When we’d been exploring and climbing to the tops of the medieval towers of La Rochelle and, in particular, when we’d climbed the last of these, the Tour de la Lanterne, the outstanding view of the French port city included a large belt of green to the west forming a lovely contrast to the blues of the sky and sea and the whites and reds that dominated the city’s architecture. It was this view pictured below and what we were looking at was Le Parc Charruyer (Charruyer Park (you probably guessed that)).
We had plenty of time as it was still early so decided to take a circular route back to the harbour area of La Rochelle through the nearby park as much just to take a stroll that would provide shade from the increasingly warm day as to see whether it had anything to offer. Leaving the Tour de la Lanterne we continued west a short way, passing through a doorway set into the remains of the city wall called the Porte Des Deux Moulins (Door/Gate of the Two Mills, though I couldn’t tell you why). In the photo now above you can see that gate on the left side if you follow the line of the walls.
This took us to a short bridge over a narrow river or stream coming out of the park and into the sea. The numerous drainage ditches and canals of the park itself are fed by two rivers, Lafond and Fétilly, though which one of these we were crossing I can’t say. What I can say, though, is that it reeked to high heavens here. The water was not exactly fresh and the reason for this becomes clear with a little more of the history of the park, coming up soon.
The other side of the bridge saw a small café area with some seating and some street art adorning its rear; not the best example but I always try to capture photos of local artistry wherever I go. It might be useful to know that you can get some food and drink at the southern end of the park, though, if you’re visiting La Rochelle.
This brought us to the park itself. No fences surround it, it’s open all year long and free to wander through at your leisure. The history of the park is fairly interesting. Originally, the land that now forms Le Parc Charruyer was marshland (hence that smell) and given over to military forces most of the time, stationed outside the city walls. In the late nineteenth century, Marie-Adèle Charruyer, the daughter of a local, wealthy shipowner, Étienne Charruyer, and heiress to the family fortune, bequeathed 100,000 francs to the city in her will to establish a public park at the exit of the city. The land didn’t actually belong to the family but after her death it was this area that was subsequently cleared, drained, cleaned up, and transformed close to how it appears today.
The park was very peaceful; the abundance of foliage on the trees soaked up any external noise nicely and the dappled shade as we followed a path along a river’s edge dropped the temperature to something very pleasant indeed. Cycling routes through the park have been added in more recent times and Le Parc Charruyer covers an area of around 40 hectares, providing a pleasant walk of around two kilometres across its full length. We only walked about half this distance electing to turn back towards the city roughly in line with La Rochelle’s cathedral a little after we’d passed under a bridge with some graffiti of questionable quality (and yet still I took some photos (oh, me!))
If you’ve got the time when you’re in La Rochelle and fancy some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city then the park is a lovely little place to just absorb a touch of nature while you’re there.
Out of the park we headed back towards the waterfront area of La Rochelle. The direction we mostly wanted to head was southwards but the brightness of the sun directly ahead and the contrast from the cool surroundings we’d been in to the heat trap of the dry streets and stone-fronted buildings left us taking a zig-zag route to where we needed to be in order to jump into the shade of buildings or take a break from squinting at every opportunity. There wasn’t a huge variety in the architecture of the buildings we saw but the general style was very nice.
We eventually came out by the harbour at the Porte de la Grosse-Horloge, an attractive tower and gateway we’d seen across the marina when we’d first arrived in La Rochelle. A small square nearby with a number of attractive shops and a large mass of people shopping and just admiring the sights also sported a statue adorned with traffic cones, something statues appear to do worldwide.
The next thing we wanted to see – and the next post – would be La Rochelle’s aquarium, south of where we’d been dropped off at in the city. We braved the direct sunlight for a little longer and headed past the harbour towards it.