French Connections

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  • A special Christmas with my family

    Only 2 days to go and I will be in France where my family will be waiting for me at the airport in La Rochelle, where I was born.Only 2 days to go and I will be in France where my family will be waiting for me at the airport in La Rochelle, where I was born. It has been a long time since I have spent a lovely Christmas with my family so I am really looking forward to spend some quality time with them. Even so very sadly my mum is no longer with us, we know that she will still be there in spirit. As soon as I arrive in La Rochelle, the plan is to go shopping for a big Christmas tree so we can decorate it all together. It will be a very nostalgic moment and it will take me back to the previous childhood Christmas's when I used to go with my mum to chose our Christmas tree, this was so much fun for me… I cannot wait for the 24th to arrive when we are going to enjoy a typical French ‘reveillon’ at around midnight, which is our tradition in France, and different to England where the main meal is usually on Christmas day. Our food will include oysters, prawns, ‘foie gras’, duck with chestnuts, delicious creamy French brie, and last but not least the typical French ‘bûche de Noël you cannot miss. You have the choice of either the ice cream one or the butter cream one which I must admit are both very delicious and I find it very difficult to decide which one to have so I think I will have a bit of both! And afterwards we will open our Christmas presents...
  • Beach fun, music and days out in Charente-Maritime

    Long sandy beaches combined with France’s second sunniest climate make Charente-Maritime a mecca for families, couples and groups in search of swimming and water sports in an unspoilt location. There is plenty of space and great facilities for enjoying boating, surfing and beach sailing – and when you want an evening out or a day away from the beach, choose from lots of events and interesting places to visit.

    Old Port of La Rochelle

    This beautiful historic harbour has three outstanding medieval towers and is surrounded by stately buildings The harbour is also the biggest yachting centre on France's Atlantic coast, so you can spend many happy hours wandering through the old streets and looking at the boats. There is a real holiday buzz here with street performers, a fabulous selection of fish restaurants and welcoming bars. Elsewhere in La Rochelle are an aquariumand France’s largest zoo.

    From 17th – 22th September ,La Rochelle is host to Le Grand Pavois, one of the most important boat shows in the world with more than 750 boats on display, 89,000 visitors in 2012 and covering an area of 100,000 square metres.

    La Rochelle

    The following month, music takes centre stage with the Jazz between Two Towers festival - one of the best known in France attracting stars such as John Scofield, Joe Louis Walker and Michelle Hendricks. The beautiful setting between the towers of the old port adds to the atmosphere.

    The Sixteenth Jazz en Ré Festival will take place from 22nd to 25th August on the beautiful and popular Ile de Ré. This is an island where life is lived at a delightfully slow pace and is a great place to enjoy cycling and watching birds on the nature reserve – and maybe spotting a few of the celebrities who have homes here.  

    Boat trips

    Boats leave La Rochelle harbour for trips to several destinations, including the many islands off this part of the coast. The voyage to the Island of Aix includes sailing around the ancient Fort Boyard, an impressive and photogenic sight.

    Oysters and Fort Louvois

    Marennes is home to the largest oyster cultivation area in all of Europe, so you’ll have the opportunity to see the growing and refinement process and also enjoy savouring oysters really fresh from the sea. Between Oléron Island and the Marennes Basin, is Fort Louvois, a 17th century coastal fort built on a submerged rock between 1691 to 1694. Today, the Fort is open to the public, offering a fascinating visit.

    Shopping as it used to be

    The Musee des Commerces d'Autrefois is a private museum in the town of Rochefort, south of La Rochelle. It vividly brings to life the shops and daily routines of this busy port in the early 20th century, with a bar, a dental surgery, chemists, hairdressers, general hardware shop and more – all equipped with the products and machinery of the time.

    For more ideas, travel information and a fantastic range of holiday accommodation, check out our complete guide to Charente-Maritime.

  • Introducing Tina, French Connections team member - Les fruits de la mer

    s a little girl growing up in La Rochelle, Charente Maritime, I remember the time where fishing boats came back to the harbour after a long day out on the sea , bringing back lovely fish, crabs, ‘araignées, ‘langoustines’..As a little girl growing up in La Rochelle, Charente Maritime, I remember the time where fishing boats came back to the harbour after a long day out on the sea , bringing back lovely fish, crabs, ‘araignées, ‘langoustines’… All the local people would be waiting for their return and the fishermen would sell them all those little delights from the sea. Even tourists walking by would stop intrigued by what was happening and would ask about the name of this fish or that shellfish and very often they would leave with something fresh from the sea for their supper. I was so lucky that my dad used to go with the fishermen very often to help them and he always used to bring back my favourite ‘merlu’ (hake), soles  or ‘langoustines’. Then I couldn’t wait for dinner time to come when my mum would prepare a simple dish ‘poisson bouilli: http://www.saveursdumonde.net/produits/poissons/merlu-colin/ by boiling the fish with some herbs and potatoes, but very gently until the fish was nice, soft and flaky. She would make a mayonnaise to accompany this wonderful dish. It was so simple but yet my favourite dish ever and even today I still remember that lovely smell in the kitchen. Other times when my dad wanted to go out for a while there was only one place he went to: ‘the sea’….. . This was his life since he was a little boy. He would just sit there for hours between two towers with his friends, with the lovely sea breeze and  unique smell of the water. My mum and I would then join him and we would have some lunch together by the sea which would include a delicious walnut cake my mum would have made earlier on that day, as this was definitely my dad’s favourite. Then we would sit there for a while and I would watch my dad, in admiration of his competence when repairing fishing nets, making new ones or producing sea knots. Simple special memories you keep with you forever...
  • New! Win a week in sunny Cognac country

    Our latest competition with FrenchEntree magazine offers you the chance to win a week’s stay in June or September for up to four people at Le Manoir de La Foye in sunny Charente Maritime countryside.

    Once a cognac distillery, La Foye now has five charming gites surrounded by gardens with mature trees, a walnut orchard and swimming pool. The lucky winner can choose La Ferme or another gite, depending on preference and availability. (Travel is not included).

    Nick and Chania Coveyduck have renovated their gites to a high standard whilst retaining original charm and atmosphere. Now they enjoy welcoming guests and their aim is to provide year-round comfort and relaxation with a swimming pool, hot tub, shared summer kitchen, laundry room, table tennis and entertainment room. See more photos and details at the link below.

    Visitors to La Foye can visit vineyards and the Forest of Aulnay, explore famous Cognac distilleries, take a day out at Atlantic beaches, charming seaside towns or Green Venice with its maze of ancient canals. They also enjoy savouring the local cognac, Pineau, seafood, cheese and friendly people in this tranquil, unspoilt area.

    To enter the competition, click here to visit the FrenchEntree website.