An afternoon in the coastal city of La Rochelle
As summer gets underway, we’ve decided to take the opportunity to visit La Rochelle whilst staying in the Charente-Maritime area. We set off on a beautifully sunny day for a stroll around the Old Port (Vieux-Port), a little bit of window shopping under the arcaded streets and a gentle walk down the wide avenues of the parc Charruyer park.
A stroll around La Rochelle’s Old Port
The Old Port is now completely pedestrianized, so we leave the car at the Parc-Relais Jean Moulin (park and ride) on the outskirts of the city. A Yélo bus drops us off two minutes later at the quai Maubec, right beside the Saint-Sauveur church.
By now, (late morning) La Rochelle is already a hive of activity. We take a seat at one of the café terraces opposite the two towers to enjoy a drink. La Rochelle’s ’Vieux Port’, watched over by the magnificent Saint Nicolas Tower and the Chain Tower, presents an amazing sight.
We take our time, enjoying the splendid views of elegant yachts, catamarans and cruise ships. After some people-watching on the quai Duperré we continue our walk along the Cours des Dames.
It’s already lunch-time and the scent of seafood wafting from the local brasseries gives us a real hankering to try out a plate of scampi or the catch of the day. We find just what we’re looking for a little further along in the rue Saint-Jean-du-Pérot, which is famous for its excellent restaurants.
Wandering around the arcaded streets of La Rochelle’s old town
It’s now 2.30pm and we go through the old city gate (the porte de la Grosse Horloge) and walk up rue du Temple. This street is one of the old town’s busiest pedestrianized streets, located just behind the Old Port. The area around the town hall and the marketplace is characterized by the arcaded streets that are so typical of La Rochelle, as well as fine 17th and 18th century mansions.
The arcades of the rue du Palais are perfect for escaping from the sun’s glare and offer a huge range of high-end clothing shops and many other stores. After about 90 minutes of window-shopping, it’s hard to resist the temptation to treat ourselves to a fashion accessory from one of the shops in the rue des Merciers or to step inside one of the luxury delicatessens around the old covered marketplace.
On the Place de Verdun, we have a quick break at the Café de la Paix, which has retained its Belle Époque décor, complete with chandeliers, gilt details and painted ceiling. The short stop and bite to eat are just the pick-me-up we need before continuing our walk towards the parks on the edge of the town centre.
From the parc Charruyer park to the plage de la Concurrence beach, La Rochelle
Our afternoon in La Rochelle continues with a walk through the parc Charruyer park, which runs for two kilometres from the porte-Dauphine to the quartier du Mail area. We walk past the cathédrale Saint-Louis and then onto the chemin du rempart, before taking the pathways through the lush green scenery of the park.
This bucolic stroll will enable you to discover numerous rare and exotic plants and trees along the banks of a stream, including Asian willows, Chusan palms, hibiscus and California Lilacs…this huge, shady green space is a favourite spot for locals to enjoy a Sunday stroll.
Our route takes us to the plage de la Concurrence, created at the end of the 19th century using sand from the île d’Oléron. Seated upon the stone benches located alongside this urban beachfront, we can enjoy great views over the bay of the Pertuis d’Antioche. Next, we walk back to the Vieux-Port via the wooden walkway at the porte des deux-Moulins, crossing the esplanade Saint-Jean-d’Acre and walking past the Lantern Tower.
At the end of the digue de Richelieu, we can see the ferry coming from the port des Minimes with its load of passengers ready to disembark at the quai du Gabut. To round off what’s been a wonderful afternoon, we can’t resist another treat, this time at the Ernest ice-cream shop, at the bottom of the Cours des Dames!