28. May, 2022

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SATURDAY 28-05-22

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Yoof disappeared within a couple of hours of them having woken up. As a result we had a nice peaceful night.

We were up in good time because we were keen to reach our destination at La Rochelle before their Reception office closed for a couple of hours for lunch.

More interest in our levelling air bags as I deflated them ready to drive off them and stow them along with the small wooden planks I lay them on to protect them from any sharp stones there may be.

Once we were ready we left the site and made our way up to the large E Leclerc supermarket down the road. We didn't need very much, but we were in there ages due to the few very slow moving till they had in operation.

Stocked up, we set off for Camping Municipal "Le Soleil", a very well located campsite in La Rochelle. I was very apprehensive because it was only last night looking at the Travelscript that I realised I had made a mess of camping and parking for the city. The sites I had earmarked looked to be located over on the island. I knew how much The Chef fancied visiting La Rochelle, and I was relieved to have found "Le Soleil", but, worryingly Plan 'B' would be parking areas on the outside of town which was less than ideal.

'IT', I have to say, gave us a trouble-free journey to the campsite. I wasn't looking forward to the journey because on Google Maps it looked as if I had a lot of urban driving to do, but it was fine, and we arrived outside the campsite with great relief.

We arrived at Camping Municipal "Le Soleil" (N46.150737° W1.158235°) about half past eleven, so we'd managed to arrive before their long lunch break.

The Chef was gone ages in Reception and I was beginning to worry there may be a problem, like there were no vacancies, and we'd have to wait for one to become available or something. But eventually she arrived back with the paperwork in her hand. We'd bagged a pitch for three nights, I was so relieved.

It's very busy, and a bit rough, but who cares. We're here, and hopefully many of the pitches will be vacated tomorrow as families make their way home.

We've had problems at odd sites including this one where tree branches rub across the roof, and more particularly the skylights. Today I solved the problem by opening the rear skylight and setting about the tree branch with a pair of Tuffcut shears. As a consequence I have now added to my to-do list when we return 'Add secateurs'.

We were joined by Brit next door neighbours. The first Brits we'd spoken to since Monpazier, and the first UK motorhome we'd seen since camping beside the Dordogne river. They seem to want to keep themselves to themselves, and that's fine by us.

We then discovered the reason for everywhere being so busy right now. Last Thursday was Ascension Day, a Bank Holiday in France, and like everywhere else, those without important jobs took Friday off as well to create a long weekend. That explains all that traffic we saw queuing for miles on Ile d'Oleron as we were leaving.

Once we had set up 'base camp' we relaxed having had lunch with the intension of going out later to find the Tourist Information Office to get a map for tomorrow.

My word it has been another hot one today. The temperatures have dropped over the past few days to a much more comfortable 20°C or so, but today it's up to 26°C. Suitably attired and protected from the sun we wandered down the road towards the city. We then realised just how good the campsite location is.

So a bit about La Rochelle:

Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean the city is connected to the IIe de Ré by a 2.9-kilometre-long (1+3⁄4-mile) bridge completed on 19 May 1988. Since the Middle Ages the harbour has opened onto a protected strait, the Peruis d’Antioche and is regarded as a "Door océane" or gateway to the ocean because of the presence of its three ports (fishing, trade and yachting). The city has a strong commercial tradition, having an active port from very early on in its history. La Rochelle underwent sustained development in the middle ages, and has maintained a standing in modern times because of its port, La Pallice, the only deep water port of the French Atlantic coast; it is ranked as the sixth most important port of France.

The Knights Templar had a strong presence in La Rochelle since before the time of Eleanor of Aquitine, who exempted them from duties and gave them mills in her 1139 Charter. La Rochelle was the Templars' largest base on the Atlantic Ocean,and where they stationed their main fleet. From La Rochelle, they were able to act as intermediaries in trade between England and the Mediterranean. A popular thread of conspiracy theory originating with ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ has it that the Templars used a fleet of 18 ships which had brought Jacques de Molay from Cyprus to La Rochelle to escape arrest in France. The fleet allegedly left laden with knights and treasures just before the issue of the warrant for the arrest of the Order in October 1307.

To this day, the city still possesses a rich historical fabric, including the Saint-Nicholas tower, and an urban heritage. The capital of Aunis, it has become the most important coastal city between the Loire and Girone estuaries. La Rochelle's urban activities are many in number and strongly differentiated, being a city with port and industrial functions that are still important, but also including a predominantly administrative and tertiary sector that is reinforced by the university and a rapidly developing tourism industry. In the early 21st century, the city has consistently been ranked among France's most liveable cities.

We had a bit of a job finding the Tourist Office from the rather crude map the campsite had given us, but never mind, we were enjoying soaking up the ambience of the place whilst we looked. It certainly was busy, with people everywhere, but never mind. Now we knew it was a Bank Holiday weekend it all made sense.

As we only intended to be out for a while we concentrated our wandering to the Maritime Museum area, leaving the old city to be explored tomorrow.

It was all very nice, and there was a large collection of beautiful wooden sailing boats, some of them going back to the early 1900's, and they were all beautifully restored. I guess they must belong to the museum because each had an information board about it in front of its mooring.

After we arrived back we had a much appreciated cold can of beer. People don't realise what hard work being a tourists really is.