La Rochelle – discover the city of the Three Musketeers!

I was taken on a trip to La Rochelle in France.

At the end of August this French port city greeted us with more summer weather and a surprisingly warm ocean. Our three-star hotel, Les brises, happened to be on the very shore of the bay, which is surrounded by a historic center and docks for many private yachts and small boats. And the first view I got of La Rochelle fell in love with the city at first sight.

Hotel in La Rochelle

French Breakfast

The bay is part of the Bay of Biscay, which in turn belongs to the Atlantic Ocean, so the main feature of this place is the changing, due to the tides, seascape.

La Rochelle Beach

At low tide we see the rocky bottoms open up, this is the perfect time to collect oysters. During these hours, often far from the shore you can see figures of fishermen in rubber boots and with various odd objects in their hands, looking here and there for fish and seafood in the stones of the temporarily formed shallows.

La Rochelle fisherman

Park in La Rochelle

A stone’s throw from the hotel there was a park (Parc Alcide d’Orbigny) with lush southern nature. The smell of pine trees was everywhere. Its terraces offered picturesque views of the bay, marinas with yachts and coastal quarters of the old city.

La Rochelle coast

Romantic corners lurk beneath the shade of its greenery. And here, a snow-white pergola, where it’s nice to hide in the shade for a quiet rest with a book or wait out the summer rain.

Park in La Rochelle

In the hotel room I got a brochure with brief information about the main attractions of the city. Thanks to it, an unexpectedly interesting discovery for me was a small museum in the former headquarters, the bunker of the German command U-Boote submarine, which stood here in the port in 1941-45, during the occupation of the city during WWII. The exhibition is rich in rarities and is quite informative.

Bunker Museum

Bunker Museum

Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction is the complex of three towers of La Rochelle-maritime defenses. They are the emblem of the city. On the way to them I came across this cute red house in half-timbered construction, which is not typical for this region. Such houses are mostly popular in Alsace, closer to Germany.

La Rochelle

And here is the first tower, the Lantern Tower. You can buy a ticket to visit only one or three at once, which is valid for a month. In each tower you will find a small historical museum on several floors and a terrace-viewing platform.

La Rochelle tower

The next two towers St. Nicholas and Chain are the gateway to the bay of the Old Port. All three towers served as landmarks for French ships from as early as the 14th century, when the city finally came into the possession of the French crown under Charles the 5th.

La Rochelle Towers

The observation deck offers a panoramic view of the entire city and the ocean waters. The red roofs of natural tiles make the panorama particularly colorful.

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La Rochelle panorama

The heart of La Rochelle is the old port and its surrounding streets. Here the old clock tower dominates, serving as the gateway to the historic city center.

La Rochelle

Another curious place for me was the white lighthouse (Phare du Quai Valin), which is built right into the neighborhood. It’s very unusual to see such a structure not in the sea, but in the middle of the street. By the way, the lighthouse is working, and at night you can see the bright flicker of its lantern.

La Rochelle lighthouse

Another architectural dominant, the lighthouse with red stripes. But this one is smaller. In my opinion, the best view of the port and the old town is from the St. Nicholas Tower. If you want to see the panorama of the city from a great height, you can take a ride in the cabin of the Ferris wheel.

La Rochelle Old Port Cove

After climbing up and down the narrow spiral staircases of the towers we were physically exhausted and of course we were hungry. The first place I came across for a bite to eat was the stylish hipstore restaurants Belle du Gabut. They occupy a blighted industrial block a stone’s throw from St. Nicholas Tower.

La Rochelle tower

La Rochelle

It’s atypical for La Rochelle, usually characterized by its bourgeois spirit. Cosmopolitan youth from all walks of life gather here, the atmosphere is somewhat decadent and not steeped in snobbery, the menu is designed for vegetarians and seafood lovers.

La Rochelle sidewalk restaurant

La Rochelle sidewalk restaurant

There are concerts almost every evening. The only drawback of this place, is that the kitchen is only open a couple of hours in the afternoon and evening. The rest of the time, only the bar is open.

La Rochelle

In the bay of the old port there are a lot of piers for tour boats. From here you can go to the nearby islands of De Re, Axe and Oleron, and of course do not forget to mention Fort Boyard. There are also regular electric catamarans from the pier, which operate as normal urban transport, but I only managed to discover one route – to the port of Minim.

Old Port La Rochelle

The houses of the streets of the historic center are built of light, almost white sandstone. The first floors are often blocked by stone arches, the shade of which saves during walks through the city on hot days.

La Rochelle streets

The City Hall building was under renovation, we could only admire its cute, almost toy-like, city hall tower.

La Rochelle street

Another great place for lunch, which is also interesting from an architectural point of view, is the Cafe de la Paix. This building is considered a monument of architecture and is very beautiful inside and out. You can eat here at any time of the day, but it is closed on Sunday. This cafe has been around for over 200 years and to this day its interiors have retained the authentic Empire style and are well maintained.

