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La Rochelle.Charente-Maritime

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
La Rochelle though not in the Vendée, being a few kilometres inside the Charente-Maritime, is one of those places that anyone who is visiting this part of France should make an effort to see. It is a most exquisite town often referred to as the Jewel in the Bay of Biscay and is also the sailing capital of France. In La Rochelle one can experience maritime France at its very best, watching the world go by and experiencing a maritime heritage that is difficult to beat anywhere in France, either from the innumerable harbour side cafes and bars or by simply just strolling around the ever active waterfront. Behind the inner harbour is a labyrinth of streets and sidewalks some covered with stone arches, vast squares, pretty courtyards and everywhere one looks there is impressive architecture. The Town hall (hotel de Ville) is one of the most imposing buildings and is a "must see" on anyone’s itinerary. The large parks that stretch from just behind the Lantern tower on the harbour entrance all the way back past the centre of town to its outskirts help give the town an air of serenity.

The inner harbour is really 3 harbours each with its own distinct flavour. The main harbour just inside the Chain Towers is always bustling with activity both on and off the water with local cruise boats taking trips out around the nearby islands and the local water taxis ferrying passengers across the harbour and out to the outer marina at Port des Minimes. The middle harbour is a marina for small to medium sized yachts and is a lot more quiet and peaceful. The third harbour is the old fishing port which now houses the new aquarium and the Maritime Museum as well as many large and impressive ocean going yachts. The harbour has a lock and an impressive lifting bridge.

La Rochelle not only has great charm but also has an elegance that is rare in a city of this size. The pace of life is gentle and relaxed and this rubs off on its many visitors, who by and large are happy to soak up its atmosphere, or sit by the harbour and watch the world go by. La Rochelle is not noted for its beaches but there is one on either side of the harbour both of which are much used by locals and visitors alike. At night La Rochelle comes alive, there are many great restaurants to eat at and the harbour and streets are alive with street artists of all kinds, in this sense there are almost two la Rochelles.

Further out of town near the coast is the Port des Minimes, said to be France’s largest marina with thousands of yachts and motor-craft of all descriptions. Here one will find many bars and restaurants and a glorious beach which is very popular in the afternoon with the students from the nearby La Rochelle University. It is a very pleasant place to watch the boats going to and fro the marina.

Across the river mouth is the Port de Pêche (fishing port) and the large commercial port in which cruise liners occasionally dock. In this same area hidden amongst industrial units are the 2nd world war U boat pens, these massive structures, which the French would rather not talk about, are now quite difficult to view. On the north side of La Rochelle in the district of La Pallice a large colourful market is held on Sunday mornings.
From this area you can view the impressive bridge that crosses to the Ile d'Re.

Images of La Rochelle

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Photos of La Rochelle
La Rochelle review by Tate
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