France, visiting Charente Maritime

La Rochelle in Charente Maritime
La Rochelle in Charente Maritime

Are you doing your holiday planning? Looking for a spot with peace and quiet? Then opt for Charente Maritime in France – named after the Charente River, it’s a famous summer destination that can rejuvenate you big time!

Charente Maritime

You can find Charente-Maritime on the Atlantic coast of western France, in the Poitou-Charentes region. The department runs from just north of La Rochelle to the Gironde estuary (north of Bordeaux) to the south. La Rochelle is a beautiful town centred on a harbour, while the Ile-de-Ré and Ile d’Aix islands are also popular among families. The climate is usually warm in summer with loads of sun, and it’s much nicer then you would expect on the Atlantic coast.  Venturing away from the beach and coastline, you’ll find flat French countryside dotted with fields of sunflowers and maize amongst small woodlands. If you’d rather stay by the sea, Fort Boyard, built by Napoleon and on an island just off the coast, is open to tourists.

 Visiting Charente Maritime video:

La Rochelle

La Rochelle by Hot&Chilli Blog
La Rochelle

Did you know La Rochelle is famous for its luminous limestone façades that glow when sunlight falls on them? That is why it is known as La Ville Blanche (the White City). It was one of France’s leading seaports from the 14th to 17th centuries. You can find arcaded walkways, as well as half-timbered houses that are covered in slate tiles, the tiles protecting them from the salty air, decorated with ghoulish gargoyles. You can also find a fabulous collection of lighthouses – all opulent reminders of its magnificent seafaring heritage.

This is a lovely city to spend time in with lush greenery, stunning views from the port and lots of open spaces. Recreation-wise everyone will be pretty happy with the activities and attractions in store.

Activities and Attractions in La Rochelle

La Rochelle in Charente maritime

La Rochelle in Charente maritime
La Rochelle
La Rochelle Farmers Market
La Rochelle Farmers Market just opposite the Cathedral

The old quarter is an area of cobblestoned streets behind the Old Port, worn down by the elements as well as walkers!  A brisk stroll along these picturesque streets,  which lets you take in the sights and the vibrant atmosphere, are a must!

The square in the old quarter has a statue of Jean Guiton, the Huguenot mayor of La Rochelle during the siege of the city by Louis XIII the 1620s. You can check out the marble table he chipped with his dagger at the town hall.

Don’t forget to take a peek at the 16th-century renaissance Hôtel de Ville. The streets around City Hall, like Rue du Palais and Rue des Merciers, have rows of gorgeous 17th-century houses with turrets on the corners and long arcades on the lower floors.

 

La Rochelle Cathedral in Charente Maritime
La Rochelle Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church

La Rochelle Aquarium

La Rochelle Aquarium by Hot&Chilli Blog
La Rochelle Aquarium

This is one of its most talked about attractions. It immerses you in the underwater world. There are more than 600 species in 9 different time zones. The centre of attraction is the enormous shark tank, it’s filled with 1.5 million litres of seawater and features terraced seating which gives everyone a chance to view these animals. Don’t miss the 360° see-through underwater tunnel with thousands of jellyfish floating overhead and around you. The aquarium breeds 20 species on display in an effort to lessen it’s impact on the natural world. They also cultivate their own coral in 150 quarantine tanks.
Highly recommended!
Quai Louis Prunier, 17002 La Rochelle
www.aquarium-larochelle.com
Adults €19 / children from free to €15

Sunset Sailing

La Rochelle in Charente maritime

A beautiful way to end the day is a two-hour voyage on a 16 m catamaran which can accommodate 28 passengers.

Sunset catamaran
Adults from €27 / children from €17
More info:
http://www.kapalouest.com/
18 rue de la Trinquette
17000 LA ROCHELLE
FRANCE
t: (+33)5.46.44.97.67
infos@kapalouest.com

Île-d’Aix

Île-d'Aix  in Charente Maritime
Île-d’Aix

The Île-d’Aix (Island of Aix), used to be known as Island Dais or Island of Ay way back. It has long stretches of sandy beaches, meandering creeks, and rocks – I was told that it takes about two hours to walk around the island. Instead, we opted for a leisurely bike ride, what a treat!

You can go the village via the drawbridge over the harbour, which is reminiscent of the country’s military architecture. The Saint-Martin church and its crypt are reminders of the islands 11th-century history. The church and its crypt were restored in 1970. After restoration, they were re-opened to the public. The nearby National Napoleonic Museum where Napoleon spent his last days on French soil in 1815 is also a lovely visit. It was opened to the public in 1928.

Cost of return ferry to Ile d’Aix from Fouras
Adults from €9.40 / children from €7 – free for under 4s

Cycling in Île-d'Aix  in Charente Maritime
Île-d’Aix  in Charente Maritime

Île-d'Aix  in Charente Maritime
Île-d’Aix  in Charente Maritime
Watersport in Île-d'Aix
Île-d’Aix

Île-d'Aix  in Charente Maritime
Île-d’Aix  in Charente Maritime

beaches in Île-d'Aix
hidden beaches in Île-d’Aix 

National Napoleonic Museum in Ile d'aix
National Napoleonic Museum

Île de Ré

In the Roman era, the Île de Ré was an archipelago consisting of three small islands, but the space was filled over time due to silting and sediment.

