The National Maritime Museum
If you really want to understand the Maritime Arsenal in Rochefort your first stop should be the National Maritime Museum. Located in the “Hôtel de Cheusses” - former residence of Royal Navy Commanders - it exhibits old models of ships, machines, tools, paintings and countless testimonies and documents.
Full rate: €6,50, reduced rate: €5,50. Tel.: +33 (0)5 46 99 86 57. www.musee-marine.fr
The Corderie Royale
In the heart of the Arsenal, the Corderie Royale is a magnificent building that stretches over 374 metres. Push the doors of this manufactory, where the ropes for the big Royal Navy ships were made, and you'll be instantly plunged into the atmosphere, probably due to the distinct odour of the vegetal fibres. In the workshops you'll discover the crafts of spinners, stranders, knot and rope tiers...
Pass Arsenal des Mers
The Hermione: a famous frigate used by the Marquis de La Fayette to support the American independents in 1780. Result of over seventeen years work, today the Hermione is the biggest replica of an ancient vessel ever rebuilt in France. Inspired by the experience, find out what is was like to be a deckhand at the neighbouring Accro-masts adventure park in the shape of a frigate. Acrobatic thrills and a taste of life at sea guaranteed on the ship's deck. Welcome aboard sailor!
To recover from your emotions, take a stroll through the Jardin des Retours garden that runs the length of the Corderie Royale. Designed by the landscaper Bernard Lassus it has plenty of relaxing views over the Charente river. Then why not stop for lunch in the harbour.
In the evening, take in a show at La Coupe d’Or, a superb 17th century Italian-style theatre.
Check out the programme at www.theatre-coupedor.com *
The Bird “Sanctuary”
On the banks of the Charente, the lagoon station treats the sewage and water waste from Rochefort in an economically and environmentally-friendly way. It is also a great spot for sea birds. Take a silent walk around this 70-hectare site to discover this out-of-the-ordinary ornithological spot. Don't forget your binoculars!
Nature Space. Tel.: +33 (0)5 46 82 12 44. Full rate: €6; reduced rate : €5. Free for the under 10.
A walk around town
Built around a checkerboard plan, Rochefort took on its finished appearance thanks to Michel Bégon (Navy Intendent 1688-1710) when he organised the rebuilding of the town in cut stone. Make the most of a stroll through the streets and squares to get a full picture of the architecture and layout. Don't miss the Place Colbert, famous as the setting for cult French film “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac.
Enjoy a refreshing drink or a bite to eat on one of the many terraces.
In the evening, treat yourself to a night visit of local history with the Noctambulations: an entertaining and out-of-the-ordinary experience that I would highly recommend!
Noctambulations, every Tuesday in July (9.30pm) and August (9.00pm). www.rochefort-ocean.com