Photo of the Week: La Rochelle France
La Rochelle, on the western coast of France, is a lively seaside town. The picturesque and well-preserved Vieux Port (Old Port) give the city a distinctly Mediterranean atmosphere. Most of the buildings are hundreds of years old and very well maintained. The narrow streets and pale stone buildings add to the ambiance. La Rochelle attracts plenty of tourists, but in my mind remains unspoiled.
When visiting the Old Port you’ll see the three defensive towers which guard the harbor. They date back to medieval times when control of the city was contested by both French and English.
La Rochelle harbors the largest marina for pleasure boats in Europe and maintains a rich boat-building industry. Not unsurprisingly, my couchsurfing host there was a professional skipper. La Rochelle, by the way, is the place to head if you are looking to join a yacht for crewing to ports across the Atlantic.
Inside his apartment, world maps and nautical charts pinned to his apartment walls showed penciled-in sea-crossings over the Atlantic. Most of them terminated in Caribbean or South American ports.
“This place…this place is paradise.” He recalled, pointing to Fernando de Noronha, an island some 350 km off the Brazilian coast. That night we drank caipirinhas with a friend he met in Brazil and I heard stories of their days at sea and in the ports of Brazil.
Then he revealed to me that he would be sailing to the Ile de Re the following day for a job. With an empty 46-foot catamaran, there was no reason I couldn’t come along for the ride.
In the morning we cruised into the quays at Saint Martin en Re.
The Il de Re is an agreeable place to spend the day (or several days) and small enough for me to cycle around in an afternoon. This is a quiet island and the sandy beaches here attract mostly families.
The waters are cool here, so the summer months are best on the Ile de Re. Cycle tracks crisscross the whole island, and you’ll pass salt farms on your way in between beaches.
Back in La Rochelle, enjoy the dining, bars, and nightlife throughout the Old Port.