1. Les Rochelais: travelling and living abroad can be nerve-racking, and one of the major influences to how you feel during your trip is the locals. I spent a wonderful 10 days in Rome earlier this summer, but the experience was made more traumatic for me for the reason that every time we were about to step into a shop I started panicking at the steely, impatient or even down-right rude attitude that I came to expect to be faced with. Despite my feeble attempts at speaking Italian, it seemed that they simply didn’t want to know.
La Rochelle is another matter. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever been somewhere, ANYWHERE, that has been so incredibly friendly! Having a very good grasp of the language helps, but no-one has so much as batted an eye-lid as Seb & me return multiple times into cafes to order, or ask lots of questions, or sit and use wi-fi for over an hour. The people in the school seem welcoming despite having to run around & organise so many things for me, the apartment-owner where we stayed at the weekend was chatty & friendly, a woman working in a cafe & talking to her friend gave me a little wink when I left yesterday… It’s just some kind of relaxed, coastal, sunny attitude perhaps.
2. The Food. I don’t think I need to say too much about this, just: baguettes, patisseries, boulageries, moules-frites, salmon, herring, tartes aux fruits, fromage, crepes, chocolat chaud… I just can’t get enough. Eating is a way of life here.
3. The Board Games Shop. Called “La Grosse Boite”, Seb & I discovered that there is a shop that not only sells tonnes of different board games, but you can go in with a friend and sit down and just play one together & have a drink! We played “Carcassonne” the game… I sort of just wish it wasn’t so empty, it’s such a great idea!
4. The Jazz Ship. Every time I pass this ship in the evening there’s jazz music, laughter and cooking floating up from its decks as private parties go on. I want to be sick I’m so jealous.
5. The Weather. When I went to Tetbury in the Cotswolds last Monday, it was so cold that even with my jumper & jacket I was pulling my scarf closer about my face and moaning about the wind. Yesterday it was 29 degrees here.
6. The French Love their Dogs. I miss Truffle already of course. There are dogs everywhere here, in shops, cafes, the streets – the French certainly love their dogs! The apartment owner from the weekend when I spotted his little Yorkshire terrier said ah yes… the “fifi de la maison”.
7. Being 5 minutes walk from the beach. Do I need to say anything more?
8. Cheapness. Ok, I’m not saying La Rochelle is a majorly cheap place to stay – after all it’s full of yachts that cost more than houses, and eating is like a religion with prices to match. However, my accommodation costs next to nothing with the school, and I keep having funny little experiences such as getting on buses and being told it’s free…
9. The school. The school where I’m working has a really odd set up where they also do hotel – hospitality & chef – training. Which means they have their own fancy restaurant, hotel rooms & bar run by students!
10. Transport. I won’t pretend there’s much to compare this to back at home in the Cotswolds (transport = car/tractor) but here everything seems to be under this “yelo” scheme, with electric buses, bicycles, and a solar-powered water bus. So easy!
A bit of an update from life here in La Rochelle so far. I have now moved into my permanent lodgings for the year, which are sweet, a bit like student halls really but more like little wooden chalets. Now I have lots of scary things to do, starting with trying to set up a bank account….
A tout à l’heure.