LA ROCHELLE – www.holidays-la-rochelle.co.uk
For centuries, the towers of La Rochelle have stood sentinel over the Old Port, one of France’s most important sea outlets from the 14th to 17th centuries. Today, the towers are tourist attractions but also powerful reminders of the role La Rochelle played as a key trade and marine center in France, including as a departure point for the New World by adventurers like the original founders of Montreal. The arcaded streets and half-timbered houses of the old town remain from those medieval times, complemented by extensive parks, fine local beaches and more than 100 miles of cycle paths.
- The phare du bout du monde (lighthouse at the end of the world) in the bay facing La Rochelle is a replica of the one near Cape Horn that inspired Jules Verne to write his famous book of the same name. * The marina of La Rochelle boasts 4,800 moorings and now ranks among the largest marinas in the world.
Vieux Port: the old port, lorded over by three impressive historical towers – Tour Saint-Nicolas, Tour de la Chaîne and Tour de la Lanterne – and, via the 14th-century Porte de la Grosse Horloge, adjacent to the old town of medieval half-timbered houses set along arcaded streets
Musée Maritime: a fleet of model and full-sized ships brings to life the city's maritime heritage
fresh seafood: everything from ocean fish to scallops, oysters and mussels, and a variety of shellfish
Cognac: the world's best-known brandy, produced in vineyards that reach as far as La Rochelle, with strong local representation by Cognac J. Normandin-Mercier
Winschluss: comic artist and filmmaker best known for co-writing and co-directing the highly acclaimed animated film Persepolis
Also in the Area
Ile de Ré: a small beach island connected to La Rochelle by a 1.8-mile bridge and particularly excellent for a cycling outing to the 17th-century ramparts and citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Marais Poitevin: the second largest wetland in France, criss-crossed with small canals that are popular for inland boating (visit-maraispoitevin.com)
Luçon: a picturesque city with a garden boasting towering, 170-year-old yew trees, a (dried up) port area and a historic cathedral that was once the episcopal seat of Cardinal Richelieu, the powerful chief minister of Louis XIII
Access from Paris
by road: about 4 h 30 min (293 miles) via the A10 autoroute l'Aquitaine
by train: about 2 h 30 min by TGV from the Gare Montparnasse
For more about what to see and do in and around La Rochelle, including on the “From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Coast" itinerary, visit www.topfrenchcitybreaks.com