April 21-23, 2000
Walking off the train, I had a feeling about La Rochelle and walking to the tourist booth and then down the coast to the hostel (2km) confirmed it. This was a place for more than a day trip and I ended up staying two nights.
The old city is small, but has a pleasant feel about it, though slightly touristy. This is where the French come for their weekend getaways and the port is filled with medium sized sail boats and a few large pontoons, but few, if any power boats.
The market has a fragrant smell of fresh veggies, the main streets have just the right amount of people and many of the side streets are wide, yet nearly empty making a great place to spread out for a picnic lunch while in the heart of town. Of course, anywhere along the port would provide more eye candy, but sometimes you just have to consider location.
I met two New Zealanders in the hostel and took a stroll with each of them individually to the old town and back. The next morning an English chap came looking for them and I head out, feeling secure only because of the lock on my drawer, as he rambled on in his know-it-all-tough-guy style. The New Zeas seemed to be OK with it though.
The night before he had been challenging my roommates to arm wrestling matches in a bar. Upon defeat, he figured a rematch would be better in his odds with a friendly round of boxing and ended up getting thrown out of the bar.
It turns out the Kiwis really didn't want him around either. 'That's a typical London geezer,' they tell me. (I hope not!)
"Bloody wanker," I reply.
Still, this was the first place in France I actually enjoyed, even during the rain, which has been following me since Barcelona. Put this place on your map if you're crossing the Atlantic by sail.