Archive for May 14th, 2018

May 14, 2018

La Rochelle in the Atlantic ocean!

This is one of our favorite cities in France , really, that is saying a lot when you have visited zillions of villages here over the years. It was found by chance, as my oldest son studied hotelerie/restaurant in Paris and needed a semester of on hands study here several years back. He came back very happy of the experience ,and we that had by passed the town on several occassion decided it was time to visit. We did for several days renting an appart hotel just by the museums in Gabut neighborhood. Oh yes I am talking about La Rochelle.

I have written on it for the vistior experiences in previous posts will put them here for visitor references.

Seafaring La Rochelle;

Museums and nights at La Rochelle:

I like to go into the general history and a brief description of what is there to see as to how to get here next.

La Rochelle is in departément 17 of the Charente-Maritime in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. It is located on the borders of the Atlantic Ocean in the esplanade at sea of Pertuis d’Antioche and protected by barriers islands such as Ré, Oléron, and Aix. It is therefore, an important port and since the 12C, holding the title of  Gate to the Ocean or Porte Océane with three harbors marinas fishing, commercial and pleasure .

To give you an idea of the central location of the city even if a sea port let me tell you about the distances ok. It is at 472 km southwest of Paris link by the N11 and A10 now ; only 63 km from Niort, 125 km from Poitiers, 130 km from Angouléme, 147 km south of Nantes, and 187 km north of Bordeaux. Many roads by passes it in addition to the N11 and A10 above, you have the D137 and A837 as well as the N141. Nearby towns are close too such as Saintes only 70 km, by the A837, 30 km north of Rochefort by the D137 and to the island or ïle de Ré by a bridge or pont de l’île de Ré (just wonderful see my previous post on the island). You have ample bus transportation in the area first the RTCR has buses covering La Rochelle and the suburbs and the Ocecars has 11 linles covering the adjacent towns after that. There is a great train station in Gare de La Rochelle and an extension of the line to service the great cruise port of la Pallice.

La Rochelle

La Rochelle was a village from the 10C , the château fort de Vauclair built early 12C by the lords of Mauléon and Rochefort, later Guillaume X Duke of Aquitaine became lord of La Rochelle in 1130. He gave the town a ramparts and a charter of free port and once the English market opened after the marriage of Aliénor d’Aquitaine in 1152 the presence of the Templars and knights of St John of Jerusalem gave the town the biggest port in the Atlantic. The town passes from the kingdom of France king Louis VII to the king of England Henri II Plantagenêt; by 1224 Louis VIII annexed the town to the royal domain; in 1360 by the treaty of Brétigny, the town goes back to the kingdom of England. IN 1371 the locals send off the English out of the castle but left open the gates to Duguesclin ,that after confirmation by king Charles V of the privilidges to the town insuring to remain in royal possession of France.

In the 16C the doctrine of Calvin weights heavy here and La Rochelle becomes one of the principal centers of Protestants with many sieges of it by king Charles IX in 1573 and 1628 by Richelieu himself with heavy resistant by the mayor Jean Guiton that had built a digue of 1500 meters to isolate the city from the sea and his English allies, done but surrended the city to king Louis XIII eventually. By 1822 there was the conspiracy of the four sargents or Quatre Sergents a secret society of mostly sub officers that were trying to overcome the Restoration (king back in power ) they were discovered in time put in prison in Paris first where they were condemn to die and executed. This sentence made them martyrs of king Louis XVIII and at La Rochelle, that is why I am writing on it, they were initially imprisoned at the tour de La Lanterne where the graffitis can still be seen.

Some of the great men who passed by here included François Rabelais that he mentioned in his masterwork Pantagruel, the military engineer Choderlos de Laclos who first wrote dangerous liaisons or Liaisons dangereuses in 1782 and visit the city in 1786. Eugéne Fromentin is a writer painter native of La Rochelle, with his novel Dominique he wrote of life in the city in the 19C. Guy de Maupassant wrote about it in his work L’Epave in 1886. And many others.

