Sunday, October 28, 2018

La Rochelle: by the water

My final field trip was to the coastal city of La Rochelle, nearly 50 kilometers away from Dominique's little village of Le Vanneau-Irleau. La Rochelle (which you can read about here) is a city steeped in history (which means, I guess, that it's not much different from most European cities... sigh). This history is evident in the different types and styles of architecture, in the many statues and fountains commemorating this or that historical figure, and in the visible way the city grew outward and evolved over time. On the bad side, La Rochelle is now an extremely touristy city: there are traps everywhere in the form of shops and restaurants.

Dominique parked the family car close to a large complex of buildings that included an aquarium. He and his daughter Héloïse had to hit the john, so we all ducked into the aquarium so they could use the facilities. From there, we walked over to the Office de Tourisme, where we picked up a walking-tour pamphlet and received a brief explanation on how to do the 90-minute tour option (the other option was for a 3-hour tour, which we all declined). Our planned path was marked off with points de repère, i.e., landmarks or sites, where we were to stop and read the guide's explanations for what we were looking at. Also included in each explanation were marching orders to get us to the next point de repère.

Véro somehow ended up as the guide and navigator; this may have happened because the tourism-office lady saw Véro as the resident authority figure. However it happened, Véro became our fearless leader, which proved hilariously disastrous after about the third point de repère. We got lost barely twenty minutes into our tour, and for the rest of our 90-or-so minutes walking around La Rochelle, we basically saw the city our way, not the prescribed way. Let me make clear that that is actually my favorite way of getting to know a new location: getting lost in it and forcing myself to navigate is the best way for an idiot like me to imprint a location onto my brain. Guided tours are for the birds, so if I seem to be sneering about Véro's poor navigational skills, believe me when I say that I much preferred getting lost. Dominique and Héloïse both took stabs at navigating later on; I offered the use of my GPS, whose visuals fascinated Dom. He had essentially the same Google Maps program on his cell phone, but the navigational graphic was, for whatever reason, much less detailed than what my phone offered. In the end, though, Dom decided to go old-school and rely on the paper map in our little guidebook, and that turned out to be enough to get us un-lost toward the end of our random, circuitous walk. The next series of shots, in this post and the next couple posts to come, shows you some of the sights that caught my eye as we walked along.

This post is devoted to the first phase of our walk, before we got lost, and back when we were next to the water, where it's impossible to get lost when you have an entire ocean as your navigational landmark.

Dom and Véro from behind. Note Dom's widening bald spot (he turns 50 in 2020):

The complex of buildings that included the aquarium:

The aquarium's atrium, with nifty jellyfish lighting:

The marina, with a Ferris wheel in the distance:

As an Alexandrian who has taken delight in our local tall-ships festival, I was happy to see a tall ship docked nearby:

More marina action:

The Ferris wheel, but slightly closer:

A meta-shot of Dom taking a shot of the young ladies (Pauline and Hélo):

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