When Eleanor (Alienor) d’Aquitaine became Queen of England through her marriage to Henry Plantagenet, the island became an English possession. However, it reverted to France a few decades later via a treaty signed by Henry III of England. During the 17th century, the Ile de Ré endured turbulent times because it was coveted by world powers, due to its militarily strategic position, and its production of salt and wine.

Nowadays, the island consists of photogenic villages, old ports and sandy beaches.  As the sun sinks towards the sea, you can wander around; do some shopping, check out the restaurants and bars, have an ice cream from one of the cute ice cream parlours, or just stroll along the old ports.

Les Baleines Lighthouse

Les  Baleines Lighthouse
Les  Baleines Lighthouse

Les  Baleines Lighthouse
Les  Baleines Lighthouse
Saint Clément des Baleines Lighthouse
view from Saint Clément des Baleines Lighthouse

Staircase Le Baleines Lighthouse

Situated to the west of Ile de Ré is the Saint Clément des Baleines Lighthouse. The name stems from the fact that several whales washed up on this very spot many years ago. Built in 1849, it replaced the one built by Vaubam. The lighthouse is 57 metres tall and has 257 steps.  Its beacon can be seen as far away as 50 kilometres away. It is open for visits all year round, as is the museum located in the old lighthouse.

Cost: For both light houses and the museum – €10 for adults and €5 for children 

For more info: www.lepharedesbaleines.fr

Oyster Farm

L’Huitrière de Ré
L’Huitrière de Ré – Oyster Farm
L’Huitrière de Ré
Oyster vending machine  at L’Huitrière de Ré

We also made a stop at an Oyster Farm. Oyster farming is integral to the local maritime culture. The raising of shellfish to the rhythm of the sea is there to be seen. Classified as a ‘Ferme de découverte’ (Discovery Farm) and part of the ‘Bienvenue à la Ferme’ label, this is a typical oyster farm on one of the narrowest parts of the Island of Ré which itself is a ‘Classé et Remarquable’ site of France.

L’Huitrière de Ré
La Maison Neuve, Ars-en-Ré, France

Activities in Île de Ré

sailing in Ile de Ré
wind sailing in Ile de Ré

canoeing in Ile de Ré
Kayaking  in Marais Poitevin

Water Sports
On the Atlantic coast, just minutes from Maison de L’Ange is a delightful beach looking out onto the Bay of Biscay. You can go kayaking, swimming, windsurfing, boat trips, kite-surfing, sailing, canoeing, paddle-boarding, jet skiing – the choice is yours!

Cycling
This is one of the best ways to get around the island. There is a multitude of bicycling paths that link all the main points of interest on the island. Bicycling is a splendid way to soak up the feel of the Ile de Ré.

Saint Martin

Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a port town on the Île de Ré
Saint-Martin-de-Ré port town
Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Pretty houses of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Pretty houses of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Pretty houses of Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Pretty houses of Saint-Martin-de-Ré

The view of the town and island from atop the bell tower at sunset is magical. Saint Martin in Île of Ré has a bustling town centre with houses steeped in history, and cafés with charming terraces where you can chat or daydream the afternoon away.  It has retained its old world charm despite its turbulent past; its star-shaped ramparts steeped in history, including resistance to assaults launched by the English Navy in the 17th century.

Intrigued with Charente Maritime? Plan your visit without further delay – you won’t be disappointed!

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How to get  to Charente Maritime

By air to La Rochelle from London – Stansted, Gatwick – Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Bristol & Cork.
http://www.larochelle.aeroport.fr/en/ 

By rail from London via Paris to La Rochelle. This takes two hours 20 minutes from Paris to La Rochelle by TGV.
http://www.sncf.com/en/passengers

By road – three hours from St.Malo.
A10 Paris: 430 km
A10 Bordeaux: 70 km
A83 N137 Nantes: 120 km

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Charente Maritime by Hot&Chilli Blog


Disclosure:
I was a guest of Charente Maritime Tourism for review purposes. All views are my own.

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3 Comments

  1. August 8, 2017 / 1:12 am

    I've visited most of Eastern and Southern France, as well as Paris. But would really love to visit the Western part of France. Charente Maritime sounds and looks absolutely amazing, maybe I can take my boyfriend and go in September.

  2. August 8, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    Charente Maritime is a wonderful department! We visited several years ago, on one of those road trips which we didn't advance plan, just booking each night of accommodation at most one day before or on the same day. We loved the area so much that, back when we had dreams of moving to France, it was one of the areas we thought we might move to! It has so much to offer and yet without the really crazy crowds of other parts of France!

  3. August 9, 2017 / 5:34 pm

    I have not been to that part of France but I do know of La Rochelle. Île de Ré is new to me. The oysters, wow, I want some now. The aquarium looks great too. No pinot de charentes smapling lol ?

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