La Rochelle

La Rochelle is a city dating from the 9th century in the department of Charente-Maritime, France. From the 14th to 17th century, it was France’s leading port for trade across the Atlantic to Canada and the French West Indies. It’s often called “la ville blanche” (the white city) for its limestone buildings: they’re handsome in any weather, but brilliant when the sun shines down from a big blue Atlantic sky. The city is centred around the old port, Vieux Port, with three great defensive towers. 3 km south, Les Minimes is a new area built on reclaimed land.

Night view of the Harbour Towers of La Rochelle

La Rochelle is linked by a bridge to the resort island of Île de Ré, some 30 km long. Other islands are Île d’Aix, Île d’Oleron (usually accessed by road via Rochefort), and the one you’ve seen on TV, Fort Boyard.

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46.179167-1.1952781 La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport (LRH  IATA) has year-round direct flights to Paris Orly, Lyon, London Stansted and Southampton. Direct destinations in summer include Ajaccio, Birmingham, Bristol, Charleroi, Dublin, Leeds, London Gatwick, Geneva, Manchester and Porto.

The airport is 5 km west of city centre, close to the bridge across to Île de Ré. Bus #7 runs downtown (Place de Verdun) M-Sa every 30 min, taking 15 mins, fare €1.30. In July and August a bus runs from the airport direct to Île de Ré, at other times you’ll have to backtrack via downtown. Taxis can be found immediately outside the terminal building, with the fare to town about €20.

TGVs link La Rochelle to Paris Montparnasse every couple of hours, taking 3 hours. Five or six trains a day run south to Bordeaux (2 hr) and north to Nantes (3 hr).

The bus to Île de Ré is run in conjunction with SNCF, ie it’s through-ticketed, displayed on departure boards, and timed to connect with the Paris trains.

The railway station 46.152778-1.1455561 Gare de La Rochelle is 500 m south of the town centre, near the aquarium and Maritime Museum. Cars can be rented from agencies opposite the station.

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