Fancy a truly French summer getaway? For sandy beaches, sea-air and a spot of really stylish island life, there’s nothing the French treasure more than their Atlantic Coast around La Rochelle’s beautiful Ile de Ré. But pop down first to Rochefort’s historic harbourlands and it’s only natural to pedal back via the coast’s wildlife-rich marshes around Yves – and the village of St Laurent (de Prée) of course! - plus chic Châtaillon-Plage with its casino, race-course and impressive waterpark. From the charming Vieux Port ramparts of cosmopolitan La Rochelle, the pale sands, white-washed cottages, abbey ruins and colourful marinas of Ile de Ré are all just a pedal push away. Cycling is certainly cool here, but then a glass of Charentais blanc in the company of fresh local seafood or oysters on some tempting bistro terrace is pretty refreshing too!
is in La Rochelle in a 3 star hotel. We are pleased to discuss details on request.
Aquitaine’s Atlantic coast makes for an ideal mini-cycling adventure with all the real French flavour of the oyster beds around Rochefort and the vineyards, sandy beaches and bright marinas of one of France’s favourite holiday-at-home islands retreats – Ile de Ré. The flat coastal terrain offers very gentle cycling, mainly on dedicated paths or small roads. Highlights include views across the Breton Straight and Vendée coast from historic St Martin-de-Ré and the vibrant village of La Flotte on the island; La Rochelle, perhaps France’s finest coastal city with its rich tales of rebellion, impressive towers, gateways and eclectic mix of museums; Rochefort, a ‘designed to defend’ naval town, home to the replica frigate, L’Hermione, and restored royal rope walk; Châtaillon-Plage, the stylish 19th century Atlantic Coast resort; local seafood and oyster specialities.
Day One - Arrive & explore La Rochelle
City of four harbours, La Rochelle has to be one of France’s finest coastal gems. Head to the Vieux Port perhaps first to admire the mighty towers which mark out the historic ramparts – 14th century Tour St Nicolas, and Tour de la Chaine which links to Tour de la Lanterne by an unusual road following the top of the walls (Rue Sur-les-Murs!). Sit by the waterfront to drink in the views or maybe reccie a seafood restaurant for supper. The medieval centre is a must and will certainly work you up an appetite with its colourful market, but to get the real flavours of this ‘rebel’ town (remember that siege portrayed in ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexander Dumas?), why not head to a museum or two to learn about its Protestant past and trade with the New World? Overnight in La Rochelle.
Day Two – Rochefort to La Rochelle – tall ships, oyster beds & outstretched beaches
Time to collect your bike, but don’t saddle up just yet! Treat it to a short trip on the train down to the great naval city of Rochefort (journey time: 22 mins; ticket payable locally) for a delightful day of gentle cycling, weaving your way along mainly dedicated cycle paths. Rochefort however, couldn’t be more straight forward -- planned by Colbert in the 1660s to supply and defend the French Royal Navy, you’ll find it truly firm of purpose, its streets strictly regimented with wide boulevards destined for grand military parades. It’s worth breaking rank briefly though to get a glimpse of the replica of the 3 mast frigate, L’Hermione, which sailed to the Americas in 1780, famous recently restored rope walk building, La Corderie Royale or the naval museum in the rectilinear citadel.
But the coast is calling and soon after the little village of St Laurent du Prée, the Reserve Naturelle du Marais d’Yves brings a wilder type beauty to the world. All the way to chic Châtallion-Plage, the views are wide and watery, leading past tufty marshland with leaning evergreens, rugged bays, oyster farms and salt pans. But the great sandy expanses which attract the sun-worshippers are not as natural as they seem … every year they have to be replenished thanks to ongoing coastal erosion! Alas, Châtallion has seen its medieval fort disappear too, but see if you can spot the occasional pre-19th century agricultural and oyster farm building. There are smart villas here too, memories of those early days when the railways brought the first bathers and the resort was born. Park up and take a dip here perhaps, or stop off at one of the other many beautiful beach spots - Plage St Jean des Sables, Plage d’Aytre, Plage du Roux… - en route back to La Rochelle. Overnight in La Rochelle.
Miles 28 Kms 44
Day Three – Ile de Ré Discovery Day
It’s all sorts of things about the Ile de Ré which capture the imagination – the beaches of amazing white sand, the brightly painted shutters on white-washed cottages, the sail boats, café culture and even the light itself. Let the picturesque island inspire you as you discover its many colours for yourself along its great network of flat cycle paths. Cross the 3km long bridge which curves across the water, then follow a circular tour via Rivedoux-Plage and Abbaye des Châteliers – the largest abbey ruins in the region – to the vibrant old fishing village of la Flotte. Here, either cross the island to return via Sainte-Marie-de-Ré, or continue to the impressive port of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, fortified by Vauban in 1681 with a 14km star-shaped stone wall, ultimately a built to defend the royal naval port base at Rochefort. Green (‘Ré’ = wild fern), pleasant, wrapped in sea and sky, the island is a real breath of fresh air and you’re sure to find yourself stopping to admire the view, put a toe in the water, or sample the fruits of local labours down by the quayside. Enjoy! Overnight in La Rochelle.
Miles 24 /31 Kms 40 / 50
Day Four – Depart after breakfast
Depart after breakfast, or take time for a last wander around la Rochelle… well, have you seen the fine arts museum or elegant Renaissance Maison de Diane de Poitiers yet?
Extra nights can be booked in La Rochelle to allow more time to explore the city and the Atlantic Coast of Aquitaine at your leisure.
Once you have decided on the ideal Cycle Break in England or Europe, please fill out your details on our booking formProceed to Book
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