La Rochelle, a Port Town in the Charente Maritime

La Rochelle is on the western coast of France in the department of the Charente-Maritime and it is a very attractive and lively port town.

If you were to stay at ‘La Petite Maison’ it would probably take you just under 2 hours to get there, but it would be well worth a day trip as there are many things to be seen.

You might even decide on an overnight stay so you could enjoy one of the many Restaurants.

For you to appreciate and understand La Rochelle it might be useful to know just a little about the history, as the town prides itself very much on its rebellious history and quite often when people talk about La Rochelle they say ‘La Rochelle - belle et rebelle’.

Don’t you think that sounds great? And it makes you want to find out a bit more about the history........

The Romans were the first to occupy the region about 2000 years ago and they set up a salt production which is today still an active local industry.

But if you visit now you will find very little evidence of this occupation.

The town, as we see it today, came into being as a small fishing village in the 10th century. By the 12th century it had become an important port town on the west coast of France.

During the 100 years war between the English and French, in 1372, a sea battle took place just out of La Rochelle. It was the Spanish and the French forces who defeated an English fleet and therewith removing the long-standing English pre-eminence in the seas of the french coast.

In the 15th Century the city prospered in to a bustling port with busy trade routes to Spain, Africa and England. It was mainly trades in salt and wine.

In the 16th Century the city became a very important centre for protestants, which saw conflicts during the wars of religion that racked France at the time.

In 1572 a siege of the city started which lasted a year and ended with the wars. At that time the city was made just one of three cities in France where protestantism could be practiced. In 1627 this led to the next stage of problems when the city found itself in conflict with King Louis XIII.

Under the command of Cardinal Richelieu the city was once again under siege and this time it lasted 14 month. The conquered city lost many of its privileges.

After the siege the city returned to prosperity due to the international trade and this time also included the new territory of Canada.

As the 18th Century came to a close La Rochelle was losing its importance and much of the ‘skyline’ of the city has not changed since.

Throughout the Second World War La Rochelle was an important naval base for the occupying German navy. At the end of the war it was the last city in France to be liberated - again only after an extended siege that lasted from September 1944 to May 1945. Remarkably little wartime damage occurred.

After this short history I hope you can get a better picture of La Rochelle and maybe feel like visiting.

There are all sorts of different things to do for you.

If you like cycling why not prepare a picnic and if you don’t have your own bikes you can rent some and set of exploring.

Should you be interested in architecture, the city has beautifully maintained all the buildings and this is what makes the city one of the picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic Coast.

La Rochelle possesses a commercial harbor in deep water, named La Pallice.

The large submarine bunker built during World War II still stands there, although it is not being used.

La Pallice is equipped with oil unloading equipment, and mainly handles tropical wood. It is also the location of the fishing fleet, which was moved from the old harbor at the center of the city during the 1980s.

La Rochelle also maintains strong links with the sea by harboring the largest marina for pleasure boats in Europe at Les Minimes, and a rather rich boat-building industry.

It boasts of a very big aquarium which you will find to the south of the old town, near the Port des Minimes marina, is well worth a visit if it rains as it is one of the best in Europe, the highlight is the 1.5m-litre shark tank.

The Calypso, the ship used by Jacques-Yves Cousteau as a mobile laboratory for oceanography, and which was sunk after a collision in the port of Singapore (1996) is now displayed at the Maritime Museum of La Rochelle.

One of the biggest music festivals in France, "FrancoFolies", takes place each summer, where Francophone musicians come together for a week of concerts and celebration. 2004 marked the 20th anniversary of this event.

The old town has been well-preserved. From the harbor, boating trips can be taken to the Île d'Aix and Fort Boyard .

Nearby Île de Ré is a short drive to the North.

The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history.

To the North is Venise Verte, a marshy area of country, criss-crossed with tiny canals and a popular resort for inland boating. Inland is the country of Cognac. The attractive Île de Ré is accessible via a bridge from La Rochelle.

Should you be in the mood for shopping (and when are we girls not?!?) get to Rue du Palais and you will be in the right place to either part with some of your money or to do just some window shopping and admire the smart shopfronts.

And now if you should be tired why not hit the beach for a little while and enjoy some sunshine and reflect on the day.

There are a couple of beaches, the Plage de la Concurrence and the Plage des Minimes.

If you ever have been to La Rochelle let me know what you did and how you liked it. I would love to know.

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For now, just remember to have a good time....

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