French Retreat (Manila Bulletin)

Sunset at Vieux Port (“Old Harbor”), one of La Rochelle’s main tourist destinations, falls at about 9 PM in the European summer. (Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita)
Sunset at Vieux Port (“Old Harbor”), one of La Rochelle’s main tourist destinations, falls at about 9 PM in the European summer. (Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita)

It was seven o’clock in the evening, and the sun was still shining as brightly as if it were three o’ clock back home. I was in a second-class coach on a train from Paris, but, luckily, I had the aisle all to myself and could stretch and take photos and contort as I pleased. In front of me, beyond the glass that reflected the blurred faces of a cute French guy reading a book and an old man with a white beard, were wide open spaces as far as my eyes could see. We had passed what seemed like endless fields of golden wheat, followed by sunflower fields, grass… and more grass under an infinite expanse of blue. It was so blue, in fact, that my eyes hurt just looking at it. There were long stretches where not a cloud could be seen in the sky.

Yet it was seven in the evening, and my day was just about to begin.

I left Paris at around five in the afternoon on a TGV train bound for La Rochelle, to visit one of my dearest girlfriends, Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau, and her husband, who prefers to be called just B. Before Paris, I had come from a grueling one-week journalism scholarship program in Prague, and then made an equally tiring 24-hour pit stop in the City of Lights to pay a courtesy call to the royalty of French landmarks. But my real destination, the real jewel of this European adventure, was La Rochelle, where I felt that I could finally hop, skip, jump, stretch, sleep, and just…breathe.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit the Manila Bulletin website HERE.