Napoleon slept here: the Atlantic coast of France

We all know about the delights of Paris in the springtime, but it's autumn now, and France is still an attractive option for a getaway. We recommend a tour of a little-known stretch of Atlantic coastline with stops in La Rochelle and the charming islands of Oleron, Aix and Rhe.

The French Atlantic coast north of Bordeaux is full of surprises just waiting to be discovered. Our delightful coastal tour begins with Oleron, technically an island, but connected to the mainland by the longest bridge in France. Here you'll find wonderful scenery, endless beaches and the best oysters in the country. The tiny fortified island of Aix, on the other hand, is only accessible by boat. This is where Napoleon spent his last hours before being deported to St. Helena, and his  memory still lives on in every corner. For one of the most exclusive French tourist destinations, you should head for the bucolic island of Rhe, popular among Parisians, with its low white houses with bright wooden shutters. Here, Vauban, the leading military engineer of his day, raised an impressive set of defenses, now part of the 'Fortifications of Vauban' UNESCO World Heritage Site. Returning to the mainland by means of a bridge nearly 3 kilometres in length will bring you to the cosmopolitan city of La Rochelle. A key location in the Huguenot rebellions, the city was under siege from the troops of Cardinal Richelieu for 14 months of 1627-28. Now however, it's a busy university town and the picturesque old harbour area bustles with shops and restaurants.

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