It had been 5 days of camping and long rides on the EV1 so I decided to pick a decent spot to celebrate my birthday. The choices were many but it came down to Bordeaux or La Rochelle. I decided to skip Bordeaux and head to La Rochelle by train because I really enjoyed the path I was on and that kept me more in line with my next big destination of Nantes.
I could not have been happier with my decision. Good things were happening even before I hit the small port town. I told the ticket clerk it was my birthday and I got a discount on my train ride (52 Euro to 36 Euro). The billet was probably just on sale but I'd like to think she hooked it up.
Just before getting off the train I struck up a conversation with a couple (Ann Marie and Alex) from St. Louis. They were in La Rochelle for two weeks because Alex, who's an historian, was there to do research on the relationship between La Rochelle and Louisiana. How interesting. He was able to give me a quick rundown of the city before we got off at our stop.
Like most times when I'm not camping I have to go hunting for WIFI so I can connect with the hotel or my AirBNB host. I finally made it to my AirBNB apartment, perfectly situated in the heart of the old town. My host's mom, "Queen Elizabeth," could not have been more warm and hospitable.
Later that night I wandered around the city, found an Irish pub. Irish pubs are great because they're so welcoming. Typically the barkeep speaks English and that goes a long way when traveling alone. While at the pub I ran into some locals who had come back from Île de Ré (an Island just west of La Rochelle). Again, I was lucky because the girl I met, Manon, spoke english. She told me she learned how from watching American tv shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead, and Swap People (I laughed). Outside of losing a dart game, that was one of the best nights of my trip.
The next day Manon gave me a sunset tour of the city. So cool to see it through the eyes of someone who grew up there.
Connections matter. The most memorable times on my trip are when you can connect with the people. Traveling gets you to a place. A connection allows you to understand where you're at and why that matters.