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      August 2012 > Atlantic Coast Discovery – between land and sea

Atlantic Coast Discovery – between land and sea

Travel to the Charente Maritime region of France this summer and you will discover a fascinating coastal region steeped in maritime history. Featuring bustling ports, salt marches rich in birdlife, splendid churches and historic abbeys – as well as beautiful scenery – this area is the perfect place to enjoy a cycling holiday in France.

After cycling along the coast via Saujon (located at the mouth of the Seudre, the smallest river in France) and Rochefort (a ship-building port on the River Charente and famed for the oldest masonry dry dock in the world, La Vieille Forme), your Atlantic Coast Discovery ends in the historic port of La Rochelle, its Old Port dominated by two impressive medieval towers. Here, you stay two nights at the Hotel Le Champlain, run with friendly efficiency by Madame Jouineau and her team – a delightful hotel with a name that echoes down through the centuries…

The hotel is named after an heroic Frenchman who embarked on his very own Atlantic coast discovery in the early 17th century – though his adventures saw him exploring the other side of the ocean along the coast of North America. Samuel de Champlain (navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler) was born in Brouage near La Rochelle and went on to help stamp French authority and influence on parts of North America that last to this day.

He came from a family of mariners (both his father and uncle-in-law were sailors) and was soon joining them on trading ventures, firstly to the Caribbean and then to North America on a fur-trading expedition to Tadoussac on the St Lawrence Seaway. He was determined to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Jacques Cartier, the first European to map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and this he did by befriending and gaining the trust of the local Algonquin, Montagnais and Huron tribes.

Champlain was then able to travel up and down the St Lawrence Seaway charting the coast and looking for trading opportunities with the First Nations people - as depicted in this contemporary painting.

He established trading posts as he went, possibly the most significant being founded on 3 July 1608 at the ‘point of Kébec’ (an Algonquin word meaning ‘where the river narrows’) on the ‘Big River’ in the heart of what was then ‘New France’.

From humble beginnings this stockade grew into the modern city of today that Inntravel customers can explore on our Authentic Québec holiday.

Despite intense rivalry with the British Hudson Bay Company and opposition from tribes like the Iroquois, the province grew from strength to strength and its French identity was sealed. Things came to a head, however, in the French-Indian Wars of the 1760s during which Wolfe famously stormed the Heights of Abraham to take Québec – and France’s rule (though certainly not its influence) in North America was over.

Champlain's legacy has been recognised by the erection of statues in major Canadian cities (and Paris); the naming of many natural features including Champlain Mountain in the Acadia National Park and Lake Champlain in Vermont (both of which can be explored as part of a Complete New England Experience); and on an insignificant looking plaque in the French port of Honfleur from whence he set sail on several voyages.

By pure coincidence, as I was researching Champlain's story, Inntravel added the Hôtel Entre Terre et Mer in Honfleur to its list of characterful hotels at which you can celebrate and indulge on a special getaway break this autumn.

It stands in the Old Town just a few metres from the plaque [right] beside the old harbour which commemorates the exploits of this great French hero 'between land and sea'.

Posted: 23/08/2012 11:43:32 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Canada, cycling, France, gastronomy, heritage

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