Transcript for Episode 490: Seaside Serenity: Exploring the Charentes-Maritimes

Categories: Atlantic Coast, Bordeaux Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Cordes sur Ciel
  • Bordeaux
  • Arcachon
  • Royan
  • Rochefort
  • Île d'Oléron
  • Fort Boyard
  • Fouras
  • Saint Georges de Didonne

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 490, quatre cent quatre-vingt-dix.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:30] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Catherine Russell, which I’ve known as Katy Sargent for most of her life, because she’s my sister in law.

We went on a trip together last October exploring the Atlantic coast between Arcachon and Rochefort, so mostly in the beautiful Charente-Maritime department. It was a great trip to a part of France I didn’t know very well and that we haven’t discuss very much on the podcast.

And traveling with Katy is always a pleasure. So I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I enjoyed that trip.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:06] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest in my electric car.

You can browse all of that at my boutique:

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The Magazine Segment

[00:01:35] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Katy today, I’ll discuss the Olympics, including an article in Le Figaro about how some greedy Airbnb renters in Paris and also some hotels are regretting their decision to wait to charge more.

The Olympics are 100 days away as I record this intro, and some people are regretting letting their greed take over. Okay.


Welcome and Introduction: A Family Connection

[00:02:13] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Katy Russell, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:17] Katy Russell: Hi Annie, thanks for having me.

[00:02:19] Annie Sargent: Lovely to talk to you. As a matter of fact, you are my sister in law, we have known each other for a long time, and we had a wonderful trip together to the Atlantic coast, just recently. So I wanted to get your impressions on it, because you and I are very different people, you pay attention to things that, you know, I’m oblivious to, so I think it’s going to be a good discussion.

Exploring Personal Travel Styles and Preferences

[00:02:45] Annie Sargent: So tell us a little bit about yourself and how many times you’ve visited France and things like that.

[00:02:50] Katy Russell: I live in Utah and I’ve been to France, I think this was my fifth trip, Annie.

[00:02:57] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:02:58] Katy Russell: I work for an online university, I work from home, I like to travel, but I don’t really travel very often. And so, one of the perks of coming to France is that I get to see you. And so that is always awesome. But I also love that we do have a different style, a different preference of things we see.

I’m very artsy fartsy, you know, my background is in music and I always love arts and culture and even just love seeing kind of what is common to the areas where I visit, whether it’s even just plants outside, or food, or you know, I even enjoy seeing art galleries, different places where I go, just because, you know, oftentimes you can just kind of wander and take your time and just see what, from place to place, things are different.

And inside a gallery, sometimes it feels like you don’t remember where you’re at, you know, you could be in your hometown or you know, in another continent.

[00:04:05] Annie Sargent: Somewhere else. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:04:08] Katy Russell: It’s lovely. I also love being in a car and just driving around and seeing the sights of just the city or the town.

And so that was amazing with our drive along the Atlantic coast.

Cordes sur Ciel

[00:04:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah. But the first thing we did a few days after you arrived is we went to Cordes sur Ciel, that’s in Occitanie, not that far from where I live. And I was so sure that I had been there, and then when we got there, I’m like, no, I’ve never been here, this is so different, I wouldn’t remember. I mean, I’d remember.

So tell us what you liked about Cordes sur Ciel.

[00:04:44] Katy Russell: I thought it was really a lovely city. Would you call it a city?

[00:04:49] Annie Sargent: It’s… I mean, it’s a big village. There’s probably like 2-3000, no, it’s a village, I think, still, yeah.

[00:04:56] Katy Russell: Okay. I liked it. I hadn’t looked up anything about the village before we went. I just knew that there were a couple of places that might be fun to see while we were there, but I didn’t look up any history of the village. I didn’t look up what it was, what it would look like. So it was an absolute surprise.

The walking was mostly all uphill until we were coming back down to our car. So if you don’t like walking on an incline or have issues walking, it’s not a village for you, but I thought it was lovely, Annie.

It was interesting to see how it, you know, this time of year, we went the end of the first week of October, and so a lot of things in that village were closed because it was no longer a tourist season. And so there were lots of shops that looked like they could be really interesting to see, but weren’t open.

We stopped and had lunch first, I think, once we found a place to eat, it took a while to get to the restaurant, but the restaurant was lovely. The food was so good, the view all around was incredible to see. It was such a lovely day.

[00:06:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah, this restaurant is right up against kind of a cliffside of the village and so you have this view on the landscape. It’s no fun going up that hill, but once you’re up there, it’s really nice, right? Right. They need to offer a little car that takes you up to the restaurant. That would be nice.

[00:06:24] Katy Russell: Right? But it was very cool because we sat, where we sat was right next to the edge where you could see, you know, the cliff and beyond. And then you could also see part of the village as well. And so lots of like art sculptures and things in that area. The food was delicious. It was beautiful weather, the bathrooms were impressively clean, there were seats on the toilet, and they had, remember they had, like, superheroes on them, and it was hilarious.

It was, like, the most bizarre bathroom I’ve ever seen.

[00:06:57] Annie Sargent: Yes, both you and your brother, David, took photos of the potty.

[00:07:03] Katy Russell: Yeah, we’re easily amused.

In France you should eat on time

[00:07:05] Annie Sargent: Yeah, you were amused by this. Yes, and you’re right in a lot of places in France there is no toilet seat. So you’re sitting, if you want to sit, you’re sitting on the porcelain and that’s a little bit strange to people.

Yes, yes. And, you know, one thing I didn’t think of, had I been alone, I wouldn’t have known that I would have needed to find food first when I got there because of the time, you know. Here in the US you can find food any time of day, anywhere, you know, basically. And so,I was glad that I had you there for that.

