Our final day in La Rochelle began exactly the same as the day before. A Hotel Ibis breakfast and then out into the city bathed in a soft blue sky and the early morning sun burning off the remains of the sea dew. It was going to be another fine day. We decided to explore the town today and set off first to do that thing that has become a bit of a ritual and go and visit the local market. And it was a very good one indeed, just the place to get our market envy fix.
The meat hall was full of interesting produce alongside the usual including big portions of wild boar, whole rabbits and bits of chickens that it certainly wouldn’t occur to us to eat. These included heads and feet, and like most people from England I always thought that the chicken leg stopped just below that meaty piece of thigh meat. Shoppers would have a fit in England but the French seem to have an appetite for the most unusual.
In the fish market, once again as with everywhere else we have been the variety and quantity was eye-popping, there were slabs and slabs of oysters all carefully graded by size from number one to number six and the breathtaking amount of shellfish and crustaceans simply served to confirm that in France people will eat anything that swims, crawls or slithers through the sea. Outside the vegetable stalls offered appetizing produce that was so fresh it still had one foot in the countryside and was all arranged in spectacular displays with an elaborate attention to detail.
Suitably impressed we left the market and went to the impressive Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. We enjoyed walking around the medieval streets with their timber framed houses and we visited the Cathedral de Saint Louis, which was impressive for a provincial city and later the Notre Dam Church that was dark and eerie and with an overwhelming smell of incense.
We were in France of course so the only thing that let the place down was the ever present piles of dog shit all over the pavements (and I want to make it clear here that I am not getting at dogs here but rather their owners). This is a real problem and it is much worse than anywhere in England because here the citizens are surprisingly tolerant of the appalling defecation habits of their canines. The French authorities are trying to tackle the problem but are making little progress and even heavy fines (€440 for a first offence and €2,000 for a second) have had little impact. In Paris alone there are sixteen tonnes of dog waste deposited on the pavements every day, which is responsible for four thousand five hundred and fifty accidents a week and removing it costs €15m a year!
This all seems quite normal to the French who don’t seem to have a problem with, or a conscience about, letting their animals take a drop on the floor thereby causing maximum inconvenience for other pedestrians. It is sensible to pay particularly careful attention to where you are stepping in France if you don’t want to inadvertently squelch through a pile of smelly excrement and then spend fifteen minutes or so dragging your foot over a grass verge to try and remove it from the sole of your shoe.
Other Market Stories: