A Travellerspoint blog

La Rochelle is For Lovers

February Break Travel

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La Rochelle is a small port town, about two hours north of Bordeaux, on France's west coast. I really wanted to relax by the beach for my week off in February, and that is exactly what I did. I was lucky enough to enjoy beautiful weather while I was there and also to have stayed with an awesome couchsurfing host who introduced me to great people. This was my first time traveling alone, but I didn't actually spend that much time alone.

My couchsurfing host, Nico
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I stayed with my host about 20 minutes away from downtown, in an equally charming part of town called Port de Minimes. My first day I mostly walked around, enjoying the sun, taking pictures and I had lunch right by the historical port, Vieux Port and its two towers.
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At some point during the day, I also stumbled onto this cute little park.
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After meeting up with my couchsurfing host, he introduced me to all his friends and we had a fun night, complete with my first experience shucking oysters. Now I know why they're so expensive at restaurants, it's a lot of work to get those things prepped. =P I don't really like them, but I enjoyed learning something new and so quintessentially french.
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Day #2: Nantes
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My host was nice enough to invite me on a little roadtrip to Nantes he was taking with his friends. I felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to see another French city without having to spend a dime and without having planned it. We didn't spend much time there, but it was still pretty awesome.
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Day #3 was in a tourist scope, uneventful, but like I said, I was there to relax. I ended up meeting up with an inhabitant of La Rochelle who had also invited me to couchsurf, but since I had already found lodging for my stay, I decided to meet with him for a movie and coffee. He was really nice and I had a good time. People involved in the couchsurfing project tend to be fun to hang out with because they're genuinely interested in all cultures.


Day #4

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I started off the day by taking pictures of all the fantastic graffiti all over these two particular buildings right off the Office du Tourisme. When I showed my friends from La Rochelle the photos they told me that these buildings were actually about to be demolished to make a new hotel, which sucks.

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Afterward, I went to the Ile de Ré, which is an island connected to the coast by the longest bridge in France. The only issue about the island was that there were many stops along the way and I was never quite sure where to get off, so I ended up on the Saint Martin en Ré, which I heard later on is one of the best stops. In any case, I enjoyed great weather once again and relaxing lunch by the Atlantic Ocean. During this time, I just reflected on my trip amongst many things... Then I took a little walk into town and climbed to the top of a cathedral to enjoy the views of this little island. It was a little breathtaking.
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Going back into town, I met up with a friend and we walked around town and watched the sunset. In a little town like this and on a good day, it's a must.
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On my last day I went to the Aquarium, which I believe is well-priced and worth visiting. I didn't take any pictures because I went so snap-happy at the Aquarium in Barcelona, but it was still good. This aquarium had swordfish, but the one in Barcelona had penguins, so I don't know... they both have something special to offer. The last thing I did on this day was meet up with a friend and I learned another quintessential french activity, crepe making!
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My stay in La Rochelle was so much more than what I anticipated. I met great people, learned a few tricks and really got to relax. Being by the beach was particularly nice for me because it reminded me of Santa Barbara, but in the good way. I'd have to say, though, La Rochelle is for lovers. Go there on a romantic getaway.

Posted by Suzy_Belle 1.3.09 12:38 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Tourism

Finally started doing the tourist thing in Bordeaux

This weekend I had a friend from UCSB who is studying in Spain come visit me, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to finally do some tourist stuff around Bordeaux. After I showed him around downtown, the quais and place de la bourse, the following day we hit two museums. I didn't even know this, but the first Sunday of every month, all the museums in Bordeaux are either free or have a reduced price. Definitely a good time to go = )

First we went to the Musée d'Aquitaine, wonderfully placed downtown. Their main exhibits are just the usual greek/roman findings and also archeological stuff. It was interesting, but I'd also have to say I wouldn't go there if I wasn't looking for historical stuff. I'm more of an impressionist gal anyway.