To walk is to marvel of the best of France , it is a fortified city and just lovely we really fell for it. Many memories now of my other half.  Some of the nicest walks are in the quartier du Gabut or neighborhood nice and museums , Cours des Dames with boatbuilders houses, Rue Sur les Murs linking the tour de La Chaîne to the Tour de La Lanterne, and the Quai Duperré full of cafés  and facing the big clock or grosse horloge the statue of admiral Duperré born here in 1775 and leader of the fleet that took Algers in 1830. A main street is the Rue du Palais, Rue Chaudrier with wooden houses with a sculpture of Ronsard, at the end of this street on a small garden you see the house call Maison Henri II built in 1555 because done in his style of construction. Grande Rue des Merciers, loaded with shops and homes of the  17C ,and the rue de Minage covered with old arcades with very old houses such as no 43 ,22, 4 ,and 2 .The old port or Vieux Port is gorgeous with its towers or Tour Saint Nicolas, and Tour de la Chaine, and Tour de la Lanterne only left from the ramparts covering the town in 1628 mostly demolished by Richelieu. The gate or Porte de la Grosse Horloge kept the entry to the city from the old town still in medieval conditions   You see the remarkable city hall or Hôtel de Ville in the renaissance style and many buildings from the 17C and 18C like the chamber of commerce old Bourse or stock house.

La Rochelle

The city has wonderful parks too amazing. The two we like and biggest are the parc Charruyer created from 1887 on 40 hectares on military lands that were swampy with marshes located at the foot of the fortifications west of town dating from the ramparts of 1685; the park was finished in 1890 and originally was called the parc Monceau   of La Rochelle. It gives to the   Allées du Mail which at the summit you have the parc Franck Delmas, name after a local resistance fighter assassinated for his acts by the nazis in WWII. Before this part was private but now it is public with its wonderful Villa Fort Louis in the center of the park of 7 hectares and this park was renovated in 1999 due to the storm Martin.

At the beginning there were pools of sea water here and centers of Thalassotherapy from the 18C then the beach was open at Plage de la Concurrence and the town exploded with beachgoers from 1907. Other beaches followed such as those of the plage des Minimes in 1978, later plage de Chef de Baie and Plage d’Aytré. At the extreme point of the plage des Minimes you find the Phare du bout du Monde (lighthouse at the end of the world) a replica of the one in Cap Horn off South Africa. The lighthouse is in wood in an octagonal form with lights of 7 lamps with colza oil   good vision for 26 km at an angle of 93 degrees . One of the best aquarium in Europe that of La Rochelle in the neighborhood of the Gabut just on the other side of the old harbor has 10K animals from all the world in 3K sq meters of water divided into 65 basins. A nice visit indeed.

La Rochelle

You have the principal religious temples here such as Saint Louis Cathedral , Chapel of Notre Dame de l’Esperance, Church of Notre Dame de Cougnes, ,and Church of Saint Sauveur. Several museums here my favorites are the bunker museum or musée du bunker de la Rochelle on a real bunker of 280 square meters recounting the history of WWII here. Fine arts museum or Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Rochelle since 1845 on the old bishop’s house in city center with local painters. Natural history museum or Muséum d’Histoire naturelle since 1831 in the governor mansion given by Napoléon in 1808, the New World Museum or musée Nouvelle Monde given history from the 16C on what the locals have done in the world. The marine or musée maritime on floating and on land with 8 heritage boats in the basin of the old port allowing you to see the meteorological boat France 1. The automated museum or musée des Automates the first in France a collection of automated toys from all over Europe and all periods. Wonderful as well as the reduce models museum or Musée des Modéles Réduits.

La Rochelle La Rochelle La Rochelle La Rochelle

Many wonderful events here to check it out to be here at the time and reservations in advance. In May, Jazz Around La Rochelle since 2001 traditional jazz in a New Orleans ambiance wonderful. In June the Festival international du film since 1973 second only to Cannes in France;in July, the Francofolies since 1984, French music concerts and discovery of new talent. The Grand Pavois, in September lasting a week, the biggest international on water boat salon at the port des Minimes.

More information to help you enjoy your visit here can be found in the below official links.

The city of La Rochelle on tourism in English:

La Rochelle tourist office in English:

Department 17 Charente Maritime tourism

Region of Nouvelle Aquitaine tourism

Enjoy La Rochelle, we really did and fond memories of it. There is so much to see just in France sometimes we take time in coming back to things we saw, but this one is high on the list for a return soon. As I said, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!


