La Rochelle and l'Ile de Ré
La Rochelle and Ile de Ré
The town of la Rochelle is a place that shouldn’t be missed for its rich heritage both historical and urban but also for its way of life. This coastal town of 75000 inhabitants is a pioneer in several areas, especially in environmental and sustainable development (with a perimeter of protection set up to protect the architecture of its town centre since 1971, free to rent bicycles, a day without cars in September since 1996, electric car made available to citizens since 1999, electric busses and sea busses, the label ‘pavillon bleu d’europe’ for its marina Les Minimes...La Rochelle is a great place to live!
Must see sights to discover
Remains of medieval fortifications, the towers of La Rochelle are the emblem of the town. Protecting the entrance to the old port, the Tour St Nicolas, the Tour de la Chaîne and the Tour de la Lanterne have lived through the ages and their stone polished by time tell us their story. Taking the Chemin de La Ronde is a must; it offers wonderful views of the town and the ocean. A breathtaking panorama that takes us back in French history where we make out the red signpost, called the Richelieu beacon, that marks the spot where the Cardinal de Richelieu had an embankment built during the great siege. A few hundred metres from there, you pass under the Grosse Horloge (the great clock) the ancient doorway that separated the city from the port and discover the paved roads of the shopping streets. Along your walk you could enter the Saint Louis Cathedral, the Saint Sauveur church or maybe you will come across the covered Market from the XIX century with its fresh fruits and vegetables but most importantly its sea food: bass, cuttlefish, sardines, prawns, oysters and mussels... the fishmongers and oyster and mussel producers will welcome you and advise you with passion as they have done for many generations.
The Aquarium of la Rochelle is a place that must be seen while in the Charente Maritime. A real voyage where people of all ages can discover the animals and plants that live in our oceans; this well staged area is orientated to the study and protection of species. A visit of 2 hours to understand and dream of the sea among more than 600 species, all more beautiful than the next (sharks, turtles, jelly fish, piranha, sea horses...and hundreds of exotic fish from the seas and the oceans. The aquarium is open 365 days/year. April/June/September 9am to 8pm, July and August 9am to 11pm, October to March 10am to 8pm.
The Maritime museum of La Rochelle is comprised of an outdoor site and an indoor area. Next to France 1, the meteorology frigate, the emblem of the museum, The Angoumois illustrates the period of industrial fishing and the Saint Gilles, the features of tugboats. Not far from there, the Joshua (famous yacht of Bernard Moitessier), the Manuel-Joël, the Captain of the Frigate Leverger (SNSM Dingy) along with exceptional, classical private yachts provide visitors with a unique maritime experience. The permanent exhibition “La Rochelle born of the sea” a magnificent collection of boats “petite plaisance” (and soon a large exhibition on the climate) demonstrate the deep link between the town and the deep blue.
Visiting the Bunker will take you back several decades in time, to the era of the Second World War. Tucked away in the heart of the town, disguised amongst shops and houses, this underground base, headquarters for officers from U-Boote, immerses us in the daily life of these soldiers. Kept intact for 70 years, it is full of realism authenticity and retraces history with emotion. Through this maze of rooms in the 280m2 space, you will find yourself immersed in La Rochelle during the occupation from 1939 to 1945!
Located in the heart of the town centre of La Rochelle, The Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) offers a surprising experience! A scientific institution with the label “musée de France”, it is a place of conservation, presentation and exchange of knowledge for over two centuries. With its 2500m2 of displays spread over 5 levels, it offers a fabulous voyage into the heart of the natural and cultural heritage with no less that 10 000 objects from naturalist and ethnographic collections brought together since the XVIII century. With its modern and innovative museography, young and old will be captivated while discovering the biodiversity of the natural habitats and the cultural diversity of the populations of Africa, America and Oceania.
Whether you are a fan or not, no one can resist the charm of the collections found in the “Musée des automates et des modèles réduites” (The museum of automatons and reduced size models). With two large exposition rooms over 1800m2, it contains over 300 robotic characters, old and contemporary automatons, animated window displays, historical scenes that will enchant the whole family. A reconstruction of Montmartre where painters and musicians come to life in an atmosphere of the 1900s, enhanced with numerous reproductions: automobiles, old boats, electric trains, light and sound shows, you will be enthralled with this detailed miniature universe.
In addition to these places of interest, La Rochelle is also host to many important events: the musical festival “les Francofolies de la Rochelle” and its numerous well known artists (July), the boating fair ‘Grand Pavois’ (the most important boating fair in Europe held in September), the International Adventure Film Festival (November), International Film Festival (early summer), renowned nautical races, very popular marathon (2nd in France after Paris)
For those who love Rugby, come and experience the atmosphere of a match of theStade Rochelais. The yellow and blacks are in the Top 14 since the 2014-15 season and are the pride of the department and the region. Make sure you don’t miss the chance to support this leading French rugby club.
L’Ile de Ré
L’Ile de Ré, is full of a different charm to that of the Ile d’Oléron, it’s worth the detour if you are passing through the Charente Maritime. Located between the strait of Antioche and the Breton Strait, it is accessible from La Rochelle via the toll bridge which is almost 3km long. Discover the towns of La Flotte which has the label “villages de pierres et d’eau”, Saint Martin en Ré and its historical heritage, the emblematic Phare des Baleines light house, Loix and its salt marshes, La Couarde sur mer and its unspoilt beaches, Les Portes en Ré and its conservation park.
With an area of 85m2, it offers a large range of activities: walking and biking (over 110km of bicycle paths), water activities (boat trips, fishing, surfing, paddle surf, jet ski, catamaran, windsurf, canoe...), three thalassotherapy centres, numerous local businesses to visit, markets, surprising walks through the alleyways of the villages. Relaxing on the beach or on the terraces of the cafés opposite the port, you won’t grow tired of the atmosphere that reigns on this neighbouring island of the Ile d’Oléron, close by and yet so different.
How to get to La Rochelle from the campsite Les Flots-Atlantique?
By sea: maritime link leaving from Boyardville (with a passage close to Fort Boyard) arriving at the towers of la Rochelle, right next to the port. Crossing time 50 minutes. See the timetable for the navette oleron/la Rochelle
By road: approx. 1 ½ hours, take the viaduct and follow the signs Rochefort/La Rochelle
How to get to Ile de Ré from the campsite Les Flots-Atlantique?
By sea: Departure for Ile de Ré by waterway transport leaving from the Vieux Port of La Rochelle (arrival at St Martin en Ré)
By road: approx. 1 ½ hours, take the viaduct and follow the signs Rochefort/La Rochelle then go around the Town centre following the signs to Ile de Ré. Bridge with a toll to access the island, the prices vary according to the time of year.
For more information about La Rochelle and the surrounding area, go to the website of the (La Rochelle Tourist information centre) office de tourisme de La Rochelle