A Long Week-End in La Rochelle

Posted on 08. Jun, 2011 by in Travel

While there are many things I would happily whine about in France, holidays are certainly not one of them - they get over 10 public holidays per year (plus the mandatory 5 weeks), which pretty much makes the North-American workaholic in me go on a travel frenzy… Ideal for a long week-end in La Rochelle!

After 5 hours on the road,  I had no other choice than get to the closest pit stop and give my legs some fuel for exploration. Quai du Gabut is where I ended up, a lovely marina street filled with wooden terraces and seafood restaurants - albeit a bit touristy, but with such an amazing setting, it’s only normal that visitors would want to eat there. That was only the beginning of my food odyssey in La Rochelle - absolutely everything we ordered during the week-end was delicious!

Food orgy in La Rochelle!

After visiting the tourist office for more information on the city (where I received incredible service and useful tips),  I was suggested self-guided walks, which are a great way to discover the surroundings of the port. I walked by the famous arcade streets and the impressive Courts of Justice, as well as some lovely residential and sea-themed decorated streets. Not too far from the Pont de la grosse horloge, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a local favorite called Académie de la bière (10 Cour du Temple), and immediately indulged my ale call. I ordered a delicious Belgian beer, the Mort Subite (which means “sudden death”) and it is definitely not as tragic as it sounds - it’s actually quite tasty, with a strong raspberry flavor and a reddish hue. Can’t take away the girlishness, now can I?

La Rochelle

Even though a day off is a good enough reason to plan a long week-end in La Rochelle, I had a hidden agenda - the main reason why I wanted to visit La Rochelle so badly is because I knew my French ancestors (for those who didn’t know, I’m French-Canadian) used to live in the Charente-Maritime region before they left for the Americas in the 17th century. I was estatic to learn more about the history behind my ancestors, their family and their job at the Tour du Chaînon, which was built in the 14th century as part of the city’s fortifications, and is now a museum on the 17th migration to Nouvelle-France. After a little bit of research, I found out that my ancestors came from Segonzac, about an hour east of La Rochelle. Needless to say I added the village to my bucket list!

Speaking of bucket lists, another thing that was listed there was the Fort Boyard. It’s a large fort in the Atlantic ocean, between the islands of Ile-d’Aix and Ile d’Oléron, about an hour from La Rochelle by boat. I bought the tickets at the tourist office the day before, and I was excited like a little girl who knows she’s getting the classy Barbie on Christmas morning. For those of you who never heard about this fort, not only is its well an historically important sight of the region, it also used to be the setting of a very popular TV show in Quebec and France (to be honest, I was much more eager about the TV show part than anything else). Basically each room of the fort had a different challenge, for which you got a key if you succeeded. In the end, the team that won the most keys accessed a special room with harder challenges and eventually won the game. Considering I was pretty young when the show aired, the fascination went back a long way, and it was really special for me to be so close to something that seemed so far and inacessible back then from my little Montreal suburb! While it is not possible to visit inside, simply cruising around it, with the show’s theme song playing on the deck, was a magical experience.

Fort Boyard

The following day, I felt like I had seen what had to be seen in La Rochelle and decided to head to the beautiful Ile-de-Ré, from which I had only heard great things. In fact, I had such a great time that I couldn’t sum up my day here - read my Ile-de-Ré report here!

I’m very glad I decided to go to La Rochelle, as it was not only a beautiful and inspiring week-end, but also my first official trip in Europe since I moved there for the second time. I think 3 days was more than enough to cover the city’s historical sights and yummy restaurants, but I strongly suggest you add at least a daytrip to one of the nearby islands, especially Ile-de-Ré.

For more pictures, check out my photostream.

Have you ever visited La Rochelle and its surroundings? Do you also have ancestors from Charentes-Maritime?

Related posts:

  1. My First Official Week-End in France
  2. A Week In Paris or How To Alienate Parisians

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3 Responses to “A Long Week-End in La Rochelle”

  1. Katherina

    08. Jun, 2011

    The food looks delicious!! I’m sure I could spend hours and hours wandering from one restaurant to the other in this city!

    Reply to this comment

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