Tucked inside a loop of the Charente river some 20 km inland, Rochefort may not be on the French Atlantic coast but its development has been heavily influenced by the sea. Today it is one of the most fascinating towns of Poitou-Charentes with its maritime heritage attractions, elegant boulevards and eclectic museums.
Rochefort was a quiet fishing village until 1666 when ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV ordered the building of a royal dockyard and arsenal. Step back in time at the Corderie Royale - or royal rope factory - a Versailles-style building which was once the longest factory in Europe and is now an interactive museum.
Visit the Hermione boatyard to see the building of a replica frigate from the 18th century before it sails the Atlantic in 2015. Tour the Musée de la Marine, once home to naval captains who sailed the world, and the Ecole de Médecine Navale, founded in 1722 to train surgeons for warships.
The Jardin des Retours features exotic plants brought home by naval expeditions, and the Begonia Greenhouse shelters 1500 colourful varieties. The extraordinary house of 19th century naval officer and writer Pierre Loti is another must-see with its flamboyant themed rooms that represent Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance styles.
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