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La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle has been an important harbor on the Bay of Biscay for over a thousand years. It has housed naval fleets ranging from the crusading Knights Templar to the German U-boat fleet in World War II. The Vieux Port at La Pallice is still a scenic highlight, and the U-boat pens are still on view. Nearby is Les Minimes, Europe’s largest pleasure yacht marina. A majestic cathedral and a well-preserved Old Town are well worth exploring. The city also has a long history of producing fine porcelain faience. In the surrounding region, many visitors enjoy at scenic boat ride on the shaded canals known as Venise Verte, the Green Venice, in the marshlands of Poitevin near La Garette. A short causeway also connects the town to the Ile de Ré. Others prefer to head to Cognac, for a tour and tasting of the eponymous spirits produced by the local vineyards.