After a rolly night on anchor off Île de Ré we sailed the the short 12 nautical miles into La Rochelle. We had chosen the expensive (but much better) option to berth right up in the city basin rather than at the massive yacht marina on the entrance of the bay which is the largest marina for pleasure boats in Europe housing 3,500 boats.
La Rochelle was in full summer celebrations mode with marquees tents and stages set up each direction we looked and a definite holiday and party vibe in the air. It was also warm, even the deck on the boat was too hot to walk on in bare feet, and within minutes of arrival we had the sunshade up over the cockpit and hatches.
La Rochelle is a coastal city in the south/western region of France, a seaport on the Bay of Biscay (part of the Atlantic Ocean). Its been a centre for fishing and trade since the 12th century, a maritime tradition thats reflected in it Vieux Port (old harbour) and huge modern Les Minimes marina (mentioned above). The old town has half timbered medieval houses and Renaissance architecture including passageways covered by 17th century arches.
In 1864 the harbour of La Rochelle “Bassin à flot” a part of which was where Red Roo was berthed was the site for the maiden dive experiments of the first mechanically powered submarine in the world, Plongeur commanded by Marie-Joseph-Camille Doré a native of La Rochelle.
The city beautifully maintains its past architecture making it on of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast, this has helped develop a strong tourist industry, which we were witness to with many languages being spoken and many tourists.
We didn’t want to take the boat any further east than La Rochelle as its a long way to beat back out against the wind on either the north or south coast of the Bay of Biscay yet we were keen to explore further, so along with Kris and David from Taipan we hired a car and set of on a road trip to explore the famous french wine area, the countryside and the city of Bordeaux. Learn more about Kris and David (from Western Australia) and their amazing 14 years aboard Taipan and world encompassing journey on their blog site linked here.
We booked two nights in a hosted french B&B villa in the heart of the Medoc wine growing region, home to around 1,500 vineyards producing 38,000,000 bottles of wine per year. Medoc’s fame in the wine industry is linked to the increased amount of gravel and small stones in the soil which allows the heat to be retained, encouraging ripening and extensive root systems. Along with the thousands and thousands of acres of vines every corner we travelled around brought us to another magnificent Chateau, these impressively large castles/estates/homes (oozing wealth) with magnificent landscaped gardens bordering the paddocks of vines – truely breath taking.
Bordeaux is the hub of the famed wine growing region on the Garonne River. Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region sine the 8th century. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage list as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century. After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France.
We travelled just over 600 kilometres by car and walked an 8km route in the city of Bordeaux. Those two Captains of ours had it pretty easy for this journey sitting in the back as Kris did a fantastic job in navigating us to see the most we could and avoiding using the same routes twice, and I drove which isn’t so simple in a foreign country driving on the wrong side of the road, with right hand gear stick (when we all know it should be on the left!!).
Upon our return to La Rochelle “FrancoFolies” music festival was in full swing, this is one of the biggest music festivals in France and involves a week of music on multiple stages throughout the city, which we were able to hear very clearly on the boat, and whilst it provided a good atmosphere in the streets, I can’t say the music was much to our tastes (very modern, rap and bass heavy).
We departed La Rochelle to anchor nearby on the afternoon of Bastille Day after having a prime view from the boat of the mornings offical ceremonies.
Our destination is Spain …. across the Bay of Biscay!