Saturday, June 27, 2009

FRANCE 09 PART 3

La Rochelle Aquarium: Lemon Puffer (top) and Hawaian Double



Evening on St Georges beach, fish for auction at la Cotiniere and Chassiron Lightouse










SUNDAY 21 JUNE 09
Father’s Day began with death on the lawn of the gite as the visiting cat made an early morning kill. A surviving rabbit raced from bush to bush to safety.
Bonne Fete Papa! Decided we’d make this a lazy day. Drove to La Palmyre for the market with a promise (kept) not to buy food. Bought a few odds and ends and one or two presents for the grandchildren.
Spent most of the afternoon reading (in the sun) A Thousand Splendid Suns. It s a good book and if you like it why not try Wasted Vigil. The pool was also visited.
Then came the Clafoutis clanger. At the end of our barbecue, brochettes of beef from the Marche, we went to the fridge for the dessert. Noticed it on Saturday at the traiteur. It was marked Clafoutis, looked like it through the glass and we order two inside, and received it boxed. But at the end of the meal, this Clafoutis was not the regular fruity one. Instead, it was savoury dish with tomatoes studded around . Is there more than one Clafoutis out there?

MONDAY 22 JUNE 09
Today was a very interesting history stroll though nearby Saintes, beginning in the Roman arena. We paid a few euro extra for the audio guides and it was a brilliant investment. We made full use of them as we strolled though the ancient stadium, once used for the entertainment of the public, bread and circuses: animal chases and gladiator versus gladiator. This arena, one of the oldest, could hold close to 20,000 and the remains plus the audio meant you could easily picture the scene as the crowd gathered and the fighters entered.
It was hot in the amphitheatre but much cooler at the nearby Roman crypt of St Eutrope, part of the church named after this early bishop. After that we walked back to the town and sat at the nearest cafe, Cafe Des Arenes, where we had a three course lunch for the princely sum of €10.50: brochette of beef with salad and frites, dessert and coffee.
We were parked across the road but left the car there and walked down the town, over the river to Arc Germanicus and up the street to Abbaye aux Dames, the abbey of the women. This convent, first consecrated in the 11th century, turned out to be a highlight of our trip, once we found the office which is rather hidden away.
Again, we paid a few euro extra for the audio guides and the rewards were rich as we strolled at our own pace, through the exterior, then through the church, then the medieval gardens and then back to the convent, taking it all it in before climbing up to the belfry from where we enjoyed fantastic views over the town, especially up towards St Eutrope and St Peter’s (the other main church in Saintes).
Well satisfied with our day out, we made the short trip back to the gite for a dip in the pool and a barbecue.

TUESDAY 23 JUNE 09
This was an easy day. Late start, followed by a trip to the nearby vineyard and the sales cabin of Madame Masse to replenish supplies and than a short walk through the countryside adjacent to the gite.
After a quick lunch, headed to Royan and walked along by the main beach, the port and the next (smaller) beach. Then back towards the town centre for a look at the controversial Eglise Notre Dame. Built to resemble the prow of a ship, it looks severe on the outside. The inside looks more like a church but still the severity is maintained in the angular fittings, e.g. the baptismal font and the holy water fonts neat the entrance and in the statues scattered around. It is definitely 20th century in a town that was itself almost totally rebuilt in the 1950s having been destroyed in the later stages of the Second World War.
Many shops are closed as all seem to be preparing for sales tomorrow but we do manage to pick up a few presents before heading home to the pool.
Drive to Pisany, intending to have an evening meal at the local Auberge but find it doesn’t open until 7.30pm. Drive down to Acres then and have a lovely meal there from the €18.00 menu.
Aperitifs, cider and kir, cost a fiver and 50 cls of an impressive Sauvignon Blanc costs €5.00. Starter is a tomato brochette, main is Julienne (a fish similar to hake) served with rice, peppers and pureed pea, all followed by a desert of apple tart. Well worth it and we promise to go back next week.

WEDNESDAY 24 June 09
Summer sales break out in the area today but the highlight for us was a visit to the aquarium in La Rochelle. Open 365 days a year, it costs €13.00 to enter and is well worth it. Parking is fairly freely available close to the centre and we got ours (for free) in the Esplanade du Parcs, having failed to find a Park and Ride on the way in (which we used previously).
The parking was free and a pleasant walk through Place Verdun and then Rue de Palais took us to the port and its towers and it views out over the Atlantic. The Aquarium, well signposted is on the other side of the Vieux Port, a short walk away.
Creatures from all the oceans of the world, from tiny seahorses and colourful coral fish to the big grey sharks, can be seen here. Want to be young again? Pay the €13.00 and wonder. An excellent visit.
Back to the gite but the cupboard was bare so headed out to the generous plates of La Foret. Take this meal for value. A pave de Saumon au four (oven cooked darne of salmon), well garnished, and served with some tagiatelle (15.00), followed by Tarte Normande, apple and rhubarb (5.50), a half bottle of wine (3.00), and a coffee (1/80), total an incredible 25.80. Another worthwhile visit to a restaurant that is very popular with the French –didn’t see any other foreigners there!
THURSDAY 25 June 09
Lazy day. Very warm again. Gathered some food, bought some presents, in the morning, afternoon reading and in and out of the pool, quick trip to beach at St Geogres. Poulet Basque from the traiteur for dinner.

FRIDAY 26 JUNE 03
Weather uncertain as we headed for the island – Ile d’Oleron – this morning. But we need not have worried. As we reached the Viaduc, the sky was clearing. We headed for Le Chateau d’Oleron to watch the oyster farmers at work. Best viewed from the heights of the citadel – there you have a terrific view of the harbour and the estuary and the fleet of flat bottomed boats coming and going to the oyster beds.

Then up the coast to Boyardville and a little lunch – moules a la Italienne + frites, cost nine euro - at a little place near the main parking for the beach called L’ilot. On then to the tip of the island to see and climb the lighthouse, the 150 year old Chassiron.

Climbed the 224 steps no bother to enjoy great views, large over the sea in all directions and small to the foot of the building where a very nice garden (a new feature) has been laid out. Great value for just €2.50.
Back down the other side of the island to make a call to La Cotiniere where the fishermen land their catches and where the fish auctions take place. Saw some very big “meagre” delivered to the auction rooms.
Then back to the gite, the pool and the barbecue. It is now gone 8.30pm and the sun is still shining strongly on the back of the gite. C’est la vie!