Bienvenue to La Rochelle, the pretty port town on France’s mid-west coast. Hugging the Bay of Biscay, breeze through the terminal at Southampton airport and you’re in one of France’s best kept secrets. A place the French go to holiday to, take time to explore the city’s ancient streets then go and rest a while on the beaches of the west coast. La vie est belle in La Rochelle.
Head inland and you’re practically in Cognac country, go further south to France’s most famous wineries or take a trip closer to home to the lovely Ile d’Oléron for bicycles, beaches, oysters and fine surfing.
Flybe takes off from Southampton airport and flies to La Rochelle in about one hour and twenty minutes. Just 2.5km northwest of the centre, it’s easy to get to when you want to make the most of a car-free weekend away.
To properly explore, you’ll need a car. Hertz, Avis, Sixt and Europcar all have desks at La Rochelle. Pick up a taxi or catch one of the regular buses that take you into the city - or further on to the Ile de Ré.
Things to see and do
With its lovely cream stone edifices, the area around the old port is where most people head. A bustling and charming place to wander, find a spot and treat yourself to a heaving plate of Fruits de Mer and watch the world go by.
Three medieval towers keep watch over entrance to the old port – the Tour de la Chaîne, the Tour de la Lanterne and Tour de Saint Nicholas.
Take a trip to the nearby islands or instead, set sail on your own catamaran and watch the ocean glide by beneath your feet.
Off the beaten track
Get your Jaws on and head to the Aquarium – with 3m litres of water, that’s one big shark tank. Kids will love the turtles.
Not just a spot to sit and sup the heady amber liquid, visit the famous estates that make Cognac. From visits to Remy Martin and Martell, you can even blend your own at Camus under the watchful eye of a Master Blender.
Charming fishing villages, blue shutters; come here to enjoy some island life – French style. Its called the French Hamptons for a reason – and it’s best seen by bike.