During the summer, we have visitors seven days a week, so for months there is no days off. Now that fall has arrived, our business is primarily on weekends, which allows us to get away for a few days now and again. Last week we took a mini-vacation to the west coast of France. We started in La Rochelle, an historic port town about mid-way between Nantes and Bordeaux.
We had never visited La Rochelle, although we once did stop by on our way to somewhere else, way back in 1999, and its fortified port impressed me then and continues to intrigue me. The two towers above, the St Nicolas on the left and the Tour de la Chaîne on the right, in days gone by had a large chain that could be suspended between them to prevent enemy ships from entering the harbor.
There is a third tower on the port, called Tour de la Lanterne, which is the ancient light house. It has recently been completely restored and cleaned.
The situation, geography and architecture make La Rochelle a very attractive destination. Our hotel overlooked the rather massive harbor and as you can see from my photos, the weather was extraordinary.
Weaving one's way through the port sides, visiting the old and new harbors, exploring the fortifications and watching the boats come and go is an extremely pleasant way to spend a few hours.
The town of La Rochelle is located on the Bay of Biscay which opens out to the Atlantic. The location has been important since before the Roman era. The actual city of La Rochelle was built in the 10th century and became a commercial and political center over the following generations, playing a significant role in the 100 years' war and the wars of religion.
Today La Rochelle is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department. Apparently it has the largest pleasure boat harbor in all of Europe. Certainly it is an enchanting destination for sailors and landlubbers alike.
Walking along the port as the sun goes down seems to be the favorite local pass time. The cafes and restaurants along the harbor attract many customers especially when the weather is as pleasant as it was for us.
We chose to dine at the 4 Sergents, which gets a mention in the Michelin Guide.
It was a gratifying experience with fresh sea food dishes prepared beautifully. I had a lobster soup I will not soon forget.
I could certainly spend much more time in this charming location. I would love to have the opportunity to explore some of the back streets, but our time here was abbreviated. We were off for two nights on Île de Ré, which I will tell you about next time.