Yeah, was like, okay, we got to get to the restaurant now or they’re not going to serve us. Yeah.

[00:07:46] Katy Russell: Right. And then we walked around more.

[00:07:49] Annie Sargent: Took a lot of photos.

[00:07:51] Katy Russell: So many photos.

[00:07:52] Annie Sargent: We didn’t go into anything, did we? There was a museum there,but you know, those really scenic places, sometimes I don’t care about the museum. I just want to walk around the town because it’s so cute, you know,

[00:08:05] Katy Russell: It was very cute. And we, I think by the time, you know, because we didn’t have a map of the area, we were just walking around, seeing what we could see. And then when we decided we were ready to go home, or get our car,I think that’s when we saw where the art gallery was. And then we went down, when we walked down the hill, it was a little different than the way we’d come up.

And then there was the map and the entrance to the village, which was not where we parked.

[00:08:32] Annie Sargent: Right. Yeah, that’s the blessing and the curse of being a local is you think you’ve been there, so I just, I figured, Oh, I’m just going to go drive as far up the hill as I can, and that’s it. And I really shouldn’t have. Now I know if I ever go back with other people, I will know not to park there, but to park before that.

First of all, because there’s a car charger. Ha! And second of all, because you’re on the main drag and we walked, and walked, and walked around in areas that were not, I mean, it was very nice, but you know, medieval houses. So yeah, we were off the beaten track in a village, I guess.

[00:09:10] Katy Russell: Right. But I do think, you know, if I ever come back, I would first check to see when the places I want to see are open. Like one of the things I wanted to see before I, when I first talked to you about going to, going here was, they had a paradise garden, and I didn’t see any sign for that the whole time we were there until we left, and then it was on the map, but I don’t know that I could have understood how to find it, but that’s just me.

[00:09:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s always good to have a list and I guess I was derelict, I was not a very good trip planner, I didn’t look up all the things that we could do. I just, because I figured I had been, I thought I had been, so I was like, Oh, I’ll just recognize it. Oh no.

[00:09:51] Katy Russell: I still had a great time just walking around. And I love, you know, it’s fun, like the doors are always amusing to me, and… and it was just a beautiful area too. The drive was lovely. But they have like a sugar and chocolate museum, which sounded interesting, but I don’t think it was open when we were there.

And then they had the Contemporary Art Museum.

And so I do feel like it’s a village I would visit again, if I were to ever come back, it could be fun a different time of year.

[00:10:19] Annie Sargent: You could spend two, three hours there, or most of a day anyway, if you’re going to go into the museums and stuff, yeah.

What I was very impressed by was the well, so underneath the covered market area, they had a very deep well, 113 meters deep, so that’s, I don’t know in feet, but it’s very deep.

And so it’s one of the things that helped them stay alive, because they had water. So even if they were under siege, they had water, which is very, very important. Anyway, a gorgeous, a gorgeous village. That was a very fun first stop. And like all these villages we found, David found some funny sayings and little signs and little gifts for people.

Even though it, not a lot was open, but he still found some stuff that was, you know, very, very fun to see.

[00:11:15] Katy Russell: There was a store we went to that had pillows with cats on them and like a million pillows with cats. They all had cats on, like tapestry cats.

And it just lined the a whole row of stairs up to another floor of the store and I thought that was hilarious.

[00:11:32] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s a very nice church in this village, in Cordes sur Ciel, with a blue ceiling, which is a very regional thing that we do.

First Winery Experience and Observations

[00:11:44] Annie Sargent: And then after Cordes, we stopped at a winery Le Domaine Gayrard It was fine. You know, I mean, Gaillac wines are not my favorite, so I didn’t think it was outstanding, but it was good and it was a nice place and, you know, it was good wine.

[00:12:02] Katy Russell: It was delicious wine. I have never been to a winery before.

[00:12:06] Annie Sargent: Oh.

[00:12:06] Katy Russell: So that was my first experience at a winery, but I also don’t speak French, so the man is explaining the different samples and kept bringing samples, and we just spent all day walking around, I was having hot flashes, and then I had a couple, shots of wine, and then my mind went blank.

I just, I don’t know, because I couldn’t understand what he was saying, and then after so many, you can’t tell the difference, or I couldn’t remember which one I liked the most because of the taste, but it was a fun thing to see. It was a beautiful building where they had their wine.

[00:12:44] Annie Sargent: And that’s an interesting thing about you, Katy, is that what you zoomed in on right, right away is that we walked by a plant that had a giant leaf. And you got the photo of your hand by the leaf like that. Now, this is something that would not occur to me, like, well, I don’t care…

But that was something, you know, it’s really interesting to see your perspective on stuff. I guess perhaps because you’re a pianist, your hands are important or something?

[00:13:16] Katy Russell: Right. Well, and the size, well, and I have small hands, and so when I see things that are large amuses me, I guess.

[00:13:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:13:25] Katy Russell: I also love architecture and contemporary art, I guess. And so I thought the building where this winery was, was really beautifully designed. And I loved the cute artwork that they had that they were selling there inside as well, and of course the plants around it.

Adventures on the Atlantic Coast and the Charentes-Maritimes

[00:13:41] Annie Sargent: So that was our first excursion. But then a few days after that, we set off to go visit the Atlantic coast. And this is a part of France that I had been to, but I was so young. Again, I didn’t really remember much of it. We drove to Bordeaux and we had, I had found an apartment through

Okay, you have to tell us how that went because that was really funny, actually.

[00:14:12] Katy Russell: I think the apartment itself was really cute. I haven’t ever rented an apartment before. And so I didn’t know what this process would be like, but the thing I didn’t think about beforehand was if you were staying in a hotel you can come and check in whenever. With this apartment, we had to meet somebody for the key at a specific time.

