La Rochelle, capital of Charente-Maritime
Visit La Rochelle for some welcome fresh air at any time of the year, the holidays included. Wander around the Old Port eating ice cream, enjoying the sunlit terraces, admiring the view from the top of the medieval towers or browsing the boutiques in the arcades. Independent, proud and thriving, La Rochelle has always stood out from other cities in France.
With the ocean on the doorstep, this uniquely laid-back city has plenty to recommend it. La Rochelle is over one thousand years old and has a wealth of history and heritage to show for it. A prime harbour complex since the 12th century, the city that looks out to the ocean (and the world) was built on trade and has been influenced by the various different cultures that came with it. Everywhere you look, examples of architecture inspired by foreign lands act as constant reminders. The fortified city of La Rochelle boasts several defensive monuments, including the towers on the Old Port which guard the entrance to the city from the sea.
Not far from the town itself, the La Rochelle coastline has plenty of surprises in store. These include mussel-growing villages and migratory birds in Aiguillon Bay; L’Houmeau with its oyster farming port; popular seaside resorts (Châtelaillon-Plage chief among them, with its seafront lined with belle-époque villas); and villages such as Les Boucholeurs and Angoulins-sur-Mer, with its little port dotted with fishing boats at La Pointe du Chay.