird anyway. We had crepes (as a indulgent dinner) and then headed back to our apartment. While in Paris, we are staying with my cousins – Joelle (1st generation), Valerie (2nd generation), and Julien (3rd generation and 4 years old). They have been so hospitable to us, and we are happy to have a place to stay for free, since we are unemployeed you know!
Today (Sunday) we awoke and had breakfast. Breakfast in France is pretty different from American or English breakfast. While in La Rochelle at our AirBnB place, breakfast was baguette, jam and tea. At Valerie’s, she made us scrambled eggs (very American) and served with baguette, jam, prosciutto, and juice.
We spent the morning walked around Champs-Élysées and Tuileries Garden, which is the area between the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. Fortunately we have been to Paris before (this is my 5th trip and David’s 3rd) so we don’t have to do the obligatory tourist destinations like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower. Instead, we behaved like Parisians and enjoyed the beautiful day.
When we got back for lunch Valerie had made turkey curry with polenta and vegetables. We had a traditional second course of cheeses, and then a french pastry dessert. Then Valerie and I talked about our families. I have know Valerie since the first time I went to visit her in 1999. Even though we are very distant cousins (she is my Dad’s 4th cousin), I have visited her many times. I did not know how we were related before today, but Valerie wrote out for me her family tree, which I connected to mine.
In addition, another distant cousin, who I had never met before, lives in Paris now, after growing up in Brazil. He asked to meet with us. Bruno is my 5th cousin, and in the branch that moved to Brazil while my branch moved to Louisiana. Bruno is an architect, and we were treated to a wonderful private architecture tour of the Marais neighborhood. Bruno showed us the oldest building in Paris, as well as an underground cellar, which has a tunnel connecting it to the river. He also took us to beautiful old mansions that now serve other functions – such as the Archives Nationales. Finally, we stopped for pastries at a Jewish patisserie.
We had a simple dinner at Valerie’s house tonight, and are catching up on internet and making plans for Amsterdam! As always, there’s plenty of stuff left for the next time we come to enjoy Parisian culture. Our train is tomorrow at 12:25 pm, so we get to have a slow morning. I hope you are enjoying our non-boat related posts!