Spring Weekend in La Rochelle

Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 08:03 AM
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Spring Weekend in La Rochelle

I will admit it. Iím addicted to planning trips. As soon as Iíve got one organised, I have to start planning another. Therefore, although in most respects Iím quite resistant to direct marketing, I do tend to fall for offers emailed to me by travel-related companies with whom Iíve dealt before.

About a month ago, I was at the office in Paris, minding my organisationís business (and reading a head-noddingly dull legal report) when SNCF the (French railway company) emailed me: 2-for-1 tickets! book now for a spring holiday! Well, OK, sure, yes, absolutely, right away! I quickly checked my schedule and my husbandís schedule to find a free weekend. There arenít many left, given that Iíd already planned a) an anniversary/birthday trip to Budapest for late April; b) a reconnaissance trip to New York in early May (weíre moving back to North America this summer); c) my dadís visit to us in late May-mid-June; d) a wine tasting weekend in early June with my dad; e) an ďend of jobĒ scuba/relaxation holiday in the Canary Islands in mid-June; f) mountain trekking in Switzerland in early July (more end of job celebrations; and g) the move itself to New York in July. More importantly, my husband is studying for Level 1 of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam in early June, and so canít afford to spend too much time away from his books in the next two months.

But the end of March/beginning of April was open, so I did a search, found 1st class tickets to La Rochelle (on our list of French towns we want to visit) for a great price, called my husband to confirm Ė and snapped them up. It would be a little early in the year for La Rochelle, but the town starts to gets very busy as early as Easter, so we decided to risk the possibility of cool, rainy weather.

Next step: hotels and restaurants. Tripadvisor yielded an obvious hotel option Ė the new Best Western Masqhotel, at offseason prices. Best Westerns can be surprisingly nice in France and are usually a good value, so I often check BWís website first when looking for a hotel. The Masqhotel was supposed to be a modern ďdesignĒ hotel, within walking distance of the Old Port.

Researching restaurants on Chowhound, I found a recommendation for Richard Coutanceau, the patriarch of a restaurant dynasty. He and his wife run a Michelin 2* restaurant and various Coutanceau fils (sons) run three other restaurants in town. The 2* restaurantís online menu looked surprisingly affordable (in relative terms), so I made a booking over the internet for Saturday night Ė and another for Sunday lunch at Les Flots.

After a surprisingly mild winter and early, warm spring, the weather in Paris turned nasty in the week before our trip. I shopped for weather reports (the BBC was more optimistic than the French forecasts, but neither was great). We packed extra pairs of shoes and umbrellas and crossed our fingers.

The trip to La Rochelle went smoothly. Well, except for the part where I nagged at my husband to leave early for Montparnasse, the train station where we would catch the TGV to La Rochelle. I always arrive far too early at airports and train stations. My husband is more relaxed but he is rather optimistic about the time it takes to get from our apartment to the station or airport. Nevertheless, I have reached the point now where I trust him enough to tell him the real departure time for the train or plane (I used to tell him it was 15 minutes earlier than it really was). Iím still a pessimist, though, so I grumpily chewed my fingernails and fretted about the time on the trip to Montparnasse Ė and took it out on him. Not very civilised of me.

I relaxed once we got on the train and my husband generously forgave my behaviour. The three hour train ride gave us time to study and catch up on reading, when we werenít being entertained one of our fellow passengers, a talkative, panther-like cat. He arrived in a carrier but was soon let out so that he could stalk around the compartment within the four foot radius provided by his harness. No one seemed to mind; in fact, most passengers seemed enchanted.
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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don't know how I missed this one earlier on....love La Rochelle and am waiting for the rest of the trip with much interest!
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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 04:09 PM
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We love Coutanceau's son's place on the harbor, LES FLOTS. The best grilled lobster I've ever had and grilled lobster is rare in New england.
I hope you had a chance to get to Ile De Ré. I brought back my empty flipcap
bottle of the local beer, La Blanche de Ré.

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Old Apr 15th, 2007, 09:42 PM
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Sorry - I'm delinquent on the rest of the report. I'm waiting until my shoulder heals a little from the past weekend's accident (see Friday the 13th trip report - to the American Hospital in Paris).
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Old Apr 16th, 2007, 03:32 AM
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cigalechanta,

Just to let you know that I've been blocked out of the weakened dollar thread.

I guess I was either very good or very bad.
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Old Apr 21st, 2007, 09:36 AM
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Kate, when you are better able to write as your shoulder heals, would you let me know how you liked the Best Western in La Rochelle?

thanks!
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Old Apr 24th, 2007, 05:30 AM
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Hi,
Would very much like to hear about the rest of your trip, especially your visit to Richard Coutanceau's restaurant as we are considering taking my (Ile de Ré-based) mother-in-law there for her 60th birthday.
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Old Apr 24th, 2007, 05:57 AM
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Yes, please...will be staying in Mirambeau later this year and very much considering a day trip to the La Rochelle/IdR area so a report about the restaurant would be most apprciated and thanks in advance.
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