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The second museum was the Musée d'Art Contemporain, also known as the "CAPC". This place was eclectic, to say the least. This is the first thing you see when you walk in...
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In front of this massive installation/fixture, I don't know what you'd call it, I don't know much about art, there were a bunch of random images being projected onto walls. One of the main things I noticed about this museum was this theme of "the world constructed through film" so they had more than three rooms where something was being projected, but each one differently. The one I thought was most interesting was a small room with 9 televisions playing back old footage and the main action would jump from one tv to the next. They also had another room with mats all over the floor and 4 things going on. I watched each one for a little while, but got really thrown off when they showed some guy masturbating on one, I didn't expect it at all, haha. They seemed to have plenty of "erotic" art I guess you could say.

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Finally, there was this really dark room that we started walking into, but weren't sure if we were even supposed to go in because it was so dark, but then we heard sound coming from the speakers and we realized the dark room, with the freaky sounds WAS the "show" or "exhibit". It was pretty freaky so we kind of just really quickly walked through it. I really enjoyed this museum because it was so wacky and experimental.

Posted by Suzy_Belle 8.12.08 03:21 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

You Know You're In Bordeaux When...

Just a list of things to look out for

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View Tour de France on Suzy_Belle's travel map.

1. There's shit on the sidewalk (and you can smell human piss)... because all the Bourgeois can't be bothered to pick up after their cute little dogs.

2. Couples are making out and groping each other in very public places; most notably on the tram.

3. Cars are parked on the sidewalk.

4. You're at Auchan on a monday and you have to fight an old lady for green beans.

5. You have to wait 20 minutes in line to pay at Auchan.

6. It starts raining from one minute to the next, unexpectedly.

7. When you see a group of guys with the same hairstyle.

8. When you're on the tram for at least two hours on a school day.

9. People articulate. I guess this would be the French, "southern" accent.

10. When they call chocolate croissants "chocolatine" and NOT "pain au chocolat"

11. When a large part of the population are immigrants or international students.

12. When there's an obstruction on the tramway and you're re-directed to a bus.

13. That obstruction is usually a mob of protesters. Bordelais will protest anything.

I'll keep adding to this as I think of more...

Posted by Suzy_Belle 11.11.08 08:16 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Just The Facts

Tidbits that can't get their own blog, but are worth mentioning.

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1. Everything in the way of produce tastes amazing because it is in season and not genetically engineered to taste like plastic, such as in the States. [As a result, there is also no such thing as "seedless" grapes]

2. Meat and Poultry are really expensive. Pork and Fish/Seafood are really cheap.

3. French people wear scarves better than everyone else. Period.

4. Guys in Bordeaux (Not just the French, but all the other ethnic groups as well) dress really well. Unfortunately, this often causes some confusion. Is he gay... or just French? [White pants are very common on straight men]

5. All of the beggars/seemingly homeless people are all Turkish or Arab.

6. If you kiss a French or Northern African guy here you better be prepared to get your phone blown up for at least two weeks. They don't get that you were just drunk... and if you tell them you have a boyfriend they will not see it as an obstacle. [My roommate can attest to this]

7. Older men will not hesitate to bug the fuck out of you. Even if they are obviously over 30 and you are obviously a decade younger.

8. Everyone looks really young so maybe they'll be 18 but actually look 15.

9. No bars, cafés or stores card for ID to see how old you are when you buy booze. I'm fairly positive I saw some 15 year olds getting beer once.

10. Cigarettes are really expensive. They're about 5.20, which is about $7.50USD.

11. If you're between the ages of 12-25, you're eligible to buy a discount card for the train, which gets you at least 25% off but can go up to 60% off. Awesome for traveling! It's also not just in France, but throughout Europe.

12. The Bordelais speak french very articulately. Thus, you will be quite certain that you are not speaking with a Bordelais when you can't understand a word they say.

13. When you tell a French person you are from California, they are 75% likely to ask you if you've been to Hollywood... I even had one girl asked me if I had stars on my sidewalk. And, if you tell them you're from Santa Barbara, they're going to say, "Like the TV show?!"

