Let me back up a moment and say oh hey, we’re moving ! The situation in Paris with our noisy neighbor (who now has many colorful nicknames) has become untenable. In order for our tiny apartment to function as our base, we have to be able to actually stay there sometimes. Right now it’s only suitable as a storage facility and legal address. Everyone has been asking what we’re doing about it, so let me preemptively answer that question. Everything that can be done, has been done, on our part and on the part of our landlady’s. The tenant’s rights law in France are so strict that nothing will change for at least a year, and that’s a big oh. hell. no. So it goes. We’re not complaining, we’re just moving on. We had a good run, it’s time for the next adventure. And because adventure requires a change of scenery, we will not be simply getting another apartment in Paris.
We have few constraints, which paradoxically makes the process of finding our next location much harder. Limits make for easier decisions. All artists know that you need a frame, a border, not to mention a focus. One morning after very few hours of sleep, thanks to he-who-shall-not-be-named-in-a-family-blog, I woke up thinking “why the hell aren’t we living by the sea?” There is sometimes wisdom in insomnia. Mark instantly approved, as he very often does, and even more wholeheartedly than usual because he loves big water. I do too, I think it’s a human instinct. But I hate just sitting on beaches, and I hate heat. Mark says I have an aversion to paradise. He’s not wrong.
First stop in our new quest: La Rochelle. It’s on the Atlantic coast, tucked into France’s waistline. It has the distinction of being one of the sunniest places in France, without the heat that accompanies the Mediterranean cities. We’d been there before and quite liked it.
It’s just a short way from the pretty and appealing Ile de Ré, now connected to the mainland by a very long bridge, making it easily accessible by car.
And there’s a large, historic natural area nearby called the Marais Poitevin, which is a huge marsh that has been canalized for agriculture, fish farming, and now tourism.
The Marais Poitevin is dotted with small towns, some of them quite charming.
The town of Vouvant is about an hour away, on the list of the most beautiful villages in France.
The thriving town of Niort, also about an hour away, is one of the main financial centers of France. (Go figure.)
But alas, no. This is not our town nor our region. I was so ready to love La Rochelle, but it’s not for us. It’s lacking the spark that makes us say oh hell yes. It was a wonderful visit though. We got lots of sleep, and lots of time to relax by the sea. But most importantly, La Rochelle has made me realize that I have one big criterion that I was unaware of until now. The most important factor in a home for me is how quickly and easily I can leave it. Because France’s train network functions as a hub and spoke, we would have to take a 3.5 hour train to Paris to go anywhere else. Ultimately, what this past year and a half of enforced settling down has revealed is we like still like change and movement most of all. We spent a hell of a lot of our lives being stationary, responsible adults, and that that no longer appeals. Perhaps one day we’ll get tired of it and happily tuck ourselves in somewhere with a couple of cats and a garden. And then, maybe, La Rochelle will go back on the list, but for now it’s crossed off.