For a market with great food and a great atmosphere, try the one in La Rochelle, a beautifully maintained harbour town on the Atlantic coast in western France. We stumbled across it as we strolled through the deserted streets of the old town on a quiet sunny Sunday morning. As we moved further away from the harbour, we noticed the narrow streets becoming livelier, filling with people carrying bags of fruit and vegetables, bunches of colourful flowers and the obligatory baguette, its top - as so often is the case - missing, presumed eaten already. Housed in and around an ornate 19th century market hall surrounded by bustling restaurants and cafes, this market has it all. Amazing fresh and varied seafood (cooked and uncooked) laid out artistically on ice beds, meats, charcuterie, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, cakes and pastries, chocolates and some of the nicest and most enticing traiteurs we've seen in France for a long while. Made ravenous by the smell of baking wafting about us, we set about buying up a picnic to eat at the harbour's edge, watching the yachts bobbing up and down in the gentle sway.The food was delicious. The memories linger on.
Every morning at the Place du Marche, La Rochelle. To stay, try Masqhotel (17 Rue de L'ouvrage à Cornes, 17000 La Rochelle; www.masqhotel.com), a conveniently situated modern hotel.
Google map: bit.ly/edRwUa
A quiet and calm holiday retreat with fantastic seafood in local restaurants and supermarkets and local markets(La Tremblade). Worth the nine hour drive from Calais with weather that always breaks through even on cloudy days. Mostly clear blue skies but not oppressing heat due to constant gentle winds from the Atlantic. Near to Cognac, La Rochelle, Royen, and not that far from Bordeaux.
There's a variety of accommodation from campsites with mobile homes available for hire (air conditioning and all mod cons available), touring, camping and apartments. The estuary by Ronce Les Bains beach gives access to oyster and muscle farms when the tide goes out. Then there is 3ft of warm sea water to swim in when the tide comes in.
Around the corner and down the Atlantic coast you will find more exciting bathing and surfing. St Palais Sur Mare provides a larger seaside town and a challenging golf course. If you like a quiet, relaxing holiday with wine, seafood and cheese and bread you really couldn't ask for more. I have holidayed with children from three to 18 and they all love the experience.
It's definitely worth the extra three hours south of the Vendee.
Ronce Les Baines is near La Tremblade, 35 miles south of La Rochelle.
Google map: tinyurl.com/38k5hjz
The Marennes region is an area of France surrounding the beautiful town of Marennes on the west coast. I recommend it because I spent several months there in the summer of 2009 and adored everything it had to offer. There are beaches in abundance and many exciting things to see and do, including the Île d'Oléron, France's second largest Island.
Link - www.lovetoescape.com/spps/Charente-Maritime-1314.html
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