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A Memorable Ramen Encounter


On a cold winter evening in Kyoto, I coincidentally found a minuscule ramen shop concealed in a tranquil rear entryway. Sitting at the counter, I watched the talented culinary specialist fastidiously... Read more

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  • What to eat
  • How to burn it off
  • Where to Stay


In the center of La Rochelle, we like four-star La Residence de France (from €176; 43 Rue du Minage, map). The rooms are modestly outfitted but super bright, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Wi-fi is complimentary, but the hotel’s most winning feature has to be the heated pool and flora-shaded patio, dotted with comfy lounge chairs. The Cathedral and old market nearly border the hotel, but La Rochelle is a small city; the Old Port is just a 10-minute walk away.

On a quiet street a stone’s throw from the Old Port, boutique Un Hôtel En Ville (from €60; 20 Place du Maréchal Foch, map) is pleasantly minimal, coolly designed in shades of charcoal, white, and wicker. The hotel is tiny and modestly priced, so don’t expect a lot of amenities, but there is free wi-fi and air conditioning (which is not a given in France). The location is excellent for exploring La Rochelle’s best bars and restaurants, and of course, the Old Port.

Guests at unfussy Hôtel De L'Océan (from €83; 36 Cours des Dames, map), located directly over the Old Port,  enjoy stellar views of the port’s ancient towers. The arcade below is full of shops and restaurants with outdoor seating, but don’t worry—the windows are soundproofed against the bustle outside, unless you choose to throw them open to inhale the sea air. It’s a great jumping-off point for exploring the region by sea, as many tour boats depart from outside the hotel. Free parking is offered, as well as complimentary wi-fi.

Île de Ré

If you have euros to burn, consider Le Clos Saint Martin Hotel and Spa (from €149; 87 Cours Pasteur, map). Located in Île de Ré’s capital city, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, the rooms are prettily decorated in haute, French-country style. The grounds feel comparatively large and impart a vibe of relaxed luxury. Amenities are many, including two heated pools (open April-October), a gym, and a full-service spa. Given the hotel’s placement along the water, boat travel to and from La Rochelle could not be easier.

Facing a sprawling lawn and the sea beyond it, Hôtel Le Galion (from €75; Allée de la Guyane, map) offers modest, country-nautical rooms, most with views of the city ramparts. The building epitomizes the style of the region—cream-colored stone climbing with vines, sea-foam shutters, a terracotta-tile roof. Saint-Martin-de-Ré is easy to explore on foot from the hotel, and when you return, relax in the hotel’s “zen” living room.

Île d’Oléron

Outside town, Motel Île De Lumière (from €84; open April-September; 67 Avenue des Pins, map) sits along the wilder, Atlantic coast of Île d’Oléron. A private beach wraps around the property, providing spectacular views of the white-capped waves. The hotel isn’t fancy, but it hardly matters—there’s a large, heated pool, a tennis court, table tennis, a gym, a sauna, a library, and a game room available for the entertainment of the guests. The region’s most important fishing port and market, La Cotinière, is nearby; you can even cook your purchases on hotel-provided grills.

Les Jardins d’Aliénor (from €110; 11 rue du Maréchal Foch, map) is located in the center of Le Château d’Oléron, just minutes from 400-year-old military fortress, La Citadelle. The hotel is a good choice for visitors who prefer historical and cultural sites to the outdoors. The rooms are a little aged, stylistically speaking, but the interior garden is lovely and green.


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