Le Petit Tour de France: La Rochelle

After saying goodbye to Lyon, I took the train northwest to the beautiful city of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast. I stayed with a family there – friends who recently moved back to France from Philadelphia – and passed several lovely days with them. I explored the city on my own during school and work hours, and returned in the evenings for family dinners, games of Connect Four, and much-needed French tutoring from my ‘professeurs’ – the 6, 8, and 10 year old boys of the family. (I think they enjoyed the role reversal – it’s not often that kids get to be the teachers!)

 

La Rochelle is a gorgeous town, and I was happy to be there in the calmer days of Autumn (apparently it’s mobbed with tourists in the summer months). With beautiful architecture, arcaded sidewalks lined with businesses, an abundance of fresh seafood, and a gorgeous “Old Port” with three historic towers, it’s not hard to imagine why! What a lovely place to do a bit of wandering…

 

In the heart of town, you’ll find the port…

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There are three historic towers here – the Chaîne, the Lanterne, and St. Nicolas.  The Chaîne (left) and St. Nicolas (right) are pictured here…

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And the Lanterne Tower is a bit further down the path…

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I took a tour of the Lanterne Tower and loved the beautiful spiral staircase that runs through its center…

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On each level, there are circular rooms that stand empty now, but were once full of prisoners.  The tower had several uses since its construction in the 12th century, including being used as a lighthouse, but it was most notably used as a prison for sailors and privateers in the 17th and 18th centuries…

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The most intriguing things about these rooms are the remnants left behind by the prisoners – chess boards carved into the floor and some 600 graffiti inscriptions and carvings in the soft stone walls…

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And on the highest level of the tower…

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And of course, you can see beautiful views of the city from the top…

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Walking down the narrow road to the other two towers…

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The Chaîne…

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Views of the port from the ramparts of the Chaîne…

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And the St. Nicolas Tower just across the entrance to the port…

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Shots from my wanderings around town…

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The gorgeous Hôtel de Ville was unfortunately under construction while I was there…

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I discovered that this lovely building houses an international artist residency.  Hmmmmm, note to self!

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Cathédrale Saint-Louis de la Rochelle – I wasn’t terribly impressed by the exterior, but was happy to find amazing art inside…

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More shots from around town…

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The market around the corner from where I stayed was lively and full of amazing food, like just about every other market in France, it seems.  There was both an interior and exterior section…

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Pig head or cow tongue anyone?  (Yikes).

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A charming and oh-so-very-French café where I stopped for an afternoon tea…

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By the canal…

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I was lucky to stumble into l’Eglise Notre Dame at just the right time – the light from the stained glass windows was gorgeous…

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Walking through the lovely Parc Charruyer…

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And pictures from our day trip to the nearby Île de Ré – we picniced on the beach and watched the boys throw rocks into the surf…

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Then we headed to the island’s quiet town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré to park the car and ride our bikes to a beautiful biking and walking path along the coast…

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On part of the path, you ride between the ocean and marshland…

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Here I am riding along (on a bike that is admittedly two times too small, but hey – whatever works!)…

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And that’s about it for my lovely visit to La Rochelle.  Next and last stop on this Petit Tour de France: Nantes!  Until then, à bientôt…

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