Sunday, 13 October 2013

London to La Rochelle

After what seems like two years of waiting for fully functioning Internet, I am finally reconnected to the world…and boy does it feel good. Despite it being in Europe, technology and attaining internet is definitely not one of the strong points of France. Beware to those who plan to come to France for their year abroad in the future!

I guess starting a blog was  expected really, seeing as I’m a student on her year abroad blah blah blah etc. But in fact blogging has been something that I’ve wanted to venture into for some time now and seeing as I have now moved to France, what better time than now to document my travels in this beautiful country!

I’ve been here for about three weeks now and I’ve almost forgotten what my own house looks like back in London. Settling in has been much easier than anticipated; especially with the new neighbours who are constantly knocking on my door to check I’m ok adjusting to French life and to invite me for dinners of foie gras and rivers of red wine. And on a daily basis I think I say ‘bonjour’ about 30 times because saying hello to everyone and anyone is the norm here and frankly it makes the day feel happier. And this is why I’m not really eager to get back to London any time soon - the most my neighbours have ever done is look at me and glare.

La Rochelle is situated on Western Coast of France and to put it simply, it is beautiful. I couldn’t have picked a better place to be on my year abroad. It is quaint, very French and on the sea which is never a bad thing. The town has a unique buzz; in between a large student population from the university, the old but spritely pensioners and trendy parents with their young children, you don’t often feel lonely or lost in this part of France. Striking up a conversation with a stranger is as easy as 123 and it happens more often than one could imagine. The chilled atmosphere means you never feel too rushed or stressed - the complete opposite to London and I have to say, I prefer it. Of course the love for London will always be irreplaceable but this town offers so much more in terms of quality of life. The people are happy and active, the streets are calm but momentous and the essence of living here is an amalgamation of late afternoon rendezvous’, coffee, patisserie and laughter.

In addition to adapting to La Rochelle’s typically European culture, I have been swept away by the town’s rich historic brilliance. The town is Medieval with the main focus of many postcards and touristic brochures being the famous Towers. All together there are three, Tour Saint Nicolas, Tour de la Chaine and Tower of the Lantern. I won’t bore you with the details but La Rochelle played an extremely important part in many historical events such as trading with the New World and the formation of Québec. And because history is always linked to geography…it’s a brilliant place to travel from! Airport, train station, bus network and bike hire – you name it, La Rochelle has got it. After hurriedly purchasing my ‘carte jeune’ in the UK (the equivalent of an English 12-25 railcard) I was eager to see how useful the train lines actually were…SNCF did not disappoint. Within the first week of being here I had already travelled to places nearby with very easy-to-use trains. Who needs London Underground?!

La Rochelle is in fact quite a small town despite it never really feeling empty apart from Sundays (you can walk around it in a day and become pretty familiar with the streets). In regards to language, it is very French, to the point where you would have to look for people who speak English. Speaking French comes easily when you’re faced with someone who you know doesn’t speak English and up till now the whole speaking French malarky hasn't been a problem… I’ve been told three times that I was mistaken for actually being and sounding French. (I definitely did a happy dance after each one of those three occasions, because we all know that I am neither fluent nor of French descent.) And in addition to having to speak to people, you evidently become acquainted with folk you see regularly. For example, the lady who works in the bakery now knows me and of course, my preferred choice of croissant. I’ve easily eaten 15 croissants in past two weeks - to hell with the Dukan diet. And when I’ve had enough of all the crepes, cheese, cream, baguettes and every other carbohydrate I pop to the local Carréfour City. Despite it being more expensive than your average Tesco express, French supermarkets, like French pharmacies, are just SO much MORE fun! Even to the point where you can buy pasta in a box and heat it up in the supermarket before you leave. How ridiculously practical.

I could continue to ramble about the many cafés I have sat at, how much wine I have drunk or the stupid amount of euros I have spent at the weekly marché buying fresh groceries…but instead I’ll leave you with some photos of this chic town and it’s glorious coast.

A bientôt!

La Grosse Horloge


Le vieux port and the two towers

Rue sur les Murs


Atlantic Coast