Cafe Mira (De la Paix)

The murals on the ceilings date back to the early 20th century. I am sure that if someone is lucky enough to be here, the atmosphere of this place will be remembered for a long time.

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Cafe De la Paix interior

The city of La Rochelle, in addition to its proximity to the ocean, is distinguished by its richness of nature, parks and squares, which are more like botanical gardens.

park in La Rochelle

A quiet little park (Parc Franck Delmas) surrounds an old villa, which now serves as the Administrative Center for the sport of sailing.

park in La Rochelle

park in La Rochelle

Next to the Lantern Tower is a small zoo, which is open to the public for free. Here you can see an unusual animal typical of these places, the long-haired donkey. I did not think that such shaggy donkeys existed in nature before.

shaggy donkey

animalistic park in La Rochelle

Here are the solar-powered catamarans, which are located on its roof, shuttle between the port of Minimes (Minimes) and the old port of the city every 20 minutes for 3 euros. From the beach of Minimes (Plage de Minimes) in the distance you can see the old wooden lighthouse of the Edge of the World (Phare du Bout du Monde), which at low tide can be reached on foot. By the way, swimmers can go into the sea only during the “high tide,” when the water comes to the sandy shore. In August, the tide came in about 3 pm. Before that time, the beaches are usually empty.

catamaran in La Rochelle

speedboat in La Rochelle

For some reason, all the sites devoted to tourism say that La Rochelle has no beaches. But that’s not true. I counted as many as three. They are all listed on the tourist map of the city, which can be taken for free in the Tourist Office or at the reception of any hotel. The closest beach to the center is Plage de la Concurrence. There is a larger beach (Plage de Minimes) to which the town’s catamarans sail. The most remote beach from the center of the city (de chef de Baie) I did not see.

beach in La Rochelle

La Rochelle lighthouse

The famous walls of Fort Boyard. Unfortunately, inside the fortress is not allowed, because every day there are shooting all the famous show. Pleasure boat only makes a few circles around the structure, the tour is accompanied by historical information on the loudspeaker in French, of which I have little that I caught, except that the structure has never served its purpose, and after 15 minutes, the return to the port or the way to the island Aks.

Fort Boyardee

In conclusion, the city of La Rochelle left a lasting impression on me. It is a place you want to go back to and even stay forever. The atmosphere of French chic, its quarters saturated with sea climate, rich nature and preserved spirit of history make it a very interesting and attractive place for tourism.

In the footsteps of the Three Musketeers

“The Three Musketeers” is a famous novel by Alexandre Dumas, on the motives of which several films have already been made. The action of “The Three Musketeers” takes place in France, in the city of Paris, in quite real places.

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First of all, it is worth saying (and it can be seen from the preface) that Dumas copied his main character, D’Artagnan, from a very real man whose memoirs he found in the Royal Library. In time, however, it became known that the memoirs were also partly invented by Gatien Krtilsde Sandra.

There is a plaque on the house on the corner of Voltaire Quai and Rue du Bac, stating that Charles de Batz-Castelmore D’Artagnan lived in this house.

However, the prototype still has rather little relation to Dumas’ novel, so it is worth completing the story of the real D’Artagnan and talking about the places where the events described by Dumas took place.

D’Artagnan and his place of residence

We know from the beginning of the novel that D’Artagnan rented himself a room in Rue des Mogilshchikov, “appropriate to his meager means.” Rue des Graves, now Rue Cervandoni, leads from Rue de la Vaugirard to the church of Saint-Sulpice. Today this street is in the center of Paris, but formerly it was in the suburbs outside the city walls.

From the novel we know that D’Artagnan settled in the house 11, but now under this number there is a new faceless five-storey building. However, in the XIX century houses were renumbered anyway, so there is reason to suspect that the house mentioned by Dumas is house number 16, a two-story house with a mansard and two separate entrances, as described in the novel.

After paying a deposit for the room, D’Artagnan went to the Quai de l’Iron Lom to put a new blade on his sword. Today it is called the Tannery Quay – there are no shops on it, but there are a lot of pet stores and stores with items for the garden and home.

Monsieur de Treville’s house

Another important character we meet after D’Artagnan is Captain de Treville of the Musketeers. He, according to the novel, lived in the Rue des Pigeons, which is quite close to the Rue de Servandoni.

Unfortunately, there are no mansions on this street today worthy of the Captain of the Musketeers, but we can guess what he looked like if we look at other similar houses preserved in Paris, such as the mansion of Sully.

Old Pigeonhole Street.

