with La Rochelle that is. Don’t get too excited!!! First off, I’m definitely a budget traveler when it comes to hotels (see prior blogs on this), but I scored a bargain on the place in this town (Hotel de la Paix)! It was the nicest looking room I’ve had, plus the location was stellar! I certainly appreciate a nice room, even if it isn’t a priority (since I’m hardly in them). The room was tiny, but that’s one thing I appreciate about Europe – you have the option to pick a “junior” room or sometimes even a “single” at a discounted price.
I was walking distance from the market and the WWII bunker that had been found intact during a construction project, so I headed that way.
The bunker was really interesting, but would have been a bust for somebody who had no French at all . . . unless you buy the extra 5 Euro book. I didn’t see the book until I was leaving, but I’d recommend it as it translates the signs and includes several nice photos as a keepsake item. It was really interesting to see this space, which had been occupied by Nazis, painted by women who were traveling with them and to read about La Rochelle while occupied. Contrary to some of the stereotypes about the French, a significant number of people in the city joined the Resistance and tried to thwart the Nazis. FUN FACT: once the US broke German code using Enigma, the life expectancy of a German submariner was THREE WEEKS.
All of these little coastal towns tend to center around the port, so after I finished at the bunker, I walked toward the port. The port area was the central hub as usual! Plenty of shops, restaurants and, of course, sidewalk cafes! La Rochelle is known for the two towers on it’s port, shown below; however, there is a third tower. Since the towers were closed for a lunch break, I walked to the furthest third tower first.
As I headed there, I noticed the remnants of yet ANOTHER old city wall. I just love these old city gates and how decorative they all seem to be!
The third tower demonstrates something I’ve noticed in other places – there seems to have been a typical “castle” defensive tower built . . . and later, a pretty dome added or a nice extra tower. If you notice the tiny railing near the top, that is where the next picture was taken from!
Here is a close up of the “pretty part” of the tower:
The views were stunning from the tops of all of the towers, but each tower had a different theme inside. This tower had preserved carvings made by prisoners who were held here at various times. Here is a particularly nice one from 1872 – many of them included boats or ships.
At about the time I entered the second tower, it occurred to me that my scratchy throat wasn’t random and I was actually getting sick 😦 Given how pretty and relaxing the city was, I decided that scaling back on what I would see was a good plan! The second tower had various items about the French colonization of Canada and America. You have to love the map with “Barbary” and “New France” on it!
Upon reaching the top, the view of both the third tower and the first (main) tower were well worth it! Such a gorgeous place!
As I walked around to the first tower (there is no crossing between them), I took one more lovely picture of the old port . . . and this bird decided to pop in at just the right time!
The main tower didn’t have a particular display, but rather a paper guide that walked you through how the tower was used (as a home at one point), which was interesting, but overall the tower tours weren’t super fascinating; however, the views were worth the money! One thing that is oddly common in France (and Belgium) is very artistic and colorful graffiti. It just seems to be everywhere in random places!
All-in-all, certainly visit the town of La Rochelle! Even the little bridges here are pretty:
I also appreciated that, when I bought cold medicine, the French seem to acknowledge that, well, your brain doesn’t function properly when sick and you might need assistance remembering if you’ve taken your medicine . . . voila – medicine packs that include a reminder of when to take them!
I wrapped up my time in La Rochelle the next day with noticing that even the PARKING entrances are pretty . . . and the horses on the really old carousel here were just creepy looking!!!