And so that impacted how we wanted to arrange the rest of our day to be able to get there in time to get the key, and if we had time to do something afterwards or not.

We got to the apartment and the kitchen table was gigantic, and so if someone was sitting at the table, you couldn’t also cook. And so there was like a little shimmying around every time someone was in the kitchen eating or sitting, but it was also very warm.

I didn’t expect it to be 80s in October. And so we had one bedroom, and then the front room had a cot that I used, and there was no AC.

[00:15:11] Annie Sargent: Right, it was very hot.

[00:15:13] Katy Russell: It was hot, and then I’m Hot Flash Central right now, and so, that was challenging too, and so I’d sleep with my head next to the doorway outside to the balcony. But it was Mosquito Village and there was a tram right there.

[00:15:30] Annie Sargent: Yes, and the noise. Yes.

[00:15:32] Katy Russell: But it was okay, you know, I felt like my bed was comfortable.

[00:15:35] Annie Sargent: Yes. The problem there is that middle of October, I didn’t think it was that important to have air conditioning and I was wrong. Yes. We needed air conditioning. So this is something that I tell people about. I usually say, you know, between June and September, you really need air conditioning.

Well, it turns out that in October we needed air conditioning as well. And yeah, that’s, that’s just an unfortunate, and neither that first accommodation nor the second one had it, and it would have been way better, both of them would have been way better with AC. It was hot.

[00:16:15] Katy Russell: Yes. And one other thing about the hot. So there was a fan that I didn’t even notice the first day that we were there and I set my bags right next to it, didn’t even see the fan. And then the second day I realized there was a fan there.

[00:16:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:16:30] Katy Russell: When I was in my head thinking like, maybe we can go buy one somewhere.

So if you’re driving to a place, you might, and you don’t mind packing a little fan, it might be worth it.

[00:16:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:16:40] Katy Russell: This fan that was in the room where I was staying was so loud I couldn’t sleep.

[00:16:46] Annie Sargent: Right,

because in October, sure, it cools off at night, but then you have to sleep with the window open and then you have the bugs and then you have the noise, potentially. Because with the windows closed, this was not a particularly noisy area, but if you have to sleep with the windows open because it’s so dang hot, and you attract mosquitoes like nobody’s business.

[00:17:08] Katy Russell: I was like their BFF.

[00:17:10] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:17:12] Katy Russell: Is it typical for it to be 80s in October?

[00:17:15] Annie Sargent: No, it’s not. It’s not. This year was very different. Typically by October, it’s more like 60s, 70s, but this year, the summer went on, and on, and on, and on. It didn’t really cool off until early November.November 2nd was a holiday and I remember saying to Marianne, my daughter, that this is normal weather for All Saints Day.

It was cool, you know, finally it was cool. So listeners, don’t assume that it’s going to be cool enough and that you won’t need AC in October because, yeah, you might, you might.

All right, so then we dropped off our stuff. The lady was very nice though.

And the area was fine. It’s just that it was too hot.


[00:18:02] Annie Sargent: Then we dropped off our stuff and we headed out to Arcachon. Now Arcachon, I had been to obviously because that’s where I took my first steps, but yes, but you can probably understand that I have no memories of that. And it’s adorable.

It’s a cute little town, isn’t it?

[00:18:22] Katy Russell: Yes. I thought it was really delightful and it’s a place I would go back to if I came back.

[00:18:29] Annie Sargent: So, sandy beach, large sandy beach, lots of cute little stores, restaurants, we found nice pizza somewhere. Again, some of them were closing, so we had to kind of hurry up and get some food, because even there, some things were closing.

[00:18:46] Katy Russell: And we were there also on a Monday. And so they had, and wasn’t that area closed on Monday? They were open on the weekend and closed on Monday?

[00:18:55] Annie Sargent: Well, a lot of places do that. When they’re open Saturday, Sunday, on Monday, a lot of places don’t open. They just, that’s their day off. But the architecture was really, really cute. The stores that we found were really, really cute. I don’t know, I liked it.

[00:19:09] Katy Russell: I thought it was delightful. And there were some very stunning buildings, you know, stunning apartments and shops and so fun to walk around and have an area where you can just shop and sit, and eat, and you don’t even know that the beach is just five minutes away.

Like, I didn’t even know it was right there.

[00:19:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s right there. Yeah.

[00:19:29] Katy Russell: And then the water was so blue and it was definitely an area where you could hang out at the beach all day long. You could bring your family, you could sit and play. And in October, I wasn’t prepared to play at a beach. I didn’t assume it would be warm enough outside to want to sit at the beach all day.

And I got there and thought, well, maybe we could make this work. I don’t know. but we weren’t ready for water.

[00:19:51] Annie Sargent: Another thing that we ran into that’s, it’s worth warning people about is that there are a lot of boat trips that you can take in that area. The problem is because it’s summer, it’s not summer season anymore,a lot of the boats, they only do their, like, I wanted to go to Cap Ferret on the boat from Arcachon, but we had to be there, the last one was at 2:15 and we missed it the first day. So I thought, oh, perhaps we can go back the next day for the 10:30 one or something. There was only two in the day. And then the next day, for some reason we got delayed and we couldn’t. We just couldn’t make it on time.

So that was frustrating because you know that there’s a fun activity, but it’s only twice a day and if you’re not there on time, can’t do it.

[00:20:43] Katy Russell: There was an accident on the freeway.

[00:20:45] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s what it was. Okay.

Yeah. That was crazy.

So next time, I would just stay in Arcachon. That was a mistake. Okay? Because I thought we wanted to visit Bordeaux as well, and so I thought, oh, if we get an Airbnb, well, an apartment not too far from the center of Bordeaux, I can park my car easily, which this apartment had a parking area for my car, so that was great.