Three challenges to a duel

In pursuit of a stranger with whom he had a fight on his way to Paris, D’Artagnan, as we know, scheduled three duels. It is during this time that we are introduced to three more future protagonists, the musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

Faced with Porthos, D’Artagnan ran to the Rue de la Seine. Today the Rue de la Seine extends to the Palais du Luxembourg, but formerly it ended at the junction with the Rue de Bussy. By the way, this intersection is a very picturesque place. Around the corner begins the arts quarter, Boulevard Saint-Germain is nearby, and there are a lot of restaurants and cafes.

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The next encounter, with Aramis, took place in front of the house of the D’Eguilions. This family had many houses in the city, but it is likely that Dumas was referring to the Petit Luxembourg, located just outside the streets being described.

Nothing is known for certain about the location of D’Artagnan’s conflict with Athos, but it can be assumed that it happened somewhere nearby. Today the route along which D’Artagnan pursued Rochefort is a very picturesque part of Paris, and it is definitely worth a walk.

Failed Duels

D’Artagnan’s duels with Athos, Porthos and Arais were to take place at the monastery of Deschaux. In the XVIIth century it may have been a “derelict building with broken windows” but it looks fine now and is even a historical landmark. 114 priests were executed here in 1792, as you can see from the inscription on the memorial plaque.

A favorite spot and home of the Musketeers

Pine cone tavern

This institution is mentioned several times in the novel – the main characters loved to sit there. Strange as it may seem, the “Pine cone” is a very real tavern, located on the hill of St. Genevieve in the first house on the Square Contrescarpe. In former times, this tavern was known not only for its cuisine but also for its wines. Unfortunately, today only the sign remains of the tavern – now the building serves ice cream.

The House of Athos

Not much is known about the house of the musketeer – only that it was located on rue de Feroux. This street is located only 50 meters from the Gravediggers’ Street, so that D’Artagnan did not need much time to visit his friend.

Porthos’ House

Porthos, like de Treville, lived on the Rue des Pigeons. The apartments here were quite luxurious, some of the old houses can still be seen today.

The House of Aramis

We know a lot more about Aramis’ house – we can identify not only the street, but also the specific place. According to the book, Aramis lived in a house between Rue Cervandoni and Rue Cassetes, was the third from the corner on Vaugirard and had the number 25. Such a house does exist – it is true that it does not at all resemble the house described by Dumas, and does not even have windows on the first floor, but at least the place is defined precisely.

Places outside Paris.

“The Three Musketeers” is quite a large novel, and the action in it takes place not only in Paris. There are several other cities that played an important role in the development of the story.

Chantilly

The Musketeers lost Porthos on their journey to London for pendants in this Picardian town by the river Nonet. And here D’Artagnan finds him on his way back, at the Grand Saint-Martin inn after an unsuccessful duel. Incidentally, this town was the castle of the Prince of Condé – in its forests Musketon, Porthos’s servant, was poaching to feed his master. This castle has survived to this day, and is a very interesting sight.

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The Château of the Prince of Condé

Crevecoeur-le-Grand

In this Picardian town, friends lost Aramis. The musketeer, after his duel with the guards in the town, fell into melancholy and began work on his dissertation in the town’s inn. With D’Artagnan’s visit, however, Aramis returned to worldly life, delighted by the news of his friend. A visit to Crevecoeur-le-Grand is also worthwhile because it has one of the most beautiful castles in France.

Amiens

This is where D’Artagnan left Athos to deal with the charge of counterfeiting coins. And it was here, on his way back to Paris, that D’Artagnan learned Athos’ story and his terrible secret from the past.

The city is known for more than that. First, it was attacked many times, first by the Normans and then by the Germans. Secondly, Jules Verne lived here and wrote his novels – the city even has a museum named after this writer.

Saint-Cloud

Saint-Cloud is practically part of Paris, its western suburb on the banks of the Seine. Saint-Cloud has a rich history – it used to be the royal palace where King Henry III was killed. Because of its proximity to the capital and its pleasant ambiance, Parisian coquettes liked to date here during the 17th century. It was at Saint-Cloud, not far from the pavilion d’Estrees which still exists today, that Constance and D’Artagnan were to meet. And it was here that D’Artagnan learned that his beloved had been kidnapped.

Bethune

Bethune is the town where the darkest events of The Three Musketeers took place. It was here, in the local convent, that the Queen hid Constance, and it was here that Milady poisoned her. The town did have a convent, or rather a cloister of Carmelites, which has now been repurposed as a prison near the center of town. This quiet town also boasts a UNESCO-protected belfry.

La Rochelle

This city once played a very important role in the life of France – the army of Louis XIII besieged it during the confrontation between France and England. The city is mentioned in many historical novels, so it’s not surprising that it featured in Dumas’ novel.

The Musketeers, of course, participated in the siege of La Rochelle. Many important events of the novel took place here: here Milady tried to poison D’Artagnan, here she met Athos, and during the battle the Musketeers had breakfast in the bastion of Saint-Gervais. Incidentally, it was during the siege that D’Artagnan finally became a musketeer and then a lieutenant of the musketeers.

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