Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back to Girona, Spain in one shot

In the way back to Girona we stopped in Rochefort. It was raining like crazy and we wanted to find the museum where they make ropes for the big ships. When we finally did, it was closed until 10, and we had 8 hours to Girona ahead of us. So we drove straight to St Rojan, where Isabelle and her family were waiting for us to have lunch.

Museum of the ropes
Since I already talked about Chateau Mercier; I'm just going to mention the actual lunch Martine cooked: rabbit, slow cooked with figs. She raises the animals and grows the figs and the spices in her garden. She also makes the alcohol she uses to cook the rabbit in; and the fig preserve. I'm really looking forward to make this dish. We liked so much and she was so pleased we did, she didn't mind we got seconds.

We got in the road not too long after we ate. It was a good time to avoid the heavy traffic of the city of Bordeaux. About 2 hour out in the toll, the car lit up a very strange signal: a cup of coffee and phrase saying literally to stop at a rest area and have a cup of coffee. Now, how in the world this car new Jim was getting sleepy? Was he wagging the car? To this date it is still a mystery to us.

The rest areas in the French highways are so nice. A restroom, a couple of pick-nick tables, the recycling bins and plenty of parking. We just parked, reclined the seats and took 1 1/2 hour nap. Very simple.

Time of arrival to Ginona: 7:00 pm. Too late to return the car. We had already tried to call the agency, but the phone call got always transferred to the head office in Barcelona. We called our friends in Palamos from Chateau Mercier, to let them know we were not arriving in time, and made reservations in an Ibis Hotel in Girona.

A rain squall caught us in the south of France, just 2 hour before the border, so the car got cleaned up. Lucky us.

Before we arrived to the hotel we stopped at a convenient store and bought some snaks for dinner. We didn't feel like seating in a restaurant. The menu was simple but so tasty: Gazpacho, sesame bread sticks, smoked oysters in olive oil, clams in olive oil and rice cakes. We ate it in the car, across from the store.

Then we drove to the Historic Villa of Girona. It was dark and being a Monday we almost had the entire place for ourselves.

Old Church in Girona
Road to the Church

Map at the bridge 

Buying fresh fruits

Gelato Store
Then we drove to the Historic Villa of Girona. It was dark and being a Monday we almost had the entire place for ourselves.

We checked in the hotel room at 11:00 pm. The Ibis hotel was very reasonable, clean and it had very comfortable beds. Next morning we took the car back to the train station, thinking we were going to get charge extra; but not. The rental car agent couldn't be nicer, he even took the time to ask us about our trip and to tell us a little about his life and the history of Catalunya.


Visiting Isle de Re

Light house facing the Atlantic
We got up fairly early that morning. It was Sunday and the traffic, Chantal said, gets very busy to go over the bridge to Ile de Re. I have to add that the nice thing about driving in France is that the roads are very nice, and the tolls and highways are well marked.

We drove through a few little towns in the island, before we arrived to the wall city of St. Martin de Re.

We walked around the water front and the little business. The French were fashionably dressed up, generally it was a good people watching place.

Every little boutique had this cute stuffed donkeys wearing pants for sale, then I realized why, when we came upon this cuties. This animals were used to transport goods, mainly the sea salt produced in Ile de Re. The long pants are to protect them from the mosquitoes and their backs are so arched because of the heavy baskets with salt they carried. This days they are just a tourist attraction and one can donate money to them and get a picture taken.

Boats waiting for the lock to open 

Boat inside of the marina

We had lunch here, casual and delicious
This bici-taxi advertised a Cuban Café called La Cubana.
What a surprise!
After we left St, Martin de Re we started driving around the island with a paper map and the British guy. The most interesting thing for me was to see how people adapt and learn to live with such a huge tidal change. They have to wait for it all the time if they want to go out on their boats, fishing or sailing or go swimming. Also during low tide they gather the fresh fruit of the sea.

People collecting little clams

Sailboats seating on the sand
We also drove by the salt ponds, but we didn't stop because the traffic was getting a little too busy. In fact it took us 1 hour to get to the bridge. In the way back to the house we stopped at the biggest marina of La Rochelle, where more than 5000 boats are docked. The place was getting ready to have a boat show, it was so busy with people and cars. We walked around admiring such a vast quantity of vessels and wondering if they ever go sailing.

Chantal's charming kitchen
When we got home, Chantal had prepared a wonderful meal. She was playing classical flamingo music on the stereo and we all gathered around the table and talked about our adventures.

Aldo let his mom put a basket on his back to explain me the history of the donkeys in Ile de Re

I got a little cooking lesson on how to cook perfect "magre de canard" and apples sautée in olive oil with salt, black pepper and cinnamon. It was actually a great compliment for the duck breast.

The first course was this beautifully presented "jellied eggs", fallow the link for the recipe or just to know how this dish comes true.

Main course was served with a glass of red wine. For the first time in days we ate very slow to enjoy the flavors. The apples had a semi-sweet taste I absolutely adore and the meat had been seasoned with garlic, thyme, fresh cracked black pepper and salt. Everything was perfectly cooked.

When the time for dessert came we were not staffed at all, or at least we made room for what was coming. Early in the evening, when we arrived from our trip, the smell of pears had invaded the entire house. They were slow cooked for 2 hours in a red wine sauce and served hot over vanilla ice-cream. Oh-la-la!

We have wonderful memories of our trip to La Rochelle. The French hospitality overcame any expectation we could form in our mind. We had the same treatment at all our friends' homes. All this people we met sailing in the Caribbean. They honestly opened their homes to us and received us with great love. Thank you all. We will always remember that.