When driving back from the Oleron island to La Rochelle – one the biggest sailing harbor of the West coast of France, right after leaving the city of Marennes, famous for its delicious oysters, on the right, a small road goes West and start zig zagging within fields and swamps. Few kilometres further and the small towers of the fortifications of Brouage appear. When the sun starts to come down, bringing its goldish colour, a quiet and quaint atmosphere welcomes the travelers.
In the 16th century, the Lord of la châtellenie of Hiers, a small village in land, decided to build a new harbor to develop trading ventures. Brouage was born, very soon fortified by the best engineeers of the Kingdom of France: Pierre de Conti d’Argencourt then Vauban and Ferry. Since the 12th century when Alienor d'Aquitaine became queen of England through her marriage with Henri Plantagenet, the whole region witnessed heavy fights between French and English. Later on during the religious war between Huguenots and Catholics, the whole access to the sea made these harbours the target to armies wanted to control the area, French and English were still battling and being located at the Southern part of the Pertuis d'Antioche, Brouage was the site of frequent naval engagements. The whole history of the region is fascinating: buildings, fortified churches, small islands forts and Brouage with its fortification, munitions warehouse, and soldiers barracks are prime illustrations of these rough periods of wars.
Samuel de Champlain, "the father of New France" was born in Brouage in 1570 and founded Quebec in 1608. At that time the harbor was vibrant with sailors, salt merchants and explorers. Part of Canadian history indeed can be traced back to Brouage.
Nowadays the sea retracted long time ago and the hectic activities of new discoveries in the Nouvelle France and battles are long gone.
Today Brouage's activity is mainly dedicated to the oysters growing, craftsmanship and artistic endeavours, painters, sculptors live year round. During the summer, tourism takes over.
Around seven in the evening in summer time is the best time... the mass of the tourists are gone, streets, small plaza reclaims their quietness and the fortifications are an invitation to travel back to these centuries, picturing merchants, swordsmen, frightened immigrants and majestic frigate on their way to new endeavours and discoveries.
Originally from France, I moved to Vancouver, BC in 1997 after falling in love with the city while searching for a training base for a round-the-world athletic expedition. I’m an athlete turned actor, and very much involved in endurance sports. Three times IRONMAN® finisher.