And then we can get onto public transportation into Bordeaux, which was also very good, and very easy, that was the third day. That’s what we did. But then to get into Arcachon, well, you know, Monday morning traffic and we didn’t make it on time and then we wanted to go the next day and that, it didn’t work out either.

So, yeah.

[00:21:34] Katy Russell: It’s all good. I think it’s a place to come back to and, you know, depending on the time of year will depend on what is available there for you to do, but I think it’s definitely a place you could spend all day.

[00:21:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it really had a vibe to me, like the kind of place where I could go and just sit there for three days and not do much besides read, walk, bike ride, a little bathing, take a boat ride, you know. But you’d need more time. Like, we were trying to go through too many things. Yeah, we were trying to do a lot.

I wanted to cover a lot of ground and I tell people not to do that. And then what do I do?

[00:22:10] Katy Russell: But we also didn’t know ahead of time what time the boat ride was. If we had, that could have changed things. But it’s okay, we still had a blast.

[00:22:20] Annie Sargent: Oh, Oh,we had a great time. But you know, it’s good to point out the things that worked out and didn’t work out. And there are so many boat rides and a lot of these websites, it’s hard to tell if, you know, when they start service, when they end service, like, it’s not like they want to have a sexy looking website that tells you, you know, oh, we’re going to take you to this island, blah, blah, blah.

And then when you want to go see the details, okay, what time and do you do this year round or not? And it’s really hard to find the information until you get there and then you’re like, oh, that’s how it’s going to be.

Dune du Pilat

[00:22:56] Annie Sargent: So the next day we went to, oh no, we went to the Dune du Pilat as well, that day, yes. So Dune du Pilat is gorgeous.

[00:23:05] Katy Russell: It is.

[00:23:06] Annie Sargent: But my bum knees were telling me, I mean, just to get, so when we got there, they hadn’t removed the stairs yet. They don’t leave the stairs on year round, they were going to remove the stairs at the end of the school vacation, which was probably November 3rd or 4th or something like that this year.

And so, we still had the stairs, but just to get from the parking lot to the bottom of the stairs, you sink into the sand a lot.

[00:23:40] Katy Russell: Yes, that was really tough, even for me. And I thought it was really interesting when we pulled up, it literally looked like a campsite. Like, there’s, you know, pine trees and the road wasn’t, I don’t know, it just reminded me of going somewhere to camp, and you’re like parking in a campsite. And then you walk and then I don’t know where there’s this massive dune, but even just getting to the dune, you know, once you start feeling where the sand is, it’s challenging to navigate, challenging to walk through. And so glad we made it when there were steps, I wouldn’t have, there were people climbing up and down the sand, which I wouldn’t have done. It was, and it was also a very, you know, very warm, here we’re still in October, it’s still in the 80s, and having hot flashes, I get to the top. And it was awesome to be able to walk up those stairs and be at the top, but it was so bright to take a picture.

Like, I couldn’t even see what, I was just clicking on my camera. I had no idea what was going to turn out of my pictures.

[00:24:37] Annie Sargent: But it was nice. It did great. Yeah, it looked great.

[00:24:39] Katy Russell: Some people were on the dune, like, taking off their shirts and, you know, because they were so hot and sweating and posing for pictures.

[00:24:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it was really interesting. And there were several little cafes, we stopped for a drink on the way back down. But one thing that’s important to know is that they want you to walk on the sand and not on the dirt off to the side. So there are lots of signs that say, don’t walk on the dirt.

It would have been a hundred times easier to walk on the dirt, but they want you to go to the stairs in the sand. And that is like, oh…

[00:25:16] Katy Russell: Right. And they’re steep stairs too. And one thing I did really love is that at the top of the dune, you know, from one view you can see, you know, the forest of trees, and then on the other side, you turn around and you see the Atlantic Ocean. And so you have this very different perspective of just, you know, how the, of of a view and… anyway, it was awesome to see.

I’ve never been to a sand dune anywhere and so it was very cool to just to be there. Definitely recommend hydrating before and after.

[00:25:51] Annie Sargent: Yes. So that was the end of our Arcachon day. And the Dune du Pilat and Arcachon are very, very close to one another. In the car, it’s like, what, eight kilometers or something. I know people do it on a bike as well, there’s a bike path that you can take if you want to do it that way.

And Arcachon is an interesting town because it’s one that you can go on the train from Bordeaux.

And so, if you wanted to take more time, you could take the train to Arcachon, stay there for, you know, however long, and also ride a bike to the Dune du Pilat, and that would be a very hearty day of expending your energies.

[00:26:32] Katy Russell: For sure, yes.


Discovering the Wonders of Bordeaux

[00:26:36] Annie Sargent: The following day, we spent in Bordeaux, which you had never seen. So I want to know what you thought of Bordeaux.

[00:26:43] Katy Russell: I thought it was amazing. You know, it’s so nice to be able to see something different. And again, I hadn’t looked up anything about Bordeaux, what it looked like. I had no expectation coming into it and was just delighted. We went to this lovely public garden and I don’t know if there was a specific name for it, but it was right off the train.

[00:27:06] Annie Sargent: Yes. So I, why did I stop there? I saw something, oh, I saw a beautiful kind ofgate, you know, like a gilded gate, and I was like, oh, that’s probably a very nice park, and so we went in. And it’s called Jardin Public, I’m not sure if it has a specific name, but that Jardin Public was very, very nice, I thought.

[00:27:32] Katy Russell: Yeah, it was beautiful and massive. We walked around, and there’s so many different areas within that park. You know, there was a play area for young kids, a play area for older kids, there was places where you could just sit and enjoy your lunch, or you can sit by a pond, or under a tree, or by a building. Like they just had, it was just really lovely in its design, and a great place if you were in Bordeaux and you need a day to just kick back and play or just have young kids, like, it’s a great place to just spend some time.

