La Rochelle has beautifully maintained its ancient architecture, making it one of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast. Its main feature is the ” Vieux Port” (” Old Harbour”), which is at the centre and lined with seafood restaurants.
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La Rochelle is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department and is connected to the Île de Ré ( island) by a 2.9 km bridge, completed in 1988. It has an international airport 10mins from the centre.
La Rochelle was founded during the 10th century, and became an important harbour from the 12th century. In 1137, Guillaume X, Duke of Aquitaine essentially made La Rochelle a free port and gave it the right to establish itself as a commune. The main activities of the city were in the areas of maritime commerce and trade; wine and salt, especially with England, the Netherlands and Spain and up to the 15th century, it was very successful. The New World started to develop and La Rochelle also joined the slave trade with Africa, the sugar trade with Antilles and the fur trade with Canada. Unfortunately, this period of commercial and cultural expansion was then restricted by a series of wars; the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars included and its success declined considerably. During WWII it was one of the last cities to be freed, having been held by 20,000 German troops. Today however its success is firmly back on track and it is a centre for tourism.
Sights to see include the large submarine bunker built during WWII, La Pallice which is a commercial harbour in deep water home to the fishing fleet, the aquarium and the Maritime museum where the Calypso is on display –a ship used by Jacques-Yves Cousteau as a mobile laboratory for oceanography,
Boating trips can be taken to the Île d’Aix and Fort Boyard. Nearby Île de Ré is a short drive to the North. The countryside of the surrounding Charente-Maritime is very rural and full of history. To the North is Venise Verte, a marshy area of country, criss-crossed with tiny canals and a popular resort for inland boating. And the famous town of Cognac is also nearby and there is the FrancoFolies festival, which brings together Francophone musicians for a week of concerts and celebration.
Local recipes include: quails cooked in cognac, rabbit in pineau, young cockerel in white wine, freshwater fish (trout, eels, roach, fried baby fish), snails with a white wine-based sauce, white haricot beans (‘mohettes’) and coup de Jarnac (a meringue cake soaked with cognac).
Cognac , Pineau des Charentes and Vin de Pays Charentais are all famous local drinks that should be tasted. Vin de Pays Charentais is a new development, for which sales have tripled in the past 10 years.
La Marée, 1 avenue de Colmar tel no: 05 46 41 19 92, www.la-maree.fr , seafood menu 10-20€
Le Bistrot des Pecheurs and Bistrot d’Andre both by the harbour serving excellent crab 15€
Au Bouchon St Jean, 42 rue St Jean du Perot, tel no: 05 46 41 58 01, menu 10-20€
The streets behind the old port have numerous contemporary restaurants and traditional café bars.
Our team of sale advisers at Sextant Properties will be happy to help you to find a property near La Rochelle. We have a large network of partners in Cognac. All of them are registered French real estate agents and speak both French and English. Whatever kind of property you are looking for: farmhouse, longere, barn, gite, B&B, country house, mill, castle or chateau, we will do our best to find a property in La Rochelle matching your requirements.