La Rochelle

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Several travel friends had recommended La Rochelle as an interesting visit, and so we headed there on a sunny Wednesday. La Rochelle is an attractive, bustling small city on the Atlantic, an important seaport since at least the 10th century. During the 12th century and later during the Hundred Years War, it was under British control.

We fought some morning traffic diving in, and after a wrong turn found the Verdun parking garage, very close to the Les Halles market and the pedestrian zone. The market was in full swing, with many seafood vendors, butchers, greengrocers, and specialty traiteurs. It’d be a fabulous place to shop for a rental kitchen, and we regretted not bringing our ice packs and a cooler.

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From the market, we walked to the harbor, and fell more in love with the city. White buildings, dramatic towers, blue water, lots of people going about their business. We saw the first tour groups we’ve seen in the Charente. We picked up a map from the tourist office, and followed the marked walking tour around the historical center. Would enjoy a few days here. We started talking about a possible future coastal trip of a few days here, a few days in Bordeaux, and then down to San Sebastian.

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Arcaded 15th century buildings, and streets paved with the stones used as ships ballast. Selfie taken at the harbor, with the 14th century St. Nicolas tower in the background.

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For lunch, we ordered an assortment of things from the small cafe Le Comptoir Saoufé. Crevettes (shrimp), bulots (sea snails, delicious dipped in mayo), fish soup, and some good oysters. Low tide snacks and crisp white wine, perfect.

We were curious about the two islands offshore which are beach destinations. We decided to go to the more southern one, Ile d’Oleron. There’s a long causeway out over the estuary, and a two lane road which much be maddening in busy summer. The towns are built up with junk shops and touristy thing as you’d imagine seaside resorts will be, though there are some quiet back roads, long stretches of oyster beds, cafes on the water in a few places, and some lovely beaches.

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We spent some lazing time on the beach at La Cotinière, and then drove south, stopping at coves along the way connected by roads shaded by pine trees. On the way off island, we again regretted not bringing a cooler and ice packs to bring back some oysters from the shacks dotting the road.

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Back home, some wine and leftovers for dinner, enjoying the golden light on the barns next door.

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