La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, France. Behind the Postcard: The First in a Series of Reals – “French Man”

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Because of you I live a life in which I hope it lasts

I keep in my pocket a picture of the past, a memory of long, long last –

This month we return to La Rochelle, France.  The magical center and capital of the Charente-Maritime department, located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

This region of France is full of beauty and history and each location within is worthy of a write.

La Rochelle, our anchor –  

Our constant return, La Rochelle.  Come drift with me in this new series – behind the postcard.  Join me as I go beyond the postcards and look at life in France.

Seeking the real – behind the postcard.

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Along the coast of France near the town of Fouras
Once occupied by Gallic tribes and Romans, and founded in the 10th century, La Rochelle is the spot we call home when we think of France.

This treasure is located in the Bay of Biscay on the western coast of France, approximately 113 miles north of Bordeaux.  A direct train from the Montparnasse train station in Paris will see you anchored in the Charente-Maritime region in just over 3 hours.

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Harbor La Rochelle
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The never changing towers

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Once securely anchored in La Rochelle, you’ll find moorings that will connect you to many historical periods dating back to the 8th century.  If you look closely or read it’s history, you’ll notice intriguing nods and associations to the Knights Templar, as well as links to the horrific and shameful period in which human beings bought and sold other human beings.

Looking to more recent events, La Rochelle is known as one of the last cities in France to have been liberated from the Germans in 1945 (many sad yet important remnants of said era remain).

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Remnant of her captives WWII near Royan

Via La Rochelle, you’ll be able to lift anchor and stretch your arms, legs and mind and explore the magnificent Charente-Maritime region.  From the Roman ruins in the nearby town of Saintes to the lighthouse on the Île d’Oléron (the second largest island in metropolitan France (Corsica being first), this region will not disappoint the most seasoned of traveler.

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Phare de Chassiron, Île d’Oléron
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The view from the lighthouse

Rick Steves I’m not.  However, if you look behind the postcards and carefully scan the horizon, you’ll see the real beauty of the region.  You’ll see its people.  

The First in a series of reals – 

This photo was taken over 10 years ago as I walked along a street in the coastal town of Fouras, not far from La Rochelle.  I don’t know this man, but as I glanced over at him I saw life in all its simplicity and calm beauty.  I was forever caught up in his moment.

What was he thinking as he looked out onto the sea…a slight smile crossing his lips.

The beauty of a space should not be held but released and shared.

I’ll forever hold this image in my mind of the French Man, but I share it’s beauty now.

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Coming soon:  An inside look at the Apéritif, le apéro

 

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