Natural

The Jardin des Plants, or the city garden, in la Rochelle has the Natural History Museum on one side. I loved seeing animals up close like you can at these types of museums although I imagine the animal rights people would shut them down if they could. These animals were probably preserved years ago if that helps. There was a family in the museum and the children were just charmed by seeing lions and tigers and all sorts of other creatures. It really needed air conditioning though. Maurice and I were miserable and didn’t stay as long as we would have if it had been cooler.

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On the way to the museum I found an unmarked courtyard that I had read about containing the symbol of the Templars who were once very powerful here in la Rochelle.

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There were wonderful collections of sea shells which I love seeing. I used to collect them myself. There were also a lot of fossils.

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A room full of various deer and the like.

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I liked this arrangement with the fox and its prey.

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The lion looked a little moth eaten.

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Some skeletons here and there. No whales though.

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This giraffe was at the top of some stairs. It turned out to be Zarafa, a gift from the ruler of Egypt to Charles X of France. There was an incredible amount of work to get her to Paris as there had to be a specially built boat to get her down the Nile-there was a place for her head to stick out-and then up the Seine but she survived. She lived in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris for 18 years and started a giraffe craze of high hats and hairdos. I’m surprised she ended up in Nantes and not the nice Museum of Natural History in Paris.

The Unexplored

We have a friend who was on a group tour composed of French tourists somewhere in the Middle East. Our friend was talking to a couple and asked them where in France they lived and they told her Paris and a place on the Atlantic Coast near La Rochelle that she wouldn’t have heard of and she said, “It wouldn’t be Chatelaillon, would it?” They were really shocked because she was right. She sent us their names and contact information and we met and have had several meals with them. The husband is especially interesting. He has worked all over the world and has lots of fascinating stories. He and his wife explore this area when they are here much more than we have. He is always telling us of interesting places to visit around here. One of these was a quarry, called la Pierre de Crazannes, near a village called Crazannes less than an hour from our place. People have been getting stone from here for centuries. It is especially popular because it is pure limestone without fossils in it which is what those doing sculptures want and many builders. Since the advent of cement in 1948 the quarry shut down but they have a little museum there and take you on a tour to see it all. It was very fascinating.

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When you drive up into the parking lot there are a bunch of huge sculpted statues which are done by resident artists. We saw them chiseling away while there.

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The entrance to the trail leading to the quarry.

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A look at some of the huge blocks of stone left. They did it the old fashioned way, chisel groves in the shape they wanted, put in dry wedges, put linen on top and pour on water. As the wedges expanded, the stone would fall out of its place in the wall, be put on a wagon pulled by six oxen where the stone would be moved to the nearby Charentes River. It was hard labor and the average age expectancy was 52 years. Boys started working there when they were nine moving rubble and were doing work by the time they were 16. It paid more than farming. Also, many men went blind working on the white limestone in the sun for years.

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The workers could only go down 18 meters as water was reached being near the river. It was a very tropical place as you can see-ferns all over the place.
We went for lunch to a nearby city called St Jean d’Angely where there was a church on the Camino de Santiago, the path followed by pilgrims walking through France to Spain.

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Here is what is left of an old abbey.

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Inside the church that is there now. Such a pretty floor.

Oysters

The area we live in is known for its oysters. The island, Oleron, right across from us produces the most oysters in all of France. We have our own production going on in the village right next to us. We can see the oyster bed from our balcony.

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They are doing some massive work on the walk along the beach so I don’t go in that direction much any more but on this day I decided to see how it was all going. The path takes you to the little village called les Bouchelers. As you can see the tide was out but there was enough water left for reflections.

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It’s common to see tractors taking oyster boats out onto the bed exposed by the low tide. Apparently, oysters like exposure to air twice a day. This may have been a natural oyster site at one time but I imagine it is now a farm where oysters are “planted” and then cultivated.

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Another view.

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A boat up close. They pile the hue sacks of oysters up front and bring them to shore.

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Seen in the village.

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This way to the beach.

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Nice way to finish the day.

Bastille Day

I’ve never made it to the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower to watch the fireworks Paris has on Bastille Day. I tried watching from on top of Montmartre before but it was too far way to see much. Here at the beach, the fireworks are right in front of our building. Nothing like having a front row seat.

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From our terrace. So pretty but it was really cold and windy. The fireworks were on July 13th which is typical in rural France. Bastille Day is on the 14th.

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I watched the military parade in Paris on the next day. This was a group of children who stopped in front of the President and sang the French National anthem.

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Photo of TV screen. Paris can really do fireworks!

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It was windy so this didn’t look as good as it usually does. And then that night the attack in Nice happened. I have been on that street many times and Maurice was born in Nice. A father and son from Austin, Tx were killed. I don’t know what can be done about things like this. I just plan to try and enjoy each day and hope I don’t have to say this again

A City Garden

My planned post on another sad day for France. I’m speechless.

Many cities in France have a city garden called a Jardin des Plantes and la Rochelle has a lovely one.

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You reach the garden by going down block after block of covered passages. La Rochelle is full of them.

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It’s behind the Natural History Museum and is composed of “rooms” of gardens.

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A pretty line of arbors.

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Lily closeup.

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One of the rooms had some mirrors.

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There were flowers outside on the street too gowing on their own.

A Beautiful City

I spent the day in la Rochelle the other day. It’s just ten minutes away from our beach place. It’s nice to have a place near by to visit that’s so interesting and beautiful.

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There are two light houses there. This is the first one you see as you enter the city. From a boat as you line up the two light houses to enter the horbor.

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These two towers guard the inner harbor.

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The second light house.

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I always like some Art Nouveau.

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They were having a demonstration of this device in the harbor. Looks like fun.