I was invited on a wonderful press trip for 4 days by the Charente-Maritime Tourist Board with a group of other travel and foodie bloggers. We were about to experience the best of this area in France. We ate so many delicious dishes, stayed in some lovely hotels with mesmerising views, did so many outdoor activities such as climbing the 20-metre masts of a ship, paddle boarding in Les Dauphins, kayaking with experts in this field and the best of all was that we had the most astonishing scenery!
ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT
Charante-Maritime is a department of the Novelle-Acquitaine region of France and tourism is growing fast. Awarded Favourite Tourist summer destination of 2016 by the French, I can tell you I now know why and can agree 100%! My aim here is to give you a good taste of the area so after reading my posts it would be great if I had convinced you to go and explore it too!
DAY ONE – LA ROCHELLE
Our first destination was La Rochelle. We stayed at the well located Hôtel Champlain. It seemed to be within short walking distance of everything. It also has a really nice garden at the back of the hotel.
My room was really lovely. It had a romantic feeling and felt very French. The room was very spacious with a double size bed, table, chairs, TV and a nice big bathroom too. It was very comfortable.
GUIDED CITY TOUR
Our first activity for the afternoon was a guided city tour with a lovely lady called Anna Fournal from the Office du Tourisme de La Rochelle. She did a great job showing us around.
La Rochelle is renowned for its prestigious historical architecture. You only need to stroll around the Old Port and centre of the Old Town to find their treasures (arcaded streets, timbered houses, private mansions and secret passages).
La Rochelle is also a seaside town with one of the largest pleasure ports in the world, the Port de Plaisance des Minimes.
If you visit La Rochelle, you must stop for an ice cream! They are just delicious and super refreshing! It was interesting to see that La Rochelle has also been a pioneer in urban ecology with over 100 kilometres of cycle tracks. Interesting right?
Views from the Big Wheel
We went on the Big Wheel and wow, the views from there were just stunning! I honestly couldn’t believe how pretty the city is!
Our next stop was the Aquarium. I wish I’d had my girls with me as they would have loved it. It was very pretty and there was so much to see inside. The aquarium has about 12,000 animals on display! It is an exceptional family experience and as such is the number one tourist attraction in Charente-Maritime with more than 800,000 visitors annually!
Since 2016 the Light Gallery takes you down to the deepest parts of the ocean where marine life is iridescent. It is illuminated with new colours and with technology helping us understand the phenomenon of bioluminescence and fluorescence. It was really good!
DINNER AT LE PETIT NICOLAS
After a lot of walking we were very hungry so what better than dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town, Le Petit Nicolas. Gastronomically La Rochelle is renowned for the fabulous market, the colours and flavours around the terraces of the Old Port.
The food was yummy. I had salmon for my starter, pork for my main course and sorbet for dessert. I loved it all! We all really enjoyed our dinner but the best part for all of us was how warm the owner made us feel. I highly recommend this place. If you happen to be in the vicinity please go and visit.
At the end of our first day I was so tired after a long day travelling and visiting so I was dying to get into my bed!
DAY TWO – ROCHEFORT, ILE D’AIX & BACK TO LA ROCHELLE
The next morning was such a beautiful sunny day! I woke up feeling super excited about the new adventures awaiting us. We had the loveliest breakfast ever! Everything was very cute at this hotel.
ROCHEFORT – ACCRO-MATS
Our second day was full of activities that I have never dreamed of doing before but after giving them a try on this trip I am now keen to do them again at home. The first activity was our visit to Accro-mats. We travelled from La Rochelle to Rochefort to do this activity. It is a unique type of accrobranches using 20 metre masts of a ship instead of the usual ropes. I was freaking out because I am afraid of heights but I got through this and ended up loving it!
This was our second activity of the day. A cool visit to Hermione, a replica of Lafayette’s frigate where we were able to visit before she once again sets sail. Her next trip, to the Med, is in the planning stage. We had a tour inside this beauty and we learnt so much about sailing too. It was a cool experience.
We then went to Fouras Port to wait for the next ferry to travel to the beautiful Ile d’Aix. It only takes 30 minutes ride to get to the mainland. We were all very excited to visit this island because we have heard so much about its beauty.
Ile d’Aix is known as the Pearl of the Estuary. This island is wild and beautiful. You can find here Marshes, forests, sandy creeks, cliffs, beaches, etc. You can breathe the fresh air and witnessing so many stunning views is life invigorating!
LUNCH AT LE BAR BEAU TEINT
Before setting of to explore the island, we went for lunch at Le Bar Beau Teint. As we were surrounded by the sea, the most typical food here was seafood. I had heard their tuna was amazing so I ordered it for my main dish! It was indeed delicious.
ISLAND BIKE TOUR
This cute little island is just 600 metres wide and three kilometres long but classified as a remarkable natural site. You can go around the island on a bike within 1 hour. It is incredibly charming!
When you visit this island you are really stepping away from the razzmatazz of everyday life. As the locals say it is ‘Aix-ceptional’, LOL! I fell in love with Ile d’Aix since the minute I set foot on it. Wow it’s such a fascinating place to visit and I would love to go back with my family!
BACK TO LA ROCHELLE
After such an amazing trip to Ile d’Aix, we then took the ferry back to La Rochelle and to our hotel. It was time to change ready to go out for dinner and to also experience the most amazing sunset.
QUICK TAPAS AT GUINGUETTE DU GABUT
We had a quick dinner at the Guinguette du Gabut which was about a 20-minute walk from the hotel. This place was amazing. The atmosphere was very friendly and festive. You can see street art on the walls everywhere. It is excellent. I loved it! The food was also very yummy and very colourful! The place was perfect for Instagram!
What better way to end the night than a boat trip with Kapalouest on a catamaran to the see the sunset! This was mesmerising! OMG, I really wish I was there with Nick. It was one of the highlights of the trip. It can be very romantic if you plan to do it with your partner.
We were offered some drinks on board to make the experience even more unforgettable! There is nothing better than good company, a cocktail and a beautiful sunset!
The boat trip departs from La Rochelle and lasts for about 2 hours. It is an experience that I highly recommend!
This is the end of PART 1 of my trip to Charente- Maritime. Please, watch this space because PART 2 is coming soon.
Have you visited the Charente-Maritime area? If so, which places did you visit? Have you done any of the activities I did? What do you think of this trip so far? Can you recommend any other places to visit in the area?
*Disclosure: I was invited by the Charente-Maritime Tourist Board to a press trip to visit the area. Everything was complimentary for the purpose of this blog post.
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