Pretty towns of France: La Rochelle – It’s always hard to decide where to go on holiday, you can spend hours flicking through brochures only to have a longer wish list than you started with. This year I took the easy option, I got my retired dad to check out the internet for possible options. All I told him that we wanted to go somewhere in either France or Spain for a relaxing week. He came back to me within two hours with La Rochelle. He decided La Rochelle was a beautiful seaside town in France and would make a perfect holiday.
Even though we didn’t really know what to expect, in the past my dad had never let me down so my girlfriend and I both agreed to give it a go. We then tried to find out as much information on La Rochelle as we could. After researching on the internet and speaking to a few people it sounded just the sort of thing we were looking for. We found an article that recommended boat rides, gondolas (which weren’t really gondolas but the French equivalent!), Ile de Ré (Island of the King) and one particular restaurant by the name of Andrès. After reading the article I wanted to do everything, I knew that this really wasn’t possible but still it’s always nice to plan ahead and to at least try and fit everything in!
We managed to find and book a very reasonable flight and an excellent hotel. We stayed at The Mercure which luckily turned out to be a comfortable three star hotel with an amazing view of the port and luxury boats. During the short taxi journey from the airport to the hotel we were amazed at how lovely the place was. My Dad was right on first impressions La Rochelle was a beautiful seaside town.
Arrival breakfast and a good start
Having dropped our bags off at the hotel we headed out to explore, our first port of call was to get some breakfast, you really can’t beat fresh croissants… a perfect way to start any holiday. We made our way around the city’s port and were amazed at the number of restaurants and bars. It wasn’t long before they were filling up, the port was soon packed with people, most of whom were French. Generally when I have been to on holiday to tourist spots I have only ever heard English being spoken.
I was very impressed with La Rochelle, a place where I could even quite happily settle down. For a decent sized property just out of town you can pay around €250,000 or €300,000 for somewhere more central. It has definitely given us both something to think about for the future!
After quite a competitive game of crazy golf we made our way across the road to a lovely little bar where we ordered two “Plat Du Jours” (Plates of the day) which happened to be an impressive “Moule Mariner” (a classic and popular French dish of mussels) but to our disgust neither of us could finish the huge amount of fish on our plates.
Incredible seafood restaurants
In the evening we visited the highly recommended Restaurant Andrè and we found the recommendation wasn’t unjustified. We opted for one of their set menus and we were impressed. Our main dish was Fruits de Mer (Fruits of the Sea). There was an incredible amount of fish all very tasty and all for €26. Another positive was that I finally got the hang of eating crabs and oysters! The meal was truly superb, normally when I see lots of restaurants in a tourist area I am usually sceptical, but this wasn’t the case for La Rochelle.
Andrès was wonderful but it’s neighbour Bistrot Des Pecheurs was even better. If you wanted to take a break from big fish dinners there are also excellent kiosks were you could purchase fresh baguettes, crepes, gallettes or fries with mayonnaise.
Markets, street performers and water pipes
We came across a few clubs but for those who enjoy a quieter break (like myself) there were also plenty of other options on offer; incredible restaurants, various market stalls and lively street performers. In the market we came across the quirky artist Mateo Vullo and his stall where he was selling pictures that were designed on his computer, they all had the same theme – what La Rochelle had to offer (including the restaurants, bars, beach, aquarium or just meeting a potential lover!)
Another stand out place was a bar called L’Eescale Orientale where we enjoyed a strawberry “narguile” (a water pipe) and an impressive range of Eastern teas, to us, the perfect way to finish a relaxing day.
Overall I would definitely recommend La Rochelle for a holiday. Aside from just relaxing on the beach, shopping and eating you can take a boat trip or hire bikes and ride to the Ile de Ré. You could also enjoy a quiet journey on the “bateliers” (the gondolier that isn’t a gondolier!) or visit the well designed city aquarium or one of the various interesting museums. Ideally we’d have liked to have seen a lot more but at least it means that we’ll have to go back one day!
La Rochelle – The Lowdown
La Rochelle is a city in South-West France on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is an unspoilt and historic seaside town and it is also a good base to use for visits to the Bordeaux wine country or to Cognac. La Rochelle’s weather is dominated by a Gulf Stream which moderates temperatures and keeps La Rochelle warm through the year. In the centre of La Rochelle is an old port, called the Vieux Port.