Snuggled beside the Bay of Biscay (the coastal section of the Atlantic Ocean off Brittany), the charming historic seaside town of La Rochelle, France, is warmed throughout the year by the currents of the Gulf Stream. Released from its feudal obligations by a charter granted by Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1199, La Rochelle grew to become one of France’s most important ports. The harbor, now filled with yachts from around the world, is flanked by three medieval towers.
The Vieux Port adjoins the Vieille Ville (Old Town) just behind the towers and is a maze of narrow streets, many lined with seafood restaurants, cafes, and chic shops.
Built from 1760 to 1785, the Stock Exchange was designed by civil engineer Pierre Hue. Stock transactions originally took place in the open courtyard between the two buildings. The building served as the home of the Chamber of Commerce and later to the Commercial Court. In 1784 the two wings of the building were connected with the peristyle (center of the photograph, below).
Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Cathédrale Saint-Louis de la Rochelle is one of the principal places of worship in La Rochelle. Construction began in 1742 and was completed in 1784. It was declared a National Heritage Monument in 1906.
Restaurant Andre’s Soupe de Poissons is a classical Brittany coast fish soup — topped with crisp baguette toasts spread with spicy rouille and a sprinkling of grated Gruyère cheese. This is a classic dish of the region and was absolutely delicious! Not something that we’re going to easily prepare at home, unfortunately.
The patisseries across the town all had wonderful looking confections — many of them classics, as pictured, above. We did buy some to bring back to the ship…
To return to our ship, we needed to get to the tender dock which is outside the Vieux Port area, quite a walk. To our surprise we learned that there is now an electric powered ferry service available from 7:30 a.m. to midnight connecting the VIeux Port with a dock on a landing across the channel (adjacent to the tender dock), completely eliminating the long walk. And just as good as being solar electric powered, the ferry’s fare was only one Euro (US$1.10) each way.
The remnants of the medieval fortifications for La Rochelle are the three towers which once guarded the inner harbor. The 14th century Tour St. Nicolas is the largest. The Tour de la Chaine, also from the 14th century, was built to house the great chain now laying at its base and was once strung across to Tour St. Nicolas each night to close off the harbor from attack.