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PJM Travel Solutions
La Rochelle have one of the best parks and gardens..being close to the sea, the ambience is slightly different from what you experience in Paris with exception of Bois de Boulogne.
Fondest memory: Yes, the parks. Very neat and never congested. It is good for couples on a honey moon.
Favorite thing: An interesting part of La Rochelle is the QUAY. On the quay are several "Drinking Joints" Where you could sit down close to the boats and have a good discussion or get together with friends. The scenery is simply spectacular.
La grosse horloge used to serve as gates of the city, separating it from the port.
In the past, the gate comprehended two gates, indeed. One for pedestrians, one for horse carriages. Later on, centuries ago, the two gates were merged into a big gate...
At the top is l'horologe (the clock). Plus a dom, pilars and globes...
This area is located in Quai Duperré area, with most expensive restaurants. Cool place to chill out, however, with those nice terrasses.
Click to see details
Fondest memory: White, flaky buildings facades... I was hanging against the hall, looking at someone in the street when a friend screamed about the white powder I had on my clothes... Then I started paying attention and eventually realized all the white buildings have flaky walls...
Was it chalk eaten by sea salt ?
As opposed to Le quartier ancien (Old city) and, this time, to le Nouveau port de La Pallice (ultramodern trade port of La Pallice), le Vieux Port is the area where traditional fishing and by open outcry market used to be.
It includes l'Avant-port, le Vieux port, le bassin à flot (the wet dock) and le Bassin des chalutiers (trawlers dock).
L'Avant-port is the water area before entering the Old Harbour. The entry is at the level of the Tour de la Chaîne and Tour Saint-Nicolas. Passed the towers, you enter the Old harbour, with at your right an entry to the wet dock. This latter is the basin where yachts berthed in as trawlers and small ships lay in Old harbour.
The Old harbour also includes impoundment basin that receives floods from Sèvre river.
Fondest memory: Walking late at night along the quays... near water and see either those towers all lit up either flickering lighthouses sending their signals.
Besides, the quays are so lively with those terraces, restaurants, pubs that I felt a bit "lost". In my conception, water has to be kept away from cities, from work. Especially sea means holidays for me. So it was quite strange to think that people work in this area, with sea water, yachts, boats neighbouring them.
Maybe because, whatever the country I live in, I've been always stuck in the inland, either in Tana (center of Madagascar) either in Brussels (located inland in Belgium). The only time I see the sea has been always for leisure, holidays.
But.. I enjoyed La Rochelle at the fullest...
Built from the trading port of La Pallice, le Pont de la Rochelle liaises the mainland to l'Ile de Ré.
The bridge is 3 km long and was built in 1988.
If I recall it well, there was a péage (toll) before entering the bridge. Though, biking is free of péage.
Since l'Ile de Ré is do-able by bike, renting a bike in la Rochelle may be a solution then visit l'Ile de Ré toll free.
Fondest memory: Water.. water.. water
I've never been excited to see a bridge. Well, for me, Le pont de La Rochelle is like any bridge, no?
Except that it leads you to l'Ile de Ré, another great territory in Charentes Maritime. Maybe there resides the buzz around this bridge.
By the way, since the retais territory is linked to the mainland by the bridge, is it still to be named Ile de Ré?
Richelieu: painfully important character in La Rochelle history.
Early XII century, English King, Henri II, Aliénor d'Aquitaine spouse, granted La Rochelle with its free town status. Hence, La Rochelle has been always an independent area with some rebellous spirit...
Later on, the city could tie trade links with England, Flanders, Canada and Antilles (West Indies). XII century: to England and Flanders, salt and wine were exported whilst the city imported wool and materials from them. XV century: with Canada, La Rochelle got familiar with fur trading. Les Antilles and La Rochelle were partners in the slave trade. All those business activities attracted banks as well as Flemish, English, Brittons and Spanish traders in La Rochelle.
Economic power resulted from the rise of those trading activities.. Soon, this openess to the sea induced the openess to protestant principles and ideology, influences that namely came from North Europe, whom La Rochelle got acquaintancies with. Besides, Université de Poitiers contributed to the spread of La Réforme. This high-ranking university was really appreciated by intellectuals, including Jean Calvin, in his time, who used to meet people in the basement of the university, hiding from Catholic authority. Moreover, religious and ethical aspects (mis-respectful and abusive clergymen), inherent in Catholicism, led people to choose Protestantism in that time.
Protestants became powerful in this area. Wasn't La Rochelle a capital city of French protestantism?
Catholic French realm hadn't appreciated that and gave the first assault to stop the rise of protestantism in La Rochelle. Royal army didn't succeed in doing that so, even with Religion wars (1562-1598), the city remained protestant.
Not only, they kept their religious freedom (compared to other French towns)... but with the release of L' Edit de Nantes (inspired by Henri IV, protestant king), French people were given the freedom to choose their own religion.
Fondest memory: When Henri IV died in 1610, this freedom of choice was not guaranteed anymore. La Rochelle people's concern was right, indeed.
Very soon, Louis XIII, his predecessor, ignored the Edit de Nantes and decided to impose catholicism in the region. Independent and rebellous locals resisted to that royal project.