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May 14, 2018

Two for Normandy, Avranches and Les Andelys!

I am on the mood for Normandy, a treasure trove of goodies all over and now back to be call one whole Normandy again. We come here often even this year when we went to seek help near Mont Saint Michel. On our rounds we passed many times by Avranches and went around the curve to seek the hilly curvy Les Andelys. I like to do a first post on these two jewels that need to be visited more by visitors to France. The season is right just 17C today and off clouds and sun.

Avranches is located in the département 50 Manche in the region of Normandy. I get there by car and a good start to the Mont Saint Michel side trip to anyone. The town I passed by every month on the road A84 between Caen and Rennes and can reach Paris by the A13 autoroute de Normandie. ON trains you can come to the gare d’Avranches from Caen and Rennes, the local bus network is Manéo.

The town is very old, but came to be during the Roman occupation with the name of Legedia ; this was destroyed by the end of 280AD by Saxon pirates even if the city developed slowly thereafter. By the end of the 5C it became a seat of a bishop ; it was one bishop Aubert that was the initiator of the first sanctuary and the origins of Mont Saint Michel after receiving the orders from the archangel to come and visit. The Vikings came later by 933AD and even taken by the Bretons thereafter. The Norman period began by 990AD with the bishop Norgod named by Duke of Normandy Richard 1er. Robert was the first Count name by the Duke for these lands and thanks to this Avranches developed Norman thereafter.

By 1154 Henri II Plantagenêt count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, and Aquitaine becomes king of England. By 1162, to restored the monarchy Henri II name of one his trusted men Thomas Becket chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury ; later Thomas abandoned this functions and chose the exile. Thomas finally came back to England ,but tensions were high and Henri II ordered the elimination of Thomas done in 1170 at the cathedral of Canterbury. This cause a great problem and Pope Alexander III excommunicated Henri, later to repent and came back Henri is force to submit to several public penitence’s one of them took place at Avranches in 1172 where he ask forgiveness to the Pope. Wars and alliances continue to make Avranches part of the Royal domaine eventually. By the end of the 12C there is a desire to unite the Normandy with the Brittany as in 1188 the Viscount of Avranches Ranulf becomes also Duke of Brittany by his marriage to Constance of Brittany., this union lasted short as Brittany gained its independence. The king of France Philippe Auguste, takes advantage to take away the Normandy from the Plantagenêt. To make the story short and to the point, eventually this is done by buying from the Viscount of Avranches the region, and the king eventually came to visit his new lands twice in 1256 and 1269.

Avranches refuse Henri II and stays Catholic, in the war of religions that eventually saw Avranches devastated by the Huguenots in 1562.  Later ,the problems of the salt a local product causes new uprisings known as the barefoot against the laws of Richelieu in 1639.  During the French revolution and thereafter the city is taken  by the  Vendéens without a fight in 1793 but later abandoned due to the failure of the siege of Granville. The revolutionary republicans entered the town and massacred about 800 wounded and sick for the most part in the field of Lansoudiére on the plains of Changeons. The WWII was very much in vogue here just after the Normandy invasion. The bombings gives to destruction of the train station, rue Louis Millet, rue d’Orléans , the old town section ,the rue des Fontaines Couvertes and many others. From April 1946,the city starts to rebuilt and on 1954 it opened the monument to Gen Patton at the square or Place Patton; in 2006 the Scriptorial museum opened showing the manuscripts of the Mont Saint Michel ,more on this here:

Things to see here are the Donjon castle of the 11C by Count Robert  Today this is cross by a road rue de la Belle-Andrine and most of the donjon has crumbled, there is a wall between the roman donjon lost and the tower of Promenoir as the only remains of it The Grand-Doyenné built in the 12C, 15C and 18C housing the doyens of the church in Avranches; the roman style Cathedral of  Saint André, first showing in texts from 1025 it was consecrated in 1121 by the French revolution in 1798 it was lowered to simple Church. The old Church Notre-Dame des Champs end 17C it has been renovated and lastly opened in 1962. The Church of Saint-Saturnin built end of the 19C, The old Church of Saint-Gervais built in middle of the 17C and now a basilica neo classic dating from 1823-1899; important as has the relics of Saint Aubert.  Other than the Scriptoral mentioned above other museum worth seeing in my opinion is the Mémorial de Patton and the 3rd US Army.

