As you can see from my two previous posts, I recently spent time in La Rochelle, a French port city on the Atlantic coast. Getting there from Paris was fairly simple; a three-hour direct trip by TGV. Had it not been for the ongoing train strike, it would have been even easier.
As it was, other than a minor inconvenience on the way from the airport into Paris, and intermittent worrying about what could be, the strike had little direct affect on me. For that, I am extremely grateful! Flying into Paris on a Thursday, I met my friend and work colleague, spent a night in Paris, and left the following day from Gare Montparnasse just across the street from our hotel. This arrangement proved to be a wise decision on our part, since the addition of the train strike, plus a one day cab strike, did slow our travel into Paris from the CDG airport.
La Rochelle is a very old town with known history going back to Roman times. It had once been a walled city. Our rented apartment in a 17th century building was situated on the only remaining section of the ramparts and had fantastic views over the port. It was a fabulous location, despite many stairs and outdated bathrooms. Even when we were relaxing in the apartment or on the upstairs balcony, there was always lots happening outside.
The port has three towers located along the ramparts. The tower located almost next door to our apartment was the Tour de la Lanterne, which has served as a lighthouse and as a prison. It is the tower with the pointed top. Inside, there is still graffiti scratched into the walls by prisoners. Some of the inscriptions date back to the 1600s. Prisoners drew pictures, inscribed names, and listed dates of imprisonment. At the entrance to the port is the Tour de la Chaîne. This tower was also used as a prison, but in earlier times housed the port keeper who closed the opening to the inner port at night with a chain connecting to the largest of the towers, the Tour Saint Nicolas. The town is just as delightful as the port area, with its stone streets, arcade covered walkways, and interesting architecture. It seems to be a vacation spot for many French people, but not travelers from other countries. While I heard British English spoken occasionally, I only heard American English once or twice.