The French Aix island is located in front of the estuary of the Charente river, between Oléron island and the French coastal mainland.
Aix island is also close to Fort Boyard.
Let’s talk about Fort Boyard for a second.
This stone ship was initially built to protect the harbours of Aix island and Oléron island. Due to the limited range of artillery in the 17th century, the fields of fire between the fortifications on both islands did not overlap. Fort Boyard bank, midway between the two, would have filled that gap. But this first project was abandoned due to tremendous complexities. Vauban, Louis XIV’s military engineer, famously advised against it, saying “Your Majesty, it would be easier to seize the moon with your teeth than to attempt such an undertaking in such a place”.
The idea was also to protect Rochefort, chosen in 1665 as a place of defence and supply for the French navy. The Arsenal of Rochefort served as a strategic naval base for decades.
L’Hermione, a reproduction of the 1779 ship which ferried General La Fayette to the U.S. in 1780 to let him join the American Revolutionary War, is open to the public.
The construction of Fort Boyard finally began in 1804, with immense difficulties and many interruptions and lasted more than 20 years.
At the end of the Second French Empire, it was used as a prison.
It’s nowadays the setting of a famous TV show.
Back to Aix island. The car-free island is highly popular, thanks to numerous ferries making day-trips possible during Summer.
Saint Martin church is a vestige of the small convent established here following the donation of the island to the Cluny order by Isabelle de Châtelaillon in 1067.
Aix history is otherwise a military history. France and England started fighting for the island since the 12th century. Aix island even became English for 15 years during the Hundred Years’ War. Vauban – him again – built numerous fortifications on the island.
England invaded the island in 1757, in 1759 again until 1763. In 1809, the battle of the Basque Roads between the French navy and the British navy was epic but the British fleet failed to destroy the French forces.
After Waterloo defeat, Napoleon spent his last days on the Aix island, before his transfer to Saint Helena. The reminiscence of the Emperor is still going strong on Aix island, with the Napoleonian museum.
The island is otherwise all about colored facades.