June 29, 2010

Back to My Roots (La Rochelle & Niort) - June 29

The Gobeil family can be traced back 11 generations. Our ancestor, Jean Gobeil, left Niort in 1665 with his wife Jeanne Guiet and their 4 daughters. They made their way to La Rochelle and sailed to "La Nouvelle-France" on board the ship Le Rubis.

The Tour de la Chaîne and the Tour St-Nicolas would have been guarding the entrance to the harbour even back then. A huge chain used to be strung between them to ward off attack from the sea.

A bit further, you can see the 15th-century Tour de la Lanterne (with a pointy roof). Its inner walls were covered in graffiti by prisoners, mostly mariners, in the 17th - 19th centuries. Ships are the most common motif.

Taken from the other side of the harbour. The harbour is now the biggest yachting center on France's Atlantic coast.

The tall building to the left is the gate leading to the Old Cité.

I'm standing at the gate to the Old Cité.

The streets are bustling with activity.

La Rochelle is easy to explore on foot, though its cobbled streets and arcades are very congested with tourists during peak season.

Along the harbour is a long street of restaurants, mostly serving seafood.

We picked "Les Grands Yachts"

I had the langoustines (crayfish).

They're a lot of work for very little reward.

I wonder if Diane will recognize Captain Hook - we posed with him last year... He got polished up since we last saw him!

On our way back to Thouars, we stopped in Niort to touch base with my roots. This was Jean and Jeanne's home before leaving France.

The town's immediate attraction is the huge 12th-century donjon* overlooking the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge). Built by Henry II and Richard the Lion-Heart, it played an important role during the Hundred Years' War and was later used as a prison. One prisoner was the father of Madame de Maintenon**, who spent her childhood in Niort. The donjon is now a museum of local arts and crafts and archeology.

* A donjon in French is not translated to dungeon in English. It is the "keep" in a castle.
** In 1684, following the death of his first wife Marie-Thérèse, Louis XIV secretly married his mistress Mme de Maintenon, then aged 49.

We could not go back to Niort without visiting our special restaurant "La Table des Saveurs" which we had so enjoyed on our visit in early May. It did not disappoint!

Stuffed sardine with salad for K.

The rabbit for M.

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms for M.

Pork tenderloin for K.

Chocolate ganache for M.

Nougat for K with raspberry infusion.

Homemade wafer with white and dark chocolates to accompany the "café crème".

Karl ordered a Cognac Summit at the start of the dinner, so they gave him a little book with Cognac drink recipes. What a wonderful way to end the day!

No comments:

Post a Comment