La Rochelle: The Gateway to the Atlantic Ocean

I think seaside cities and towns will always be favorites of mine. Living in San Francisco all of my life, I once thought that all cities should be sitting on the water. As I grew older and started traveling more, I realized, sadly, that that wasn’t the case. Since I currently live in a completely landlocked town in France, I really appreciate anytime I can see the coast. Sitting on the Atlantic coast is the city of La Rochelle. This city of 76,000 was founded during the 10th century and became an important harbor in the 12th century. Beautiful water views and architectural history? I’m there! It was worth a day trip from our Airbnb in Ronce-les-Bains to get lost in La Rochelle’s arcaded streets and beautiful port.

Vieux Port, or “The Old Port”, the center of La Rochelle

We had initially intended to check out Les Halles de La Rochelle (the food halls of La Rochelle). This market, hailing from the 19th century, is well-known for its fresh seafood (especially oysters!), fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, we got a late start, so this is what we arrived to…

Les Halles de la Rochelle, a covered market

Everyone was closing up shop by the time we arrived. Undeterred, we decided to have a very typical French meal across the street…

Just kidding, we had the newest French obsession – the poke bowl. These restaurants are popping up all over France. (They are so popular that one just opened up in our small town of 11,000 people.) This poke restaurant in La Rochelle, called Island Poke, hit the spot – it was fresh and not too heavy – perfect to fill us up for our walking tour of city.

I never tire of seeing these intricate doors all over France.
I love these arcaded streets!

I’m never afraid to ramble around through the streets of a new town, village and city. Thanks to Google Maps, we can never really get too lost. By walking around the Old Town area of La Rochelle, we were able to find these quiet arcaded streets. Since arcaded streets are very typical of La Rochelle, we saw some closer to the city center, but these were cleaner without a person in sight.

In the past, merchants would set up shop under the arcaded streets to protect them from bad weather.

Our meandering through the city finally led us to the city walls of La Rochelle along with their famous 3 imposing towers. These three towers are open to visitors with just one ticket, but due to COVID, we decided to stick to viewing them from their exterior.

First Tower: The Lantern Tower. This tower served as a lighthouse and to house prisoners.
City walls with The Lantern Tower in the background
Second Tower: Saint Nicolas Tower, also used at one time to house prisoners
The Saint Nicolas Tower (left) and the Chain Tower (Third tower, middle). A chain used to be stretched between these two towers to prevent entry into the Port.
Amour des Îles, or “Love of the Islands”
Porte de la Grosse Horloge, or “Door of the Big Clock” (it sounds so much better in French), is the passageway between the Vieux Port and the city center

What is a summer vacation without ice cream? Especially when it’s from Ernest Le Glacier, a local ice cream maker. I had the lime-basil and lychee sorbet and it was delicious! It was a nice reward for all the walking we did through La Rochelle.

Our time in La Rochelle was short, but sweet (literally!). I would love to return in non-COVID times (if that ever becomes a thing again) to visit the interior of the towers and some of the restaurants that are well-known for their seafood. Hopefully next time!

La Rochelle is also well-known because of its bridge that connects to the beautiful and popular Île-de-Ré. Our visit to the Île-de-Ré is coming up next!


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