[00:28:08] Annie Sargent: Absolutely. The Natural History Museum was there, I think.

[00:28:12] Katy Russell: Oh, that’s right.

[00:28:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and so we didn’t go in, but we could have.

[00:28:17] Katy Russell: We had other plans.

Place des Quinconces

[00:28:18] Annie Sargent: We had other plans. And then we went into the city, the Place des Quinconces, with a big fountain, massive, beautiful fountain and the obelisk and all that.

[00:28:31] Katy Russell: Yes, that fountain was impressive. And again, another day where it was so warm and bright out. So I remember taking a picture of Annie, trying to take a picture of Annie in front of the fountain, and I couldn’t ever get her with her eyes open, and I couldn’t see as I was clicking my camera because it was so bright.

[00:28:48] Annie Sargent: We were both blinded.

[00:28:49] Katy Russell: And the horses have those crazy feet on that statue, they’re like claws, like dinosaur feet, and men with these, you know, funny expressions on their face. I don’t know if it’s a man. I don’t know who’s on that fountain, but it was very impressive and fun to see.

[00:29:08] Annie Sargent: It’s a beautiful, at Place des Quinconces, you have to go, if you’re in Bordeaux, you have to go. The other place, well, we had lunch at L’Entrecôte, which you had done before, I’m sure.

[00:29:18] Katy Russell: Yes, I’ve had it in Toulouse.

[00:29:21] Annie Sargent: It was very much the same, right?

[00:29:23] Katy Russell: It was, it was very much the same, and we didn’t tell David, so don’t tell David.

[00:29:27] Annie Sargent: No, don’t tell David. Because that day he had to do taxes. Can you believe the guy? He’s like, I got to turn in our taxes by a certain date. And the accountant wanted this and that. So he spent the whole day preparing our taxes. I’m glad someone does this because I wouldn’t.

[00:29:49] Katy Russell: So we enjoyed a lovely steak, and fries, and salad.

[00:29:52] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. And then we walked some more around the city. We went to the bigtheater. We went to the Wine Museum.

The Wine Museum Experience

[00:30:02] Annie Sargent: Now the Wine Museum was very cool, I thought.

[00:30:04] Katy Russell: Very impressive. I think it’s one of the best museums I’ve ever seen.

[00:30:10] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm. Why?

[00:30:11] Katy Russell: Well, the setup, I think, you know, they had all these little stations throughout the museum and the way that they were set up didn’t seem crowded at all. Nothing took a very long time. Each station was just a few minutes, and so it was easy to just flow. The flow was really easy and I loved, especially that it catered to all of your senses.

And so there was some, you know, part of the exhibit you literally just listened to the effervescence of wine and they had the visual stimulation of the different interactive pictures and sounds. And then they had one where you could physically smash virtual grapes with your feet.

[00:30:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:30:52] Katy Russell: And they would track, you know, you had the picture of when it was a grape and when it was wine. And so you, or when it was smashed, and so it would track how many grapes you smashed in the amount of time that you were doing it, and who smashed more grapes.

And, you know, so you had that physical aspect of it, and then you had different places. Oh, what was the exhibit called? The part of the exhibit where you could smell the infusions in the wine?

[00:31:16] Annie Sargent: So you would put your nose in things and they would, and you had a little pump that you could push on and it just blew a little bit of that scent into your nose. It was to teach you to recognize the way people describe wine that it has, you know, like berries or whatever flavors.

[00:31:37] Katy Russell: Yeah, so that was really fun and I think interesting for a variety of ages too, you know, it wasn’t just catered to adults or catered to kids, like it just, it would work for anyone. And they had a really, just beautiful, I think it was beautifully designed on the inside too, with the large wooden carved, like half open, like a half of a wine barrel.

[00:32:01] Annie Sargent: Barrel, yeah.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s not the sort of museum where you just stand and read, you know, you have all sorts of things, you have video, different types. You sit and watch something happen. You sit at a table and there’s like holograms that appear. There was one video where you sit back almost, you’re almost lying down…

Anyway, lots of things. And they also had this really good, concise history of wine in the area, which I thought was very well done because in three minutes, they gave you the gist of it and I thought they hit all the important points. It was really good.

[00:32:44] Katy Russell: Yes, and so nice because I sometimes, especially if you’ve been out and walking around all day and then you have to sit for a long time, sometimes I get tired. And so it was nice to just, you know, to know that the, you know, sitting down and watching this video was only going to take me five minutes, but I was going to get a lot of information or just be very interesting in how it was presented.

And I love that they showed the videos with all the different vineyards throughout the world, in places where I’d never even think that there would be a vineyard.

And so it was just photography, it was beautiful. And then they had the one where you, it would give you three options of, you know, if you wanted to know about the history, or how it was made, or about the grape, and you could choose what you wanted, and it was, and it would show you a little clock, almost, of how long, you know, and they were like a minute and a half, that they would tell you the information, but you could also see visually, how long is this going to take me, and oh, I’m almost done, so I can either move, or I’m still interested, and I’m going to stay here and see what else I can learn.

[00:33:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So I think we spent perhaps 90 minutes in that museum. At the end, you get a glass of wine and you get to choose between all sorts of different wines. I thought it was also one of the best museums I’ve ever seen really, because it was so engaging that I really liked it. I think that’s not to be missed.

Adventures in Royan and Rochefort

[00:34:07] Annie Sargent: We’re chatting a long time, so we got to move on towhat we saw in Royan. So we stayed at Royan also a B&B, well, not a B&B, but, it was a gîte.

Gîte, yes. And it was quite good. Lots and lots of bugs. They had the most gorgeous swimming pool I’ve ever seen. Really, the swimming pool was outstanding.

