La Rochelle advice

Bonjour à tous,

My husband and I will be moving to the Charent Maritime dept next year. We are both Americans, living in San Jose, California. We're thinking of La Rochelle. I have never been to this area, but it was recommended to me because of bicycling (which I love to do) and it's near beaches. Plus it was described as a quiet, yet lively town especially on weekends.

I have been taking French classes for several years and hope to improve so that I can immerse myself in some other types of fun classes in La Rochelle. I thought that might be a good way to meet people and improve my language skills.

I would love to hear what you all think of La Rochelle; and if you are aware of fun, creative classes for adults (art, cooking, etc) in that vicinity. We will not have a car, and we are both retired.

Thanks so much for your sharing your view, John. It is very appreciated.

It's always great to hears the pros and cons and I'm happy to hear that public transport in town is good.

I guess I'm not surprised that property prices are more expensive, altho I wish it wasn't so. I think that can happen with areas that are popular (for whatever reason).

Again, thanks so much for replying. I hope others will also join in and share their views.

I love La Rochelle and spend quite a bit of time there as I sail from the Port des Minimes marina. Many people think that it is a summer only only holiday town but it is so much more than that with excellent shops and services. The Vieux Port and town centre are beautiful and there are numerous restaurants, museums and other attractions to enjoy. The aquarium is excellent. The public transport infrastructure in the town is very good. There are plenty of opportunities for walking and cycling with good access to the coastal paths. Then there’s the sea with the boats, beaches and islands.
The downsides, from my point of view, are that property is much more expensive there than elsewhere in the region, the countryside inland from the coast tends to be a bit bland and summer temperatures, due to its coastal position, are usually a bit cooler than inland. On the bright side, the winters tend to be that much milder.

Sounds wonderful! I look forward to having these experiences!

Thanks so much for sharing!

The pressoir is a grape press in our area, in Normandie a pressoir would be an apple press .

Where we are located wine is made and distilled to make cognac and I understand that it was a strange word for you I should have explained it.

Today with a former classmate of my husband and his wife we did the vendange we picked up the grapes and cut them from the vines and filled our buckets and dumped them in a big traillor attached to a tractor we participated in the vendange big meal afterwards and big drinking it was all fun, but hard work bending over the plants.

Hi Marie-Antoinette,

I totally understand! What a wonderful experience to go to a wedding in Morocco! You sure do sound like adventurers!

I have no idea what this means "... we found our old pressoir and we fell in love with it...". Because, I have no idea what a pressoir is... Sorry! But I am glad you found it and love it.



Hello Nancy, sorry for the delay in my response, we left September 4th for a wedding in Marrakech and came back yesterday in the wee hour of the morning.

We chose Charente Maritime because one of my brother had a vacation home in Talmont sur Gironde and I would come vacationed there with my children and grand children and when he passed away and the house was sold, just a year before we retired, we rented a house near by for two months in 2006 and looked for a house to buy we found our old pressoir and we fell in love with it, went back to Illinois and sold our house and moved here in July 2007. We like the view on the estuary.



Hello Marie-Antoinette,

Merci for your reply! How interesting that your grandkids are so close to where we live! Small world! :)

May I ask why you chose to live in the Charente Maritime area? I am trying to learn as much as I can about that area, so your personal experiences are helpful to me.

Warm regards,


Hello Nancy,

My husband and I live about one hour from La Rochelle, we are in Charente Maritime, we are in a small municipality formed with 2 villages and several little "bourgs", we have a view on the Gironde estuary, we see cargo, sail boats, fisher men, cruise ships passing by every day on their way to Bordeaux.

We have been here since July 2007 and we love it, we go from time to time to La Rochelle, the harbor is lovely there is an old German submarine base left from WWII, it has been used for at least a couple of American movies.

My husband has dual citizenship US and French he is from Illinois, Bloomington, I am French I have lived in the US 43 years all of them in Bloomington, I go back to the US every years some times twice a year to visit the children and grandchildren, I have a grandson who started this year at the University of California, San Jose and I have two granddaughters in Santa Cruz, not very far from you I think .

I think La Rochelle is a great choice for a place to move to.


I realize this is an old thread but as I am at long last getting ready to move to France, and I am looking at La Rochelle, I thought I would ask whether you made the move and what you think. Thanks, Nancy!

Hello Catherine,

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,



@Nancy_Steinhardt How lovely to know your outcome after these years. So often when these threads are started the rest of us are left wondering if the original poster ever made it to France.


Hi Sue,

Yes, I imagine that is true. I admit, it never occurred to me to circle back and tell people that we made it here. I realize now that although it is a common question – it is rather difficult to answer when one’s answer is solely relative to one’s own life experiences – and you have no idea of the other person’s.

Best wishes,


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