La Rochelle, France

tours-du-vieux-port

Beautiful sunny beaches

La Rochelle is on the west coast of France between Nantes and Bordeaux, south of the Vendee. A large port city, it has access to the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The area is a popular destination as this part of France has as many sunshine hours as the south, but is only half the driving distance (and tolls) for British holidaymakers. The journey from southern England can still be done in a long day, depending on the ferry crossing.

The weather is often milder than in Brittany – average daytime temperatures are reported as above twenty degrees Centigrade between May and September. Overnight lows are usually in double figures between May and October, with most rainfall between mid-October and early May. There are a number of picturesque towns to explore, many of them being popular with camping and caravan enthusiasts. The city of Rochelle is connected to the Île de Ré via a bridge just under two miles long.

Steeped in history

With its limestone facades reflecting the bright coastal sunlight, the city started as a small fishing village. The area prospered, seeing particular growth during the twelfth century through producing wine and selling salt. These days the city sees itself as dynamic and lively, with lots of open spaces, good public transport and child-friendly policies. The old harbour (or ‘vieux port’) has two landmark towers, distinctive in character and designed for defence – perhaps very necessary during the conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Local activities including boat trips, beautiful beaches, parks, shopping, gourmet restaurants and the local maritime museum which is steeped in seafaring history. Kite surfing, fishing, cycling, jogging along the ocean paths and golf are among the other leisure activities. Good medical services are available for visitors; remember your EU medical card and travel insurance.

In addition to the old harbour with its rich history and heritage, La Rochelle has a boat building industry and is a commercial fishing port. Regular markets sell the fish caught in local clear waters. The area is particularly popular with sailing yachts. Newcomers and tourists are welcomed by local organisations.

Music and heritage

Cultural events range from chocolate sales to marathons. International film festivals of various types are held regularly. Mid-July sees ‘Francofolies’, a large French music festival. In mid-September there is an impressive free outdoor firework display called ‘Voiles de Nuit’ to light up the night sky.

If you plan to visit in the cooler autumn days, ‘Jazz between Two Towers’ is held in October with a series of musical events around the area. Further information is available at
http://www.france-voyage.com/events/jazz-between-two-towers-15.htm

Enjoy your visit!

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