A closer look at Poitou-Charentes: La Rochelle

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La Rochelle old port

Our recent sojourn in la belle France included a two night stay in La Rochelle. We travelled by car and ferry, but the city does have the added advantage of an airport. We stayed in the area known as Les Minimes, which houses the University and is near to the Old Port. It was a great location for exploring in the summer, but probably not quite so during term time. We saw several adverts for end of year parties that we were thankful to have missed.

The city centre has plenty going on with a mix of history, shopping and café culture. We were only there for a couple of days but managed to squeeze in a trip to the aquarium, a visit to one the towns fortified towers, a roadside dog show (mixed views on this!) and a morning at the beach. It was a short drive to the Plage des Minimes, which was a good stretch of sand with a fairly gentle slope to the sea, but it was a little rocky underfoot once in the water. The beach had shops, eateries and toilet facilities so was a very handy city beach.

The Aquarium La Rochelle isn’t cheap (it cost us 68 euros for three adults and two children), but it is a pretty good size. I think we have been a little spoilt by the National Marine Aquarium, which is on our doorstep in Plymouth. We weren’t overly impressed despite rave reviews on Trip Advisor, though our four year old son loved it.

We all enjoyed our climb up the Tour Saint-Nicolas. The tower was built in 1372 and is one of three defensive works, known as the three towers. It was later used as a military prison. It cost 6 euros per adult to get in (all under 18s are free if accompanied), and we could have got a discounted rate to visit all three towers for 8.50 euros. The route through the building was quite convoluted, but that actually added to the sense of adventure for the kids who enjoyed trying to work which way to go next. Most of the text was in English as well as French and the view from the top was well worth the climb.

On the whole La Rochelle seems a fairly low-rise city, which means that it’s the historic landmarks rather identikit hotels that dominate the skyline. While we all liked La Rochelle we felt it was a little big for us and we were glad we had the chance explore smaller towns in the region.

La Rochelle’s random claim to fame: The harbour was the location for the initial tests for the first mechanically-powered submarine in 1864.

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We are thinking of moving to France – we being me and my husband, our two children, and my mother-in-law (and two dogs). The current plan is that we’ll spend the next year plotting and planning and if everything goes well we will make the move in the summer of 2015. I plan to document the whole process so that I can look back in three years’ time and marvel at how well it all panned out! If, however, it proves a fated endeavour then my comprehensive blog will no doubt be snapped up by some Hollywood director for untold millions – it’s pretty much a win-win situation, right? Well, I’ll keep you posted…

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