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Atlantic Coast Drive

I'm visiting my sister who lives in Le Mans (student exchange). We want to rent a car and then drive to La Rochelle, Royan ferry, the Medoc region, maybe Bordeaux or St. Emilion, and then back to Le Mans. We would like to drive along the coast on the way south, and then inland on the way back. We will have about 4 days to do this trip.

I'd like to see La Rochelle (the port, the aquarium, a museum), a winery or two, a few beaches and a coastal fishing village, something medieval, and perhaps the sleeping beauty castle.

I'm not too keen on spending much time in Bordeaux, because I've visited before, and I want to do things with the car that are not easily accessible by train. We are going in March, so it shouldn't be too busy.

I can't decide if I am asking too much for 4 days, or if I'm not planning enough.

Anyone have any suggestions for towns and/or beaches?

Things not to miss?

Places to eat?
Places to stay?

What wineries will be welcoming, but not too expensive for folks on a budget. I know many of the wineries in the region are the best in the world (Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux)

Anything I haven't thought of?

Any good resources, I can't find all that much on the interwebs. I've ordered the Michelin guide for the French Atlantic Coast, although shipping is taking a while.

Thanks in advance for helping!

(also, sorry for posting in 2 places, but saw a retirement notice in "to the west" that I didn't see before)

Posted by
4786 posts

Le Mans to La Rochelle is about 300 km, La Rochelle to Bordeaux about 200 kms, Bordeaux to Le Mans about 450 km, total 950 km. The direct route back takes you through Tours, Chateau d'Usse would be a detour but not a big one. That seems doable in four days, you could make it easier by avoiding Bordeaux if you don't want to revisit. Via Michelin is a good route-planning tool, but it will underestimate how long any route will take.

Ina Caro's Paris to the Past includes a wonderful chapter on La Rochelle, including her favorite places to stay and eat.

Things won't be busy in March. They may be cold, wet, and windy along the coast. So keep the windows rolled up.