La Rochelle – A tale of the unexpected

2017 has been a long year, so thanks to everyone’s favourite airline Ryanair, myself and Janice snagged a pair of staggeringly cheap return tickets to La Rochelle. It exists, it’s not just a place that crops up in French Text Books. The criteria for our trip was that it was not beer focused. You see invariably, we end up planning our trips around bars, breweries and things, this time we literally went in blind. No research, No scoping stuff out on Tripadvisor. Nada.

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La Rochelle, is an old port city on France’s Atlantic coast, which has a rich naval and seafaring history. Also interestingly was home to Nazi U-boat pens which are huge in scale. Like most European cities it is a pleasure to walk around the central old town, take in the sights, sounds and smells of the life along the quais and narrow streets.

We had picked a hotel near the town’s market, which on a Wednesday and Saturday spreads out along the nearby streets with a wide range of stalls selling their wares, from honey to cheese, to roast chicken and full on bouchers

But let’s face it, you’re not here to find out how much we enjoyed rambling around this pretty old town, discovering some amazing food, cafe culture and friendly people. We of course came across a few spots that really stood out.

The thing about France is, generally beer is quite expensive, on average, a pint (500ml) was in the €5 to €6.50 euro range, demi’s (250ml) were usually a good bit cheaper. Clearly, France isn’t a huge beer drinking nation, but if we think the “tied” nature is bad here, it’s worse in France. It’s pretty much Heineken, or Kronenbourg everywhere. There were however a few rays of light for those who want to be able to get some interesting beers.

Captain Houblon
8 Rue de la ferté

Advertised as La Rochelle’s first Craft Beer bar, we literally stumbled upon this pub while we were exploring the side streets walking down to the port from the market. A small bar with 3 different beers on draught with a number of French Craft Beers, and other nationalities represented in bottle form. You can visit their website here

Le Troll Pub
48 Rue St Nicolas

Have a craving for Belgian Beers? Well look no further than Le Troll Pub, with 8 different Belgian Beers on draught, and a multitude of bottles, including some 750ml sharer bottles. There were some great beers on the bottle list, and the draught list too was good. This is based in the livelier part of La Rochelle, down in the St Nicolas Quarter. You can find them on Facebook here

Academie de la biere
10 Cour Temple

Another venue off the beaten track, not quite on the main street but this bar is worth a visit as they have a nice little tap list of French and Belgian beers, with lager and Guinness for those who need the black stuff. The guys were very patient with my terrible french, and then started to chat to us in English when they realised we were from Ireland. Also huge rugby fans and are looking forward to hosting Ulster when they take on the local rugby team, Stade Rochelais. You can find them on Facebook here

Of course what kind of self respecting folk would be if we didn’t seek out the local Irish pub. There were three that we came across, each of them sold an Irish Craft Beer.

General Humbert’s
14 Rue Saint Nicolas

This bar has a good happy hour, really good tunes playing, and music on most nights. Also a good spot to go for sports. They were pouring O’Hara’s Pale Ale and it was nice to have something hoppy after all the wine and cheese! Bowls of peanuts, and saucisson also available. You can check it out here

We also found Corrigans at 20 Rue des Cloutiers, which had Galway Hooker bottles, and McNulty’s at 9 rue verdiere which had a couple of the Galway Hooker beers on bottle too. All do a happy hour, and McNulty’s is great for the sport.

La Rochelle is a lovely city to visit, lovely food, easy to walk around, and not far from the beautiful Ile de Ré and it’s many lovely towns.

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