Holidays in France: La Rochelle and Ile de Ré give center stage to ocean and nature

The city of La Rochelle is built around the ocean and its port.

Farid Makhlouf

The Atlantic Ocean takes many sides in the Bay of Biscay. On the way to La Rochelle and Ile de Ré.


Lauren Cavin Hostetler

With the highest level of sunshine on the Atlantic coast, La Rochelle and Ile de Re are two destinations that focus on nature and the ocean. The French, the English, the Belgians and the Swiss are prized by these two destinations, complementing, on the one hand, urban effervescence, and on the other hand, outdoor tranquility.

The ocean is the heart of life in La Rochelle

The port city has been a place of trade and commerce since the 10th century. Historic remains bear witness to this rich past. The city’s three towers can still be visited: the Saint-Nicolas Tower, the Chain Tower, and the Lantern Tower, which served as a lighthouse, fortification, or prison. Today, La Rochelle remains the leading marina in the country. With 5,000 boats moored, you feel small to cross it.

L. Cavin Hostetler

“You shouldn’t stay in the port,” advises Anne Lepelletier, the guide. Like many Rochelais, she prefers to “get lost on the streets!” In fact, when looking through the medieval quarter of St-Sauveur, you can see gargoyles on the houses whose facades are protected against slate spray. For shopping, San Nicolas district Referred. It is full of shops, artisans and bistros. The Gabut district, with its colorful houses, is the place of bars and restaurants. “It was reconstructed by Danish architects who drew inspiration from Copenhagen,” explains our guide. “For nature lovers, redeveloped swamps and forty hectares of parkland dot the city center.”

L. Cavin Hostetler

The aquarium is the city’s number one attraction, housing nearly 600 species of marine animals and coral. Run by the founder’s grandchildren, this institution celebrates its 80th anniversary and houses a turtle care and rehabilitation center, the only one on the Atlantic coast. He collects stuck and infected specimens, and takes care of them before releasing them into the wild.

in La Rochelle, There is a breweryOn the roof of the aquarium, it serves many dishes of fish and shellfish, with a breathtaking view of the city. For tasting local produce and fishing as well as a variety of shellfish, Chris Yul It is the new title of Christopher Cotanso. This trendy brasserie faces the ocean, next to the three-star restaurant that bears its name.

to sleep, and Ambassadors House It has quiet and comfortable rooms in the city center. For more authentic accommodations, spend the night outside, aboard kelony, sailboat 15 meters long, can accommodate up to 6 people. The captain of the ship Bertrand de Rancourt will teach you how to sail!

The sea also inspires many craftsmen in La Rochelle. Since 2008, the Espritvoiles brand has been using a marine fabric intended primarily for the manufacture of boat protections. They make things in a nautical spirit thanks to details like eyelets and ropes, like bags, baskets and garden furniture, are solid and durable.

Serre-Joint’s workshop work is also inspired by the ocean. Emeline Vivier uses screen printing technology to create posters: “The drawing is divided by color. A stencil is created for each shade. The number of steps depends on the number of colors required.” For 10 years, she has been making tidal calendars by hand, which appeal to sea lovers.

From the Place de Verdun, a bus takes tourists to the Ile de Ré. Since 1988, a bridge connects the two destinations and facilitates travel.

Ile de Re Island, between land and tradition

Ile de Ré is a popular destination for its beaches, swamps, pine forests, and houses with green and gray shutters. It has a population of 18,000 throughout the year, ten times more in the summer.

The salt marshes of Ile de Re.

The salt marshes of Ile de Re.

At low tide, we walk along the coast to collect oysters.

At low tide, we walk along the coast to collect oysters.

L. Cavin Hostetler

Island municipalities wishing to limit the use of cars are crossed on foot, by bicycle, on horseback or in electric shuttles. The different circuits make it possible to connect the ten villages: Saint-Martin-de-Ré, the capital, Saint-Clément-des-Baleines where the lighthouse is located, as well as La Flotte or Sainte-Marie.

In San Martin de Re, Foundation next to Fred It offers a unique daily menu depending on the advent of the day. Accurate and refined. For seafood lovers, many oyster huts It borders the coast between the villages of La Flotte and Loix. ice cream shop no martinier (4 establishments per island) offering a wide range of flavors, including oyster or seaweed flavor, to accompany delicious dishes.

Ile de Ré has many types of accommodation such as Camps, trailers and tents And many hotels and thalassotherapy. There are only two five-star hotels on the island. Toras in San Martin de Rey, and Richelieu, in La Flotte. The latter also includes a marine spa with hot, cold and saltwater pools.

On Loix, the artisan center houses an artisan soap factory that makes soap from the milk of donkeys on the island. This breed, Baudets du Poitou, was once used for salt harvesting and wore pants to protect against mosquitoes.

L. Cavin Hostetler

The island also has approximately 250 beehives. Abeille de Ré produces seven different types of honey, including a flur de sel version. In the village of Loix there is also an atypical library with an old bookbinding workshop, listed among the Heritage Firms of France.

This trip was provided by the La Rochelle Tourist Office and the Ile de Rey destination in order to produce this report.

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