Visit the Charente Region on your holiday to France
Visit the Charente Region during your holiday to France. Poitou-Charentes is one of France’s best kept secrets: a sunny and serene land of green meadowlands, sandy beaches, pine forests, romantic marshlands, gracious châteaux and Romanesque churches overlooking a landscape of cognac vineyards. Poitou-Charentes is a region whose unspoilt treasures and timeless rhythm welcome its visitors with Old World charm. Visit Cognac distilleries, Michelin-starred restaurants, Roman ruins and many historic towns and pretty villages.
Winding through the valley is the Charente River. With incredibly clear water and lined with pines, vineyards and meadows, it is amongst the prettiest waterways for canal boat holidays in France! King François I called this slow moving river the loveliest river in his kingdom.
The world’s best-known brandy comes from the peaceful countryside surrounding the Charente River one hundred miles north of Bordeaux. A twenty-mile area called the ‘golden circle” of cognac production encompasses Cognac and the second picturesque distilling town of Jarnac where you may like to visit the crypt in the church of St. Pierre!
Cognac, the medieval town which bears the name of the region, is attractive with its narrow medieval cobbled streets and elegant Renaissance facades. World famous firms such as Camus, Hennessy, Niartell, Otard, Prince Hubert de Polignac, Rémy-Martin, Courvoisier, and Renault-Bisquit are located here. Join a guided tour to learn about the double-distilling process or take a barge or a small train and discover the history of cognac, its vineyards, distilleries and museums.
La Rochelle is most famous for its old harbor and its three outstanding medieval towers. Another impressive piece of architecture on the harbor is the porte de la Grosse Horloge. Behind this portal, the town centre is easily reached, and on the bustling arcaded streets, you’ll see plenty of fine architecture. It is a haven of style, good times and lively quayside cafes. The vibrant lifestyle attracts an international set and there are trendy bars, clubs and many excellent restaurants. During the summer the town hosts an international film festival and in mid-July, the nation’s top musical happening, Les Francofolies, in which French-speaking musicians and music-lovers from all over the world congregate.
Ile de Re
Linked to the mainland by a toll bridge, the island is surprisingly flat. Whitewashed houses with green shutters, narrow little streets bordered with bright hollyhocks, long fine sandy beaches, coloured church spires rising from villages and harbours, salt pans that form as patchwork of watery fields, make the island a paradise for holidaymakers and a haven for cyclists.
The waterways of the “Marais Poitevin” are sometimes likened to the bayous of Cajun country but unlike the bayous, this is not uninviting, alligator-rich swampland! The more picturesque name given to the area is “La Venise Verte” or “Green Venice”. The maze of canals is all man-made and they date from the middle ages, when monks started a huge project to drain the Golfe du Poitou. The avenues are regularly tended by local authorities as though they were roads, which to all intents and purposes they are. One of the best ways of exploring the network of waterways is to hire a boat, which you can do with or without a guide. Coulon, an irresistible photogenic little town about 5 miles from Niort, is the home base for most aquatic tours, although other ideal starting points include Arcais, La Garette and St-Hilaire-La-Palud. An alternative: take to the winding back roads on bicycle, in a horsedrawn caravan or by pony.
Also called the ‘Wall of the Canal du Midi’, Angoulême is a great city crowning a hill with a superb view of the valley between the Charente and Anguienne rivers. The city has seen many wars over the centuries, evident in the many fortifications you’ll see around town. It is now a charming neighbourhood of restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Downtown, discover many monuments like the impressive and marvelous City Hall, which is a former castle. The Cathedral of St-Pierre is a fine example of Romanesque architecture.
Set on a majestic hilltop above the river Clain, this is one of France’s oldest cities, filled with history and tales of antiquity. The visitor will discover a trove of Romanesque art and architecture, museums, a 4th century Baptistery (one of the oldest Christian edifices in France) as well as the entirely renovated Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-La-Grande.
Located just 5 miles from Poitiers, this science amusement park is a voyage into a wonderland of new technology devoted to the moving image. With the most advanced film projection techniques, the world’s largest screens and a multitude of mind boggling activities to choose from, it is no wonder that Futuroscope draws nearly 3 million visitors annually.
Located on the banks of the Charente river, this beautiful 2000 year old town was once the Roman capital of south western France and has one of the oldest remaining amphitheatres as well as Roman baths, which may be visited. Between visits to the cathedral of St-Pierre and the church of St-Eutrope, be sure to stroll through the wonderful medieval city of narrow streets, markets, restaurants and shops. You may also like to visit the Archaeology Museum.
Take the kids cycling along the shaded towpath and explore pretty Charente villages! For a pleasant outing, hire canoes and kayaks at the watersports base in Angoulême. The town also has a good comic book museum. The kids’ll love gabarre rides at St. Simon!