14. The French are psycho about perfume/cologne. They wear way too much of it. Also, guys tend to wear much "sweeter" scents, which really throws you off. Guys aren't supposed to smell like coconut. But then the alternative to that is the "really old guy" cologne that some very misled guys wear. [The worse thing though is when they wear no cologne/perfume at all and then you can really tell they haven't showered in days... I feel like I've become much more sensitive to scents recently]

15. The cool French wouldn't be caught dead at a night club before 2AM. [Clubs in downtown run until 2, but the ultra cool clubs by the train station stay open until 4AM]

16. Bordeaux's soccer team kind sucks, so when they actually win, the guys go nuts. They'll go on the trams and jump on them so the entire thing bounces... or the day after the match, they'll congregate somewhere and sing some patriotic song.

17. You can drink anywhere outdoors in Bordeaux. I don't know if you're actually allowed to, but everyone does it like it ain't no thing. As a result, very often on weekend nights, a bunch of drunkards will be on the tram spilling their drinks everywhere. [Someone even puked on the tram once.. not pretty]

18. Pandora Radio doesn't work here. Also, some youtube videos are "unavailable in my area."

19. This is the hottest song in France. You'll hear it at every club/bar and blasting out apartments all the time. It's by DiscoBitch and it's called "C'est beau la bourgeoisie." Check it out the link for yourself.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwAELgBgFd4

Well, I think that's all of it for now, but I'll have some awesome stories and pictures soon because this Friday I'm going to Paris for 4 days and then to Strasbourg (Alsace-Lorraine region, bordering Germany). If time allows we may take a detour into Switzerland. I am SO excited because it will be my first time leaving Bordeaux for travel!

Posted by Suzy_Belle 19.10.08 11:51 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Yes, I Did Just Accidentally Touch Your Crotch

The over-packed trams deserve an entire blog

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As I've mentioned before, Bordeaux has a great transportation system called "Tram et Bus de la CUB" (Communité Urbaine Bordeaux) which basically ensures that anyone can get around the city either by bus or tram by a standard ticket, or by purchasing one of several passes. During my first couple of weeks here, the trams were so pleasant to ride because all the french students were still off on vacation. NOW, we're back in school and not only do all the inhabitants of Bordeaux have to strain the transportation system, but add on to that the hundreds of international students. The problem is simple and also a catch-22. Upon boarding the tram or bus, every passenger is supposed to validate either their pass or their ticket, but I'd have to say about half of everyone just rides the tram/bus for free. It's just so easy to get away with doing that now because the trams are so unbelievably packed that the little "tram maids" (as I've come to call them), could never get through and check passengers. The process of validating upon boarding is the system used to determine how many passengers are riding and how much traffic there is, but since half of everyone doesn't have a pass (or has a pass and just doesn't validate) or don't buy tickets, the amount of individuals riding the tram is severely underestimated; however, IF more trams were in circulation we could be slightly more comfortable, but I don't think people want to bother. I don't get it. I painfully handed over the 170€ (about $225USD) for my year pass because now i know I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT PAYING, I don't get why the students here won't do the same. They would seriously be doing a great service to themselves. I know I'm not a model citizen and maybe just because this isn't my town I can easily point out the problems and offer a solution... I know that it's not that easy and I also know that not everyone can afford to hand over that kind of cash for a tram/bus pass.

All I'm saying is, the system is great and it deserves a little more respect. Not only that, people should have a little more pride for the fine transportation they have and actually pay for it so that the city can afford more trams and give us some damn personal space. Unfortunately, I know I'm just dreaming and that I'm going to have to hump and uncomfortably grope people on the tram because we're packed in so tight. The tram issue is on my mind today because this morning has been absolutely the worst it has ever been. I pressed a girl all the way up against the wall and we were back to back and I felt like I was suffocating her, but I couldn't do anything about it because I was already hugging Hillary to save the arm space and the guy in front of me was practically standing on my feet.

Hillary just read this over and agreed that this is an accurate description of how it was. =]

Posted by Suzy_Belle 30.9.08 07:09 Archived in France Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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