Canadian roots in Charente-Maritime
The Charente-Maritime has many sites linked to New France. And for good reason, with such a long coastline, the area saw many ships set sail for Canada. On the Marennes Basin, a visit to the magnificent, well-preserved village of Brouage is a must if you want to retrace the steps of Samuel Champlain, founder of the city of Quebec in 1608.
The Charente islands also bear witness to this rich past with a strong visible heritage such as at the Château d'Oléron, with its citadel, or on the Ile d'Aix, whose port was the port of return for the Acadians deported after 1755. During the colonial period, this port also served as an fore-port for Rochefort and was a very active place of embarkation.
Rochefort was also an essential historical centre with the construction of the Arsenal, which you must visit today to understand the strategic importance of this city and its links with New France. The Corderie Royale, the Hermione, and the Musée de la Marine are all must-sees during your visit. The river Charente, which crosses the department, also played a very important role in the relations between the French provinces and the colony of Canada, as materials, manufactured products and food were transported to the port of Rochefort.
Finally, discover the sublime city of La Rochelle, which was one of the main French ports to maintain relations with New France: trade, fishing and embarkation of approximately 4,000 emigrants, of all origins, embarked in La Rochelle towards the Gulf, the St. Lawrence valley and the Atlantic coast, from 1628 to 1662 alone. Today, you can follow the traces of this history by visiting the city and its historic districts or the New World Museum, which includes a section dedicated to New France.
Enjoy this day with a guided tour of the citadel of Brouage (information Brouage tourist office), visit of the Halle aux vivres, family treasure hunt "Champlain, Brouage and New France" (information from the Syndicat mixte de Brouage-Broue), discovery of the Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul churches in Brouage with its commemorative stained glass windows, its exhibition tracing the establishment of the first settlements and the first attempts to evangelise this then unknown territory, as well as the commemorative plaques of the families of these first settlers.
Observe the landscape in which your ancestors lived before they left for New France from the Broue Tower à Saint-Sornin ou depuis le clocher de l’église Saint-Pierre de Sales de Marennes (renseignements auprès de la Marennes-Hiers-Brouage Town Hall): a rare landscape of coastal marshes to discover from these high points.
The coastline, land of departure and welcome
Walk through the military outpost of the citadel of Château d'Oléron and the Isle of Aix.The city was a favourite fore-port for departures and returns from New France.
In the 13th century, Louis IX, the King of France, wanted to protect the coast from invasion. To do this, he had a fortress built on the island of Oléron in 1224. It was destroyed during the religious wars and replaced by a citadel in the 17th century.
Le Château d’Oléron n’a pas seulement assuré la protection des côtes, il a également contribué à contrôler le commerce et la pêche le long de la côte atlantique.
Rochefort, departure strategy
(½ day to 1 day)
Discover the place chosen by the King of France to build and arm his warships: Rochefort and the Charente through a range of original and instructive visits to the Arsenal of the Seas.
Rochefort est l’une des plus belles villes côtières de France. La ville a une longue histoire maritime et était l’un des principaux ports de construction navale du pays au XVIIIe siècle. Rochefort possède également une grande histoire culturelle qui comprend un patrimoine culturel riche en artistes tels que Gustave Courbet, Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier, Eugène Delacroix, etc.
La Rochelle, the port of New France
(½ day to 1 day)
Discover the port of La Rochelle and visit the Saint-Nicolas and de la Chaîne towersWalk through the streets of the historic city centre where your ancestors waited to leave and learn more about this history by visiting the Museum of the New World.
To discover more if you have a little time: the city of Royan, birthplace of Pierre du Gua de Mons,the initiator and financier of Champlain's expeditions. The cellars of Cognac and the beautiful city of Bordeaux, its special link with the Quebec and the Louisiana.