Birds and the Beach

Some photos I’ve taken as I do my walk on the strand along the beach.

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There is a little seasonal café on the beach with umbrellas and loungers for, I’m sure, a fee. I think I went a little overboard with the filters on this photo.

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A typical view although it varies all of the time depending on if the tide is in or out. When it goes out, it goes way out which is why it’s an oyster producing area.

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I think these are seagulls. They almost always face in the same direction (always north) in the mornings, sort of like cows. I don’t think they do that cud thing. Maybe they are just napping. They follow the water out as low tide begins, eating small fish and shrimp I think. I see them floating in the water way out before the tide comes in. At noon or so they circle high above us. This is August so they may just be disturbed by the many people on the beach. I’ve become an observer of nature just like scientists once did before computers and books.

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I’m always trying to get photos of birds in flight but am usually not close enough. These birds (seen all facing the same direction earlier)were madly eating what looked like bread and only took off when I got near. They are flying away from me but I still like seeing their flight captured in midair.

Île Madame

We finally got around to visiting a very small island not far from us. It is reached by a natural path, a causeway, that can be covered in high tide so you always have to check the tide times. We waited for the appointed time and instead of walking over on the causeway, we slowly drove our car behind an RV and a carriage pulled by two horses. The island is mostly unpopulated. There is a farm there with a restaurant where we ate lunch. You can walk around the periphery of the island if you want, it’s that small. There’s not that much to see aside from some colorful fish cabins up on stilts, some with windows and decorations which made us wonder if people lived in them for short periods of time when the fish were biting.

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There were sheep.

IMG_1122[1]Fences and weeds.

IMG_1124[1] The fishing shacks. Some food that attracts fish is put in the middle of the net which is then lowered into the water and pulled up if and when fish can be caught.

IMG_1128[1] I especially liked the color of this one.

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A photo of a photo of the island from up above. I think it gets its name from a lady who once lived here but I can’t find the information again.

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