You and David went to swim, and I didn’t want to swim. I was covered from head to toe, and they still got me. I had so many bug bites, ah, yeah. So, yes, a very warm October, beautiful place with a pool and a pond. I didn’t think it through. Yeah, probably, it was very nice, it was very nice, but it would have been better with AC, close the windows, you know, don’t have the bugs come in, all of that.

[00:35:04] Katy Russell: Right. Right. But it was lovely.

[00:35:06] Annie Sargent: Yes, it was lovely.

Royan was very interesting, we went to the Corderie, or was that in Rochefort? No, that was in Rochefort, I think. Corderie Royale, where we saw how they make ropes.

[00:35:17] Katy Russell: And that was on my list because I can’t remember, I have a question mark by it. I can’t remember where. I think we saw that in, oh, I think we saw that before we drove to the church. Didn’t we?

[00:35:28] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s right. I remember. Royan was just a town with the cement basilica.

[00:35:32] Katy Russell: Mm hmm.

[00:35:33] Annie Sargent: Lovely. So while we were charging the car, a guy said, if you’re going to Royan, you have to stop at the cement basilica. And I was like, what? It was awesome. It was really interesting, wasn’t it?

So Royan was cool.

[00:35:47] Katy Russell: It was, and it was such a beautiful building, like I would love to hear a concert there. I think that organ was incredible, just gorgeous, and I’m sure the acoustics are amazing. But definitely go see whether there’s a performance there or not.

[00:36:01] Annie Sargent: Yes, Royan, we also ate at a restaurant, I can’t remember what it was called, but it was very good, the seafood was very, very good, and it was right by the port, I’ll put it in the show notes, because I know my seafood, that one was good.

[00:36:13] Katy Russell: It was delicious.

[00:36:14] Annie Sargent: Yes, you had oysters, you had never had oysters before.

[00:36:17] Katy Russell: Never. Yeah. So that was an interesting experience, great to branch out, try something new, and just go for it.

[00:36:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. Rochefort, we went to the Corderie, which was an interesting place, a bit of a dusty museum, you know, compared to the museum, The Wine Museum, it was less interactive, it was more like look at pictures, read the information. We had a tour guide that was… yeah, no, I moved on.

I was like, no, this guy is going to put me to sleep. So we moved on from him. The tour guide right before, because I could overhear the previous tour guide, he was way better, he was way more interesting. So that was just bad luck.

The Hermione boat, that you can normally see in Rochefort was not there.

It was being refurbished somewhere. So that was too bad.

Île d’Oléron

[00:37:09] Annie Sargent: Let’s talk briefly about the Île d’Oléron, you know, when we drove over that big bridge and we were on this island for a long time. That was so strange. I’m not sure what I think about it.

[00:37:21] Katy Russell: About the bridge?

[00:37:22] Annie Sargent: About the island, about the whole island. Yeah.

[00:37:24] Katy Russell: The island itself, I mean, I don’t remember there being many places where you could really spend a lot of time.

[00:37:31] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:37:32] Katy Russell: Like the water, the tide was really low.

[00:37:34] Annie Sargent: Yes, it was muddy. So when the tide is low in the Atlantic, it’s mud, like… not for me.

[00:37:43] Katy Russell: Well, and that seemed to also be one of the days where it was no longer 80s. It was windy. It was rainy too.

So that may have impacted part of it.

Fort Boyard

[00:37:52] Annie Sargent: But from there, we took a boat ride finally, because there was one that was going at the right time, and we went to the… what’s it called? Fort Boyard.

So this is something French people know, because they’ve been shooting a TV series, a very painful TV series, for years there, so it was cool, I finally got my boat ride, I was happy.

[00:38:17] Katy Russell: Me too. I was happy too, and it was so cool to be able to, you know, another time that I’ve been on a boat, there was nothing historic around it, you were just on water. And so this was very cool to be able to go, you know, see past something that was, you know, built so long ago and that’s still being used for these, these hilarious, painful TV series that you’re talking about.

[00:38:42] Annie Sargent: So when we got home, we showed her one of the episodes and we were all like, okay, give me more wine because this is like, not good.

Fouras, a cool little town to visit

[00:38:50] Annie Sargent: Okay, we really need to wrap it up. But one place that I really loved was Fouras, no, I shouldn’t say the S, they don’t say the S, it’s Fouras, there is an S, but don’t say it. I thought that was a cool little town.

[00:39:03] Katy Russell: It was lovely. It was a day that was still rainy when we were there, so it was a little cold, but yeah, I loved that medieval castle or chateau.

[00:39:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it was, it was a fortification, a Vauban fortification.

[00:39:18] Katy Russell: And there was that wild bronze sculpture that looked like an evil demon from a superhero movie or something.

I don’t know what it was, but maybe that’s where people were tortured. I don’t know.

[00:39:30] Annie Sargent: And then there was the little covered market with the food. That’s where you got some scarves.

[00:39:37] Katy Russell: I got a scarf, I bought a wallet, we bought those delicious oranges or tangerines.

[00:39:44] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah, the tangerines were very good.

[00:39:46] Katy Russell: The food there was just looked remarkable in that market. I had these beautiful pictures of just vibrant colors of tomatoes. And potatoes, and squash, and oysters, oysters, oysters, oysters, like just so many oysters.

I’ve never seen that before. And then outside along the market, I was where I thought it was funny where there was, you know, people selling clothes and purses and then there was underwear. And I’d never seen underwear sold in a covered market before. I thought that was so bizarre. But it turns out, you know, Annie was saying it’s, that was where the locals buy their underwear.