Some information to help you plan your trip to Avranches is here:

The city of Avranches has more info no tourism in French here:

The department 50 Manche tourist office in English on Avranches:

Normandy region on Avranches:


Les Andelys  is in the departément 27 Eure of the region of Normandy at about 100 km from Paris. This is a hilly town and counts many hamlets on different local D roads ,most on the plains such as in the north Feuquerolles, le Mesnil-Bellanguet, Longuemare, and Noyers  by the D316; in the valley such as Radeval, Paix, and le Val-Saint-Martin, by the D125; and on the south the Cléry, la Baguelande, Mantelle, and Villers, by the D1.  However to get right by the town you are better off on the D135  from the A13 ,the only bridge is a suspended type rebuilt after WWII in 1947 that crosses the Seine river towards Tosny and the righg bank. It is the only bridge between Courcelles sur Seine and Saint Pierre du Vauvray.

The town has many traces of Vikings inhabitation and it is very old town as you can imagine in France. The town belongs to the archbishops of Rouen but it was ceded in 1197 to the Duke of Normandy Richard the Lion Heated ,upon his death he passes to his brother John without lands (sp?) or Jean sans Terre by which finally taking into France by the king Philippe Auguste in 1204.  This taken by France came as a result of the taking of the Château-Gaillard and created psychological conditions for the taking of Rouen and all of Normandy by the king of France. However, it is said on the strategic plan it had no impact as the Seine river was free as well as the route to Rouen much before the taking of the castle.  The results is the duchy of Normandy passing to the kingdom of France after 293 years of independence (since 911 –1204) .

As to the castle of Gaillard, in the following years it was restored later served as a prison ,and finally taken by the English during the War of Hundred years in the 15C. The castle was given up as needed to pull buckets from a well to get water; and with the advances of the artillery it was left in abandon becoming the refuge of homeless etc the King Henri IV ordered the dismantling of its stones that later served to built the Chartreuse of  Aubevoye in Gaillon.  Some anecdotes as here in 1762 the town passes from the duchy of Gisors to Louis Charles de Bourbon-Maine, duke of Aumale; upon his death in 1775 it passes to his cousin the duke of Pentiévre, and by 1793 it passes to Louise Marie de Bourbon-Penthiévre, Duchess of Chartres and Orléans, later in 1821 it entered on the heritage of Duke Louis Philippe III d’Orléans future Louis Philippe Ier king of the French. Early on in WWII in 1940 after bombings and fire on the town it falls to the nazis of the 6th infantry division ,after liberation a plan of rebuilding is approved in 1943.

Things to see here are many manoirs or mansion homes of rich architecture and these my favorites: The Gallo Roman Grand Théatre of the 1C with 120 meters of diameter inside . The before mentioned Chateau Gaillard, Church Collegiale Notre Dame des Andelys built in the 13C 14C 16C and 17C with renovations,; the Church Saint Sauveur du Petit Andely built in the 13C , the hospice Saint Jacques from the 14C and 17C founded by Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthiévre and rebuilt in the 18C , as well as the ramparts of the Grand Andely and the clock tower or Tour de l’Horloge from the 17C

Some further information to help you plan your trip to this wonderful corner of Normandy.

From the city tourist info in French see “Decouvrir” have on Chateau Gaillard:

Tourist office in English here:

Tourist office region of Normandy on castle Gaillard in English:

The dept Eure tourist office on les Andelys:

Les Andelys

There you have it one two punch in Normandy. You can come here by train from gare Saint Lazare in Paris to Les Andelys or by car take the A13 autoroute exit/sortie no. 17 Gaillon . Avranches you can come by slow TER train from Paris Gare Saint Lazare to Avranches or TGV to Rennes and then TER to Avranches. By car take the A13 direction Rouen from Paris and continue past Caen take the A84 free road direction Rennes and get off at  Avranches exit. Enjoy it

Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers !! Enjoy week!!!

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