After our short stay in Barcelona, we went on a 7-day cruise around the western Mediterranean, at the invitation of a very dear friend of ours. I will come back to the cruise at a later date, as a blog about the Charente is somewhat overdue! This account is actually related to Charente-Maritime, the French department sandwiched between Charente and the sea. We spent 3 days in La Rochelle, its capital city, and the surrounding areas just recently; this was part of my birthday present from Nigel. I have, for some time now, wanted to see La Rochelle and he booked this as a surprise! I had no idea where we were going, and as he took a winding back-road route, it was only when we were quite close that I realised what our destination was! The area enjoys up to 3000 hours of sunshine every year, on a par with the climate in the south of France!
La Rochelle is a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, part of the Atlantic Ocean. The city is connected to the Île de Ré, a large offshore island, by a 2.9 km bridge completed on 19 May 1988. This port city has a long, interesting and complex history and for those who may like to read more about it, I suggest that you take a look HERE. I apologise for a longer post than usual, but there was so much to see and there will still be a part 2!
We crossed over to the Ile de Ré (toll charge 16 euro return -phew!) on the last day we were there and I will give you a brief photographic tour of some of the sights in the next part! But in La Rochelle itself.............
The "Vieux Port" ("Old Harbour") is at the heart of the city; the area is very picturesque, the quays and adjacent streets lined with seafood restaurants and stalls selling all kinds of things! Here are two of the three world famous towers of the Old Port, guarding the entrance to the harbour. The Tour Saint-Nicolas is the tower on the left and the other is the Tour de la Chaîne, the central tower. These two, and the third tower, the Tour de la Lanterne, on the far right of the photo below, are all that remain of the 14th century medieval walled city defence system destroyed by Cardinal Richelieu, during his siege of the city in 1628, where Huguenots were holding out against the Catholic forces of King Louis XIII.
Tour de la Lanterne.
A more recent and striking monument, erected in 2009 in front of the ancient towers, is in honour of Michel Crépeau, a minister, deputy and mayor of La Rochelle between 1971 and 1999.
L'eglise Saint-Sauveur (St Saviour's Church)
Note from a sign next to the church reads as follows:
"Replacing a 12th century Romanesque church, a Gothic version was pulled down in 1568 during the religious wars; all that remains is its bell tower. Rebuilt for the third time in the 17th century, the church was burnt down in 1705, only the façade surviving. The present church consecrated in 1718 has long been the sailors' parish church.
Some of the eroded and crumbling stonework of the bell tower.
and the church beautifully illuminated by night.
Just behind the docks is the Grosse Horloge (Big Clock Tower). I can't fault the description!
The tower was originally a gate into the walled city of 12th century La Rochelle. In the 13th century, it was named La Porte du Parrot, because it gave access to the suburb of that name. A close-up below...........
We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the Aquarium, but I would suggest if you want to visit here, it would be best on a week-day and NOT during the school holidays. We were there one day before the children went back to school and it was packed with children and parents with push-chairs!!
The odd looking Flying gurnard. It does not actually fly, but appears to, when swimming under water!
Pterois, commonly known as lionfish, is a genus of venomous marine fish found mostly in the Indo-Pacific.
Argyrosomus regius (also known as meagre, shade-fish, salmon-basse or stone basse). Apparently very tasty with great nutritional value! We've seen some on a restaurant menu since!
I just liked these two stylish and obviously expensive gateways, above and below.
There are still some half-timbered houses in the city, which date back as far as the 15th century. The arcades themselves were once used by merchants to display their goods.
Finally, just to prove we really were there (!), myself and Nigel at the Old Harbour.
and also - My Life Before Charente Updated 15/09/2013
Sorry the latter has taken so long to update!!