Yet, Louis XIII was determined in his action and gave the assault. The city relied on England to protect them. The English backed La Rochelle since they have their interest in keeping La Rochelle free (and not under French rule).
In 1627, though, Richelieu gave the final assault by organizing an earth blocus. Every road to la Rochelle was blockaded. No food entering so to eventually suppress 22 000 of 27 000 Rochelais (!). Remaining 5000 ended up eating rats, grass and human flesh. Richelieu epitomizes this sad and horrible time in La Rochelle history. 13 months of starvation...
Still, the "man in the box" at l'H?tel de ville represents Richelieu. Very probably, to symbolize the royal power over rebellous and independent La Rochelle people... In meantime, La Rochelle also has its Mus?e protestant.(+33 5 46 34 17 09) with some well documented collection.
The contrast between the enclosure wall style and the main part of the building will strike you.
Don't hesitate, enter the gates to admire the inner court. It is simply breathtakingly beautiful. Just in front of you, the Italian Renaissance style, built under Henri IV rule. An arch gallery on the basement. Don't forget to look at the ceiling of the gallery with monographs of both Henri IV and Marie de Médicis. They are part of the ceiling adornment as well as trophies, medals...
On the pic, find details of the first level of the main building. Pilasters with statues that symbolize cardinal virtues sush as Justice, Strength, Cautiousness, Temperance.
At your left, find the statue of Richelieu, on top of the entry of first floor... See in next tip the role he played in La Rochelle history.
Far left, stands a beautiful balustrade staircase, from where you could take pictures of the Renaissance beauty.
For more of this Hôtel de ville, check (in French): http://www.larochelle-info.com/larochelle/srubs.php?rub=4&srub=9&id=4
Fondest memory: One of fondest memories visiting La Rochelle Old quarter is the contrast between interior design and enclosure wall architecture of this Hôtel de ville. At a time, while admiring this Renaissance building, I completely forgot about the enclosure wall. Seemed as if I were just dropped by a helicopter in the inner court. I was dreaming away, looking at the arches, the patterns on the gallery ceiling. Too different those parts were!
Don't forget to visit the interior. It contains some pieces of collection, proper to La Rochelle history, including many rooms and the famous marble table in Jean Guiton's cabinet. Jean Guiton is a mayor in Richelieu time, who boosted locals to resist to royal army, in order to keep La Rochelle as a free town. He is a local hero. Normally, you should find his statue on Place de l'Hôtel de Ville.
Ask for a Guided tour: Office du Tourisme – tél. : 05.46.41.14.68
If possible, drop your car down.. La Rochelle center is meant to be discovered by bike or on foot.
Your walk will likely includes interesting spots.
Le Vieux Port, the basins and yachts berthed in them.
Le Vieux Port and the Quartier Gabut. This area used to be for housing and shopping. Lately, it became a place with eateries, terrasses. Interesting nightlife as well. The setting of the houses is interesting in Gabut. The buildings painted in different bright colours remind of the North of Europe.
Le Vieux Port and the towers. Tours St-Nicolas, de la Chaîne et de la lanterne... They deserve some visit since some houses museums, historical pieces of collection.
The quays are nice place to wander along water. Quay Duperré has nice terrasses from where you can see the manoeuvers of the yachts and boats entering the docks... with views on the three towers.
Fondest memory: Le Quartier ancien
From quai Duperré, access the Quartier ancien via la Porte de la Grosse Horloge. For centuries, it used to be the entry of the city.
Then take your right, Grande Rue des merciers. One of greatest arteries in the city. Always look up in the air. Buildings are from different styles. Either dating back to the XV and XVII centuries, either Middle age lumber plastered facades, with slate shells them(picture), either Renaissance houses with carved stone facades, all of that is there. The arches at pavement level just protect shops from the rain. Stroll till you reach Rue de l'Hôtel de ville at your left, then Place de l'Hôtel de ville.
At Hôtel de ville, enter the gate to admire its architecture. XVI century and Renaissance settings. Turrets and arches. Photographers' heaven with its belfry. Some plaques to inform you about the building.
From this place, admire the impressive post office. You wouldn't think of a post office.
I saw the mayor of La Rochelle on his bike. It's true that we were just a day after "La journée sans voiture". Also, it's true that the city promotes the clean transportation.
Leave the Hôtel de ville, either by following Rue de la grille then continue with Rue des merciers, either take Rue Saint-Yon, street packed with shops too. Clothing shops as well as antiques boutiques.
Anyway, you will reach la Place du marché. A place edged by Rue St Yon, Rue de la forme, Rue Thiers and another one I don't recall. Watch locals in their daily activities. Don't miss specific buildings around.
Perpendicular to Rue St Yon, you have streets like Rue Fleuriau, where to find Musée du Nouveau Monde, some antiques shops.
Place de Verdun is the place where the ancient palace stood. Now, it's a place where coaches and buses end up. Under this place is the main parking.
Finally, it's a city edged by a huge park. You may chill out in this park. With its 2km length and 200m width, enough place to rest or just chat amongst greenery.
