La Rochelle

Arriving in La Rochelle on March the 13, 2020 was like a little relief.  We would get to see a new city, while we wait on a few additions to the boat that the owners wanted completed by a well known shipyard.    It should only be a couple weeks, the owners would return, then we could depart for Portugal and make our way into The Med for the summer.

Then there was the “Confinement”   Coronavirus, or COVID 19, and it changed the world as we know it. 

We arrived in La Rochelle on a sunny Friday afternoon after a waited departure from Royan. The following Monday, the world stopped.  

In France they called it Confinement, and it was taken quite seriously.   We put a thought into flying back to Canada or UK as the governments recommended of their citizens, but we opted out of that as we didn’t really want to get on a plane with hundreds of others for 3 or 10 hour, at a minimum.   So we thought we would endure it here in La Rochelle, and it would only be a few weeks anyways, right?

France took the virus very seriously, like other EU countries, and moved swiftly to act on the WHO suggestions. the Confinement, mask wearing, and general health precautions were gladly accepted by the citizens and was well practiced in France.

As the weeks turned to months, we  began to enjoy the quiet serenity of an ancient town that dates back to Gallic, the Romans and the Knights Templar.  Its rich history was evident thoughout the city. Especially in this shut down state. One thing we noticed right away was the complete lack of noise. It was eerily quiet. No planes, no construction noise, no cars or boats moving, no people. Nothing.

After a few weeks of COMPLETE shutdown, some business were allowed to operate again, and they would be able to start some of the work on SeaRose.  However, for them to do this, we had to move off the boat, into an apartment, as we could not be in the same space as others.  So we spent three weeks at a delightful AirBnB in the St Nicolas area of La Rochelle, only a few blocks from the marina where the boat was docked. 

The apartment came with two bikes, so during our “allowed’ daily outings, we rode thru the deserted streets, picked up the necessary provisions at the small grocery, and nightly joined in the 8pm cheering for the hospital and health care workers with our “balcony neighbours”  

Baguette on a bike

Because we couldnt go to restaurants, as they were not open, even if we DID want to go (but we didn’t, because we stayed away from people), we baked and cooked some pretty good meals, and enjoyed some wonderful French provisioning. Still such a treat after being in Panama for so long.

We caught up on NetFlix and internet and blog posts and enjoyed the quiet serenity of a time when the world stopped. 

During the time in Confinement, we got word from Brooke, Colin’s daughter, that our friend Colin, ( remember from our days on Finally My Darling), was facing his final days with his battle with bone cancer. We were lucky to have a final conversation with him before he passed a week later. Colin will always have a special place in our hearts and we are sad, yet glad he is past his pain and in a better world. He will be truly missed.

Col and Darren arriving in Cartegena, Colombia, June 2016

Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the sailing community in the world had virtually came to a stand still.  Boats were neither allowed in or out of the safe ports they were in.   This hindered our departure another few weeks after all the work finally was complete on Sea Rose, as we could not get approval to be allowed into any foreign Port, should we decide to leave La Rochelle. So we checked out the city a bit more in detail.

Going outside was awe inspiring in France.  The usually busy streets of a famous resort town were deserted.  People were not out, they really stayed home.  It may have had something to do with the large fines of Euro300 should we be further than 1 km from  home, or just the fact that this area France took the virus quite seriously and did what was required. 

The next post will show the beautiful architecture of La Rochelle and why this ancient city is such a popular European tourist destination.