From the National Geographic Explorer in Europe
Sep 30, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer
Ille d’Aix and La Rochelle, France
It was a spectacular morning with a beautiful sunrise. The full moon slowly set in the West as we approached the small island of Ille d’Aix. We went ashore by Zodiac and had a chance to explore the small village. There was a chance to visit the small Napoleon museum and learned about the Emperor’s visit to the island in 1808 and how he wanted improvements to the island’s strong fortifications. Napoleon also spent three unwanted days on this island which was his last days in France before he was extradited. Napoleon had appealed to the US to spend his time in exile there but they said no so he was sent to the mid-Atlantic island of St. Helena. Oh, how history would be different if he had made it to the US instead!
In the afternoon, we had a real taste of expedition cruising as we took the Zodiacs ashore for a bit of a ride to enter the port of La Rochelle. It felt like we were entering a fairy tale come to life with the medieval ramparts guarding the entrance to the city. We split into small groups for walking tours to hear about the fascinating city that started in the 10th century as a fishing village. Subsequently La Rochelle became the most important port in France due to its very strategic position on this part of the Atlantic coast. After the tour there was time to just amble on our own and sample some of the local delights. What another fantastic day and Viva la France!