L'Hôtel de ville is really worth a glance. From outside, the walls are greyish (typical to this coastal city). Enclosure walls' XVI century architecture contrasts strongly with the main building's architecture. On the wall looking on Place de l'Hôtel de ville, you will find La Rochelle's armorial bearings. They are carved above the main gate. Enlarge the pic to see it.
Enclosure wall is of Gothic style with these gates whilst main building is of Italian Rennaissance.
The wall comprehends a belfry tower as well. The picture doesn't show this though but it's on the left.
For more of this Hôtel de ville, check (in French): http://www.larochelle-info.com/larochelle/srubs.php?rub=4&srub=9&id=4
Fondest memory: Place de l'H?tel de ville....
A nice place to soak up the sun with those terraces. Find on this place the Post office (La Poste). The building is nice, not our plain and usually sad post offices but beautiful with lots of windows. A pity I hadn't taken a picture of it.
I saw there the mayor (I already said it, no?) on a bicycle, stopping by and talking with someone. It was the day after the Journ?e sans voiture. A city like La Rochelle, a pioneer in the eco-friendly management, coudn't skip the event. If I am not wrong, La Rochelle is the first city in France to implement this Journ?e sans voiture. The first city to use electric cars as well.
You won't miss it!
La Rochelle is full of those! Arcades in city center. Even l'Hôtel de ville has it!
In several shopping streets (including Rue des Merciers, rue Fleuriau), you will find many building with arches on basement. They were built according to the then style but also to protect shops, warehouses from bad weather (rains, storms...). At the basement, rooms are deep.
The arches, as those old and huge buildings, are, most of time, made of stone (!).
See T-logues to have more pictures of arches
Fondest memory: Everything in the city reminds you of its port and trade activities: the warehouses, the architecture to protect the shops, the boats.
Do you know that New Rochelle, NY owes its name, past to Protestant Rochelais who fled from La Rochelle, Poiteau-Charentes?
It was in the time where Kings of France wanted to get rid off those powerful protestants.
*to be continued*
It is the first European marina, built in 1970. one of biggest in Europe as well, with more than 3600 moorings.
It is located in Minimes area, near wood apartments of Plage des Minimes.
From Le Vieux port, you have to head South till you reach this marina. Go there to see super-boats, more speedboat types.
Well leisure sailors certainly know about this port. For newbies and simple curious as me, let's check the website.
To know more about the La Rochelle port(s), click on "English site" then browse Minimes Port (Port des Minimes), Old port (Vieux port)
It's in this area that is located a good school of sailing "Ecole de voile Rochelaise". See my off beat path tips for this!
Fondest memory: Le grand pavois, an International Boat Show that used to be a huge economic event in the region, Poitou-Charentes'.
Some hundreds of exhibitors who represent their nations, with their newest items: boats, yachts, superspeed engines. Attendants gather both amateurs, newbies as well seasoned professionals. With on-water and on-the-ground displays according to the size of the boats.
Look at my local customs tips to know more about le Grand pavois
A colourful place in the Vieux Port area (Old Harbour). With its colourful setting and those houses in wood, this reminds you of Nordic areas. Still, it's the Eastern side of Old harbour, just behind Tour St-Nicolas.
One time a location of fishmen's hubs. Now, it's a residential area, with pubs, cheap eateries and some shops (marine and sailing trinkets and tools).
Fondest memory: From what I saw and experience there, this is a place to be lived at night too. With pubs and terraces that go along the quays of Le bassin à flot. From there, a view on Quai Valin, the back of Tour St-Nicolas. All lit up at night, the view of this tower is just magical. Yellow shades with the dark blue of the sky.
It's in this area that I found one of those colourful wooden cabins that would "please" my Belgian friends. Wink to my Belgian friendz
First, enlarge the pic to see details of the pavillion of the market...
The market is a bustling one, located near the main shopping street... and vice-versa. Neighbouring street is the main one for shopping... Rue saint Yon, if I recall it right.
Around the market, still some ancient houses and buildings with their Middle Age architecture. Half wood lumbered facades.
The whole La Rochelle is like that. Elegance, charm of an old lady sure of herself and who had seen a lot in her life... glory, treahison, starvation... but stood head above water and now spoilt her kids with her experience, beauty, culture and wealth.
I guess I could see and seize that atmosphere because I discovered it in end of september. After the high season, hot summer and its hordes of tourists, the city knew a relief... slowly digging into "la rentrée". Still, the weather was fine and I valued walking in the streets in daylight, having the wind on my face in the evening.
In fact, I saw there the last tourists of the summer season and many locals. Amongst the later, uni students I spotted in the streets who are going to integrate the complex.. I recognized them with their tan, some good-looking hunks with bermuda shorts looking for stationery items... some with physics books...
Fondest memory: The city that counts approx. 70 000 inhabitants is seen as small though it comprehends a huge university complex with a known engineering school. That's something that stroke me a lot in La Rochelle.
The students can rent their apartment along the Minimes area, not far from the first marina in Europe, built in the 70s. Can you imagine? Studying with your feet in water. I used to dream of that...