La Rochelle was a town we'd heard a lot less about than other French cities, but being apparently popular with holiday makers, we thought we'd check it out.We soon found this to be exactly right, although unlike many of the places we had been and were yet to go, it was flooded with domestic tourists rather than hoards of poms, aussies and americans!
Our hotel was set in the towns old St Nicolas church, and was also quite new and spacious much to our surprise.The town is mostly set around a small port, the water flowing in between two of three old medieval towers making it quite a unique setting.The streets around these central areas were always crammed with people, right through until after midnight no matter which night of the week, not to mention the bands, markets and other performers also going on.
We started our visit with what was a rather lop-sided game of mini-golf.At around hole 11 Barry must've thought it was basketball where the highest score wins rather than the lowest, and took about 30 shots to putt through the windmill to start the hole, Elle did it in two.The local aquarium has a reputation as one of the best in Europe, and rightfully so, housing every fish/water creature I think they've ever managed to prove existence of, even some pirahnas!
As mentioned in our Rennes blog post, we discovered yet another Leffe Cafe in La Rochelle and opted to have dinner there this time.Not only did we repeat doses of the Leffe varieties, but even took on another order of moules, seafood being every second restaurants specialty in La Rochelle.
We had already been given a tip to check out Fort Boyard, a rather ugly former fortress and even prison which lies out in the middle of the sea near to islands off La Rochelle´s coast.We coupled the boat ride around this local icon with a day at Ile d'Aix, a very stripped back, small island which generally (save for holiday makers) only has a population of a few hundred.We hired bikes and rode around the perimeter of the island, which only took about an hour at our snail pace, the sights limited to beach shacks, an oyster farm, a few cafe/bars/stores and the fortifications from when the British used to squabble over the island many moons ago.While very basic and not much there, it was great to see something a bit out of the ordinary and off the beaten track, a phrase all the more appropriate here given they don't generally allow vehicles on the island.
Having had plenty to fill our few days there, we left La Rochelle realising why the French enjoy holidaying there so much.Next it was onwards and southwards, to the red wine mecca of Bordeaux.