Yes, I did make the move to La Rochelle and we (husband and dog) are still here.
I do not know where you are coming from, what you are looking for, level of French, etc. And these things plus a whole lot more make a difference in evaluating a city.
But briefly, yes I like it here. It is the smallest city in which I have lived and I feel the smallness. But that doesn’t make it bad. And because we have no car and we get around everywhere by bicycling (or bus) that can be a good thing. I have always wanted to live where I didn’t need a car — so it is paradise in that sense for me. For others, this is a large town. It’s all relative.
The population skews older here. As I am retired that’s also a positive. But with the university there are young’s too. I like that influence.
As for weather — I come from California — and you don’t move from California to France for the weather. Enuf said. lol
As for speaking French — I find it is necessary here. You don’t have to be fluent — you can make tons of mistakes — but if you are going to live here, get medical care here, do banking, I mean really live your everyday life, like how you do back home — you need to have a level of French that permits that. I find in the bigger cities (like Bordeaux, Lyon, etc) French is not all that necessary.
I find it easy to make friends here. But most French people say it is hard to make friends in La Rochelle — that they are very closed.I think I am a novelty being American and speaking English.
I am extremely happy here. I find myself to be much more peaceful and I lead a healthier lifestyle. At the moment there is no other place I want to be, unless it is a sunny warm beach because summer ended a bit too fast for me lol
If you have more specific questions let me know. And if you end up here, feel free to write me back — and we can meet up.
Best wishes in your search,