[00:40:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Okay. So if you’re a French granny, because I know Americans have this idea that all French women are sexy and always done up and all of that. Well, think again. French women are not all like that. Many are, but not all. And so you have your regular 50, 60 year old. My mother always bought her underwear in those places because she knew that she was going to get this one brand that fit her well. She got her bras in those places. She didn’t even have to try them on because she’s been wearing those for years. And that’s the sort of clothes, or socks, also, if you have these socks that you really like, I mean, come on, you have favorite socks, right?

[00:41:03] Katy Russell: Yes.

[00:41:04] Annie Sargent: Everybody does.

[00:41:05] Katy Russell: True. That’s so true. That makes a lot of sense.

[00:41:08] Annie Sargent: And if you got them there, well, you’re going to go back again, and again, and again, to get more socks every few weeks or months, perhaps. So, yes, it’s a big thing, especially in places that have, say, older population, usually.

[00:41:22] Katy Russell: But it was, it was a great place to walk around. I think there was a shop with boatneck shirts. You were saying that town was known for that boatneck style of shirt.

[00:41:32] Annie Sargent: Yes, the striped shirts.

[00:41:34] Katy Russell: And we saw that cemetery where if you die while you’re visiting, you could be buried there.

[00:41:39] Annie Sargent: Oh, yes. So this was in Saint Georges de Didonne. Yes. Gorgeous little village. Gorgeous, gorgeous. The cemetery, the church, and it said specifically, you know, well, if you want to be buried here, because it’s a gorgeous cemetery, you have to die in the village, or be a resident of the village.

So I guess if that’s your last wish, you better go die over there.

But it was really gorgeous.

Final Thoughts and Cognac Visit

[00:42:09] Annie Sargent: Anyway, we have been talking too long and so I’m going to cut it short, but it was a delight having you. And I want you to come again because it gives me an opportunity to go see places that I wouldn’t have by myself, like, you know, you don’t go on a trip like that for five days just because you want to, like, perhaps I should.

[00:42:29] Katy Russell: You should. And Annie, it was so fun to be there, and you’re an amazing host. And I love the drive, like, I think just the drive in between the cities was so picturesque. I wish that I’d been taller to see out the window more and had taken more videos of the drive because it was really just stunning, just such a beautiful area of the country.

And so fun to see so many amazing things that we didn’t even know were out there.


[00:42:55] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Oh, we need to mention Cognac, where we also stopped. We didn’t see much of the town. We just went to see one of the houses that makes cognac, the alcoholic drink, which I don’t really like. It was Hennessy. We visited Hennessy. It was very posh.

[00:43:14] Katy Russell: It was very posh, and I agree, it’s not necessarily a drink that, is not my choice of drink, but I thought the distillery was, I thought it was fascinating. It was very posh. Like you walk in and you’re like, whoa. There is money here for sure. But it’s very well designed. I thought the information was fascinating for someone who knows nothing about how it’s made or how it’s stored. Like even the barrels are just this incredible work of art. And the history of it I thought was really, so fascinating to me that it made me, I guess, appreciate this kind of thing even more and interested in looking into other, you know, other museums and distilleries like this.

It just was very cool. So if you’re there, I would definitely check it out.

[00:44:02] Annie Sargent: You got some for your husband, right?

[00:44:04] Katy Russell: I did. We haven’t opened it yet. We haven’t opened it yet.

But we did, well, I did get a little bottle too, but the bottle that I bought for my husband is one that is, it’s like a collector’s edition where every year, Hennessy has, chooses an artist to design the bottle. And then you can only buy the bottle in France.

[00:44:24] Annie Sargent: Ah.

[00:44:25] Katy Russell: And so this year’s bottle is kind of like a chameleon green.

So it’s kind of like greens and blues, so the bottle is what’s really special about this and more so than the product inside. But my husband likes to collect things and so it’ll look great on our shelf. And we’ll probably try the trick of adding, using an ice cube with it, or if we drink it, or adding a little seltzer and lemon to it to make it a little bit of a cocktail and easier to drink.

[00:44:51] Annie Sargent: Exactly. I thought it was way better with ice cube and seltzer and lemon and dilute it a bit, cause it’s so strong, oh, rips your throat out.

[00:45:03] Katy Russell: It does. But it was, I think, a really fascinating experience there at Hennessy.

[00:45:10] Annie Sargent: All right, Kat, this time we’re done. Thank you so much for talking to me. Please come back. Well, I’ll drag you back soon and I’ll see you for Christmas in Utah.

[00:45:20] Katy Russell: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Annie.

[00:45:23] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup.

[00:45:24] Katy Russell: Merci.

[00:45:25] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

Thank you Patrons

[00:45:33] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patrons get lots of perks in exchange for their support, including getting the episode as soon as it’s ready and ads free. Some months I produce extra history content. Most months, Elyse and I have a casual convo that I record and share.

I’ve started a new collection called ‘Visits with Annie’, where I share photos and thoughts about the new places I visit in France, as it’s happening. You can see all of those rewards at

New patrons

[00:46:03] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons Amanda Rose, Leona Hamlin, Jane and Pat Bader. And to all my current patrons, it’s wonderful to have you on board in the community of francophiles who keep this podcast going. And to support Elyse go to

And if you are a patron, I recommend you install the Patreon app and log into that because it gives you instant access to a lot of stuff quite easily, including some messaging. So if I have a thought, I can like, Oh, what are you cooking today? Or something like that. And it’s fun to do.

Thank you, Jennifer Jerzyk for setting up a recurring tip donation. You can do that also by clicking on any green button on that says ‘Tip your guide’. Thank you, Jennifer. We’re planning an episode together.

Obviously, you didn’t have to donate to be on an episode, that’s not how it works, but I really appreciate your support.

This week I published a video drive over the Millau Viaduct in the Aveyron and some photos of the beautiful, beautiful villages I visited.

