Rochefort - a hidden gem!
At the end of the Charente river, where in past times barges brought barrels of cognac down to the sea to continue their voyages to England, Holland and the New World, stands the city of Rochefort. A highlight of our Cognac tour, Rochefort is packed with enough history to take a week over! Unfortunately we only stay in Rochefort for two nights, but we can pack a lot of experiences into two days!
Starting nearest the hotel (a walk across the lawns in fact!) is the Corderie Royale. The Royal Rope Factory (Corderie Royale) is a must-visit for anyone interested in naval history. The rope factory was established in the 17th century and supplied the French navy with ropes and cables for over 300 years. At the time it was the longest building in the world, due to the space required to create the lengths of rope for rigging the fighting ships. Today, it's a fascinating museum and cultural center with exhibits on the history of rope-making, shipbuilding, and navigation.
National Naval Museum
The National Naval Museum (Musée National de la Marine): This museum is another highlight for naval history enthusiasts. It has an impressive collection of ship models, paintings, and artifacts that showcase the history of the French navy.
The Hermione is a replica of the famous ship that carried the Marquis de Lafayette to America during the American Revolution. It was built using traditional shipbuilding techniques and is a magnificent sight to behold. There is a permanent exhibition detailing the 18th century construction techniques used to recreate the ship, and then you can go on board to get an idea of the conditions faced by seafarers of the era.
The Pont Transbordeur, also known as the Rochefort-Martrou Transporter Bridge, is a unique bridge located in Rochefort, France. It was built in 1900 and spans the Charente River, connecting the towns of Rochefort and Echillais.
Unlike a traditional bridge, the Pont Transbordeur uses a suspended gondola to transport people and vehicles across the river. The gondola is suspended from a high gantry tower on one side of the river, and travels across the river on a cable. The gondola could carry up to 120 people and 8 cars at a time. This enabled tall ships to sail down the estuary without needing to open a swing bridge.
The Pont Transbordeur was in operation until 1967, when it was closed due to structural concerns. However, it was later restored and reopened to the public in 1994 as a historical monument. Today, visitors on foot or on bicycles can ride the gondola across the river and enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape from a unique perspective. We cycle into Rochefort on the bridge, and use it for the optional excursion the following day - it's a great way of keeping the biking to car-free routes!
Rochefort has all of the attractions of a substantial French provincial city - great shopping, a lively centre with shady squares with fountains and lined with cafés and bars.The Rochefort Arsenal: This historic complex was once a major center for naval construction and is now a cultural center that hosts concerts, exhibitions, and other events. Along the river you will find the Gardens of the Cordouan Lighthouse offering a peaceful oasis with stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The city is worthy of a longer stay than we can manage, but we get the highlights in - maybe you'll be tempted to return! If you would like to experience the magic of Rochefort, we have spaces on our June 11th and Cognac and the Atlantic Coast tour- don't miss it!