Where should I go next?…
We could either take the “autoroute” or “national road” for the 150-km-jounery to La Rochelle. Yes, it is far, the fact that the city is located in another region, Poitou-Charentes, explains it. “Autoroute” is basically highway with tolls (in this case, 8Euro) but the advantage is that the speed limit is set at 130km/h. It is not that the 90km/h speed limit for the national roads is too slow, but chances are you are stuck at 80km/h behind some camping cars or trucks. Enough about traffic information, anyway, we arrived there around noon.
The main attractions are the three 14-15th century towers located at the Vieux Port (old port), namely Tour Saint-Nicolas, Tour de la Chaîne and Tour de la Lanterne. A combined ticket of 8.5Euro will allow you to enter all three towers.
Saint-Nicolas feels more like a castle with several rooms to visit. The Lantern is at the far end and it used to be a prison. We climbed all the way up and got reward with an impressive view of the city from both of them. Mind you, climbing down the narrow steps is a bit horrifying.
Based on the past reviews I saw online, we decided to skip the Chain Tower.
It took us quite some time to cross the port and finish the visit even with just two towers to do. So I would suggest a minimum of two hours there.
We then continued towards the center. Unfortunately, the church was under renovation but the interior was still worth a visit.
We moved on to the next stop, Ile de Ré, afterwards. The island is a popular tourist destination and is connected to La Rochelle with a bridge.
Remember in the beginning I was saying we had to go to La Rochelle before mid-June? The reason is that to use the Ile de Ré bridge, it costs 8Euro in low season and 16Euro in high season! There is no way I am paying a double for the same bridge….
(Buses going from La Rochelle to the island do exist, but the bus runs like every one, two hours….)
The main site is the citadel in Saint Martin de Ré. UNESCO lists it as one of the world heritage sites. It is a well-preserved fort and even now we can walk alongside the surrounding wall around the town. The quay is a very good spot for a rest and a cup of coffee as well.
We also went all the way to the end of the island to see the lighthouse in Saint Clément des Baleines. The view on the top should be amazing however when we arrived, it was closed already. Apart from the lighthouse, there wasn’t much else to see.
We did stop by at La Flotte, one of the most beautiful villages in France. But we were highly disappointed and did not even bother to stop the car….
After all, La Rochelle did make a very good day trip.
Bon voyage à tous 🙂