Reviews on VoiceMap Tours

[00:47:12] Annie Sargent: And I would like to share some reviews that people have left of my VoiceMap tours this week. One person said: “Fantastic tour, very clear directions, easy to follow, loved going at my own pace, great information along the way.”

And here’s a review of my new food tour from Bren: we absolutely loved this tour. I felt like I was discovering secret parts of Paris and walking down paths tourists normally don’t know about. And the entire time I felt safe with Annie in my ear, guiding my way. Her tour is rich with historical facts, cultural commentary, and even the odd macabre urban legend from centuries of yore. This felt like an intimate stroll with an old friend showing you the lovely parts of her neighborhood. I doubt I would have gotten more out of a live tour guide.”

And one last one about my Latin Quarter Tour: “Recommended big time! You explore Quartier Latin like a local. The guide is very likable and gives small tips and anecdotes of Paris and her own life. We did two of her tours while in Paris!”

Well I’m very glad you find me likable. Thank you!

If the podcast is leaving you wanting more, I offer two levels of Itinerary Consultations on Zoom to help you plan for your trip. It’s all explained on

The Olympics 2024

[00:48:38] Annie Sargent: All right, the Olympics are a hundred days away, and here’s what we know about access to the game sites. For those of you who have tickets for an event, your ticket is all you need, well, ID perhaps. I would take ID definitely going around Paris during the Olympics. The rest of the time, I always tell people, leave your ID at home, but during the Olympics, you will need it.

What you need to know is that between the opening and closing ceremonies, there will be access restrictions around the Seine River, where many of the events will take place. People who live or work in the restricted areas will need to fill out some paperwork and get a QR code to get in and out of the area easily.

I think that’s going to be open to visitors as well, but I still need to verify that. But of course, like I said before, if you have tickets for an event, yeah, they’ll let you through without too much difficulty. The problem is with people who just happen to be in Paris, and don’t have tickets to attend the Olympics, most of the city will be open, right?

Most of the city is going to be just fine. I don’t anticipate any problems going to Montmartre, going to Saint Germain des Prés, for instance, lots and lots of places will be open. Les Halles area as well is going to be open. But the banks of the river and the bridges are going to be closely guarded.

So this area goes from Pont de Bercy all the way to the Trocadéro. It encompasses 20,000 residents, but also museums and the Austerlitz train station.

Typically, 200,000 people mill around this area on any given day. All will have to present this precious QR code and an ID at the police checkpoint.

So, do carry your ID if you’re going to be in Paris this summer during the Olympics. There will not be a requirement for a QR code to cross the Seine, but for pedestrians, you’ll need to go to the Léopold Sandart Senghor Bridge, so we call it the Senghor Bridge. It’s about halfway in the middle of the Tuilleries Gardens, not far from the Orsay Museum.

At 1 pm on the day of the opening ceremony, all movement of people will be stopped around that area so they can search and make sure nobody’s up to anything evil. The opening ceremonies are on July 26, and the closing ceremonies August 11th.

The Paralympics will take place between August 28th and September 8th, but there are always fewer people for the Paralympics.

I’m going to the Paralympics, but I know that it’s not going to be as busy. So, some of these restrictions will probably be eased, but I haven’t heard anything official about that.

Of course, there will be exceptions to all these restrictions depending on professions: doctors, firefighters, emergency workers, etc. will be able to get through the police stops with proper identification.

So, if you’re visiting between July 26th and August 11th and don’t have tickets for different events, prepare to be frustrated.

Airbnb renters and Hotels

[00:51:43] Annie Sargent: Another group of people who are frustrated are greedy Airbnb renters and some hotels as well.

Some of them declined all bookings thinking, well, you know, a thousand a night was fair, even for places that normally rent for a hundred a night. They got requests early on, but declined them, they thought that prices would go up, that visitors would get desperate and would pay anything. Well, not really.

I think people did what I decided to do for my week in Lille for the basketball events. I’m going to two events. I’m going to Lille for basketball, that’s during the regular Olympics, and then a week in Paris for the Paralympics.

I’ve already booked my hotel, it’s not really a hotel, it’s an apart hotel, so it’s like a tiny studio for the week I’m going to be in Paris for the Paralympics. And the prices were a little high, but nothing too crazy. But for the basketball events in Lille, anywhere I could find was asking for 600 a night for a three star hotel, and I’m sorry, but you know, a three star hotel in Lille probably cost a hundred most of the time.

And just because the Olympics are on doesn’t make it a $600 a night hotel, so I decided to book an apartment in Roubaix instead. It’s 70 kilometers away. I have to mess with parking on the day we go into Lille for games or for a visit, but prices were normal in Roubaix, so that’s where I’m staying. I might have gone for Lille if prices were double the normal price, but ten times the normal price, six times the normal price?

I don’t think so. So people got greedy and there will be empty rooms in Paris during the Olympics. There may be some good deals to be had now, after all. But who has tickets to the Olympics and nowhere to stay for a hundred days before the games? You know, not too many people, in my opinion. Now, if you booked a super expensive thing and would like to cancel it and go somewhere cheap, make sure you have a reservation for the cheaper place before you cancel, okay?

People are playing games with the prices and it’s just making me crazy, but that’s how it works. You know, 300 a night for a three star hotel is fair in most arrondissements, 400 a night, all right, but a thousand a night, I don’t think so. Yeah, I don’t think so. My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produced the transcripts for this podcast.

Next week on the podcast

[00:54:13] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about the composer Maurice Ravel, a great parisian, as you’ll hear.

And remember patrons get new episodes of the podcast ads free. Click on the link in the show notes to be like them.

Thank you for listening, and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.


[00:54:36] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Categories: Atlantic Coast, Bordeaux Area