La Rochelle Journals

La Rochelle: France's West Coast Jewel

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A travel journal to La Rochelle by Jim Rosenberg

St. Emilion Photo, Bordeaux, France More Photos
Quote: Situated on France's Atlantic coast, the old port city of La Rochelle is a great staging area for visiting some of the best of France -- if you even bother to leave the city itself.

La Rochelle: France's West Coast Jewel

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Overview

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La Rochelle has a wonder centre ville featuring an interesting variety of stores, boutiques and great places to eat. It also has an outstanding market area in season and one of the finest selections of fresh seafood you're likely to find. Besides being an excellent destination in its own right -- both vibrant and historic at once -- we used it as our base for day trips to the Bordeaux region and the intesting Puy du Fou historic-nature park.Quick Tips: Excellent tollway access is available to the area and it is perhaps a 4-hour drive from the Paris area. Air service and SNCF are other possibilities. In high season, reservations are a good idea, since this area is well-known to European tr...Read More

Bonsai Saint-Emilion Relais

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Hotel | "Bonsai Relais - Le Clos Rivallon"

Bonsai Saint-Emilion Relais Photo, La Rochelle, France
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This place is very similar to a modern motel anywhere and may have nothing special to recommend it, but the rooms are clean and comfortable and the included-breakfast is excellent, as these things go in France. It's a safe bet for a place to stay in a popular region. If you absolutely NEED piles of French character and historic significance, it wouldn't be your choice. We would stay there again because we aren't always looking for the quaint -- sometimes just functional is fine. There is an outdoor swimming pool.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Bonsai Saint-Emilion Relais
Route de Castillon
St. Emilion, France
05 57 25 25 07

La Ribaudiere

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Restaurant

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If you're a reader of our other journals, you know we range a bit in the regions we visit -- so find Bourg-Charente on your map for specifics. It's worth finding. The cuisine is outstanding, the service is classy (3 servers were sent with soup for 5 people so the covers could be removed simultaneously with a flourish). The overall experience is so personal and top-shelf that it can border on decadence. This is the genuine article when it comes to classic French dining, if you don't need the coat & tie and eye-popping bill of the Paris experience. Leave yourself at least 2 hours for lunch. Savor, linger. You've found Nirvana.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

La Ribaudiere
16200 Place du Port
La Rochelle, France
4581-3054

L'Enverse du Decor

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Restaurant

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An excellent place for a great lunch in the heart of historic St. Emilion, this Bistro-Cave will give you a wonderful meal and a fantastic selection of wines to choose from. There is an outdoor dining area in addition to indoor dining rooms. Regional specialties are well-prepared. The place has a very comfortable personality featuring a decent service standard, good food -- and yet, a welcome bit of informal funkiness to the whole thing. 'English spoken with a French accent' is part of the deal, if you'd like.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

L'Enverse du Decor
Rue du Clocher
La Rochelle, France
0557-7631

Chatelaillon Plage

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Attraction

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Chatelaillon Plage is situated in a resort community within a short drive of La Rochelle. The sandy beach is kept well groomed and an ingenious system restores the sand outside the seawall if storms should cause too much erosion. August is a busy time, with many French vacationers (we did not encounter any other Americans, but an occasional Brit). Tops are optional. There are concessions along the beach to grab a refreshment and plenty of selections available from smaller grocery stores within a block or two of the beach, as well. Low-profile condos and beachfront homes line the street across from the seawall, but access is easy and development is not overbearing. For nightlife, the casino...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Chatelaillon Plage
5, avenue de Strasbourg 17340 Châtelaillon-Plage
La Rochelle, France
+33(0)5 46 56 2697

Puy du Fou Cinescenie & Grand Park

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Attraction | "Puy du Fou Cinescenie & Grand Park"

Puy du Fou Cinescenie & Grand Park Photo, La Rochelle, France
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This seasonal attraction features 'spectacles of history and nature' on lovely grounds that are somewhat off the beaten path. During the day, regular performances feature historic themes and they are very well-done and interesting. The Cinescenie is a spectacular show filled with special effects that begins at 10:30 p.m. in May, June & July; 10 p.m. in August in September. It is NOT held nightly, so be sure to check the schedule (go to http://www.puy-du-fou.com). The show is exceptional and should definitely be seen, but we noted on our visit that the exit strategy for the audience of 14,000 was rather poor -- so be patient with that. Admission to Puy du Fou with the Cinescenie performance is 23...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Puy du Fou Cinescenie & Grand Park
30 rue Georges Clemenceau
La Rochelle, France
00 33 (0)2 5164 1111

Aquarium La Rochelle

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Attraction

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This is an outstanding aquarium exhibit; modern, interesting and well-done. From the Old City, the fastest way there is by water-taxi. Admission is 42FF for Adults and 25FF for kids under 12 -- a steal, really, but it is there as an educational exhibit. The displays are well laid-out and it's a fascinating stop that's worth about an hour if you're not planning to get into truly serious study of sea life. If you like aquariums, you will love this one.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Aquarium La Rochelle
Port des Minimes
La Rochelle, France

Remy Martin

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Attraction

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If you would like to gain a new understanding of one of France's most valuable commodities, consider taking the tour at Remy Martin. English and French language tours are available of the impressive facilities. The little 'train ride' through the aging area will fill your nostrils with an unforgettable fruity aroma and you will learn about 'the Angels' share' -- that part of the cognac that evaporates during the aging process in the oak barrels where the cognac sleeps, sometimes for decades. After the tour, you will understand why cognac is so costly -- and you may be more willing to part with a few Francs in the gift shop as a result. There is a short, but excellent video that sets the tone. Rea...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Remy Martin
Petite Champagne Region
La Rochelle, France

Venise Verte

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Attraction

Venise Verte Photo, La Rochelle, France
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Venise Verte is a network of canals that was established hundreds of years ago as an ingenious way to irrigate and provide access to an area of farmlands east of La Rochelle. Cows have been known to be transported across the canals in the small, manually-powered, flat-bottom boats that are poled around the shallow waters. Today, you can hire a guide for a few hours of being poled through the canals and it makes for a very relaxing afternoon in the countryside. The ruins of an abbey from the Middle Ages provide a nice accent to the grounds and the remainder of the trip is very pastoral. Guides are helpful with information about the history and layout -- it would be easy to get lost in the maz...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Venise Verte
La Rochelle Region
La Rochelle, France

St. Emilion

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Story/Tip

St. Emilion Photo, Bordeaux, France
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If you long for a quaint village with history, good taste and a place to take wonderful photos, St. Emilion is an outstanding choice. A worthy pilgrimage for lovers of fine Bordeaux wine, I've yet to have a poor bottle of St. Emilion and its crafters rank among the world's very best.The village itself is accustomed to tourists, but we didn't feel it detracted from the authenticity of its ancient and lovingly restored streets and buildings. There is a wealth of educational information available for those who care to take guided tours in the heart of the village and you will learn the story of its patron Saint. For engineering types, check out the chapel restoration project -- it'...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000

Ramparts of La Rochelle Photo, La Rochelle, France
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It would be difficult to call the home of one of Europe's largest pleasure boat marinas 'undiscovered,' but despite its popularity among Europeans, La Rochelle appeared to be anything but overused when we visited in the high season of August. This beautiful and well-maintained port city has a long history that is easily recognized as soon as you pass through the 700-plus year-old ramparts guarding the old harbor. In addition to being a great place to visit and enjoy on its own, La Rochelle is also a great jumping off point for the larger region which includes the world-famous homes of Bordeaux wine and Cognac. We've offered a few possibilities here after several visits, but your own discover...Read More