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The Poitou-Charentes region of Western France

Regional Departments
Vienne, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, Charente.

Main Towns
Angoulème, Cognac, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Parthenay, Poitiers, Royan, Saintes.

Land of fine cognac brandy and oysters, the Poitou Charentes lies on the Atlantic west coast of France between the Loire and Gironde rivers, spreading inland from the coast at Royan and La Rochelle in the Charentes-Maritime, to just north of Poitiers in the Vienne. The coastline is noted for long sandy beaches with watersport facilities from sand sailing to para skiing, often with children's beach clubs to keep them amused, coastal towns and villages with seafood restaurants, marinas and golf courses. The lovely offshore islands of Ile de Ré and the Ile d'Oléron are connected to the mainland by bridge.

The landscape of the Charente is mainly unspoiled peaceful pastureland, scattered with fields of sunflowers in summer, streams and the vineyards around Cognac, until you reach the wooded hills of the Vienne. Angoulême is the main town, famous for its annual classic car rally in September and has a busy centre with good shopping, an interesting old quarter and, 75 restaurants. Worth visiting nearby is La Rochefoucauld; the chateau there is reminiscent of the chateaux of the Loire and the Italianate courtyard is said to be one of the finest in France.

Angoulême lies at the head of the navigable part the River Charente, which flows along a wide valley from there, through Cognac, to the old Roman town of Saintes. Situated on the left bank of the river, Saintes has many fine medieval and 18th and 19th century buildings and was the birthplace of Dr. J.I. Guillotin, inventor of the guillotine. La Rochecourbon, north west of Saintes is a 15th century castle, which was restored by the novelist Pierre Loti in the 1920's and has some stunning gardens. From Saintes, the river flows to its mouth just below Rochefort-sur-Mer to an area of protected wetlands and salt marshes known as the Marais, famous for its oyster beds and wildlife, best explored by boat.

The great Houses of Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin, Courvoisier and others, are based in and around the small towns of Cognac and Jarnac.
Around them, the countryside is devoted to vines, the grapes of which are used in the distillation of cognac. You can tour the vineyards and visit the Houses to taste.

Founded by the Romans, the historic city of Poitiers in the Vienne, is an old university town, situated on a plateau above two rivers. A few kilometres away near Lusignan, is an ancient ruined castle built, legend has it, by the fairy Melusine. Futurescope, just outside Poitiers, is a vast science and technology park, which has an impressive variety of audio-visual, interactive and virtual reality experiences.


Excellent fish and shellfish in the Charente-Maritime, oysters and fresh water fish almost everywhere. Poultry, game, succulent lamb, pork and beef dishes like roasted Challans duckling with baby blue top turnips, traditional sorrel soup, rabbit pâté, pidgeon with peas and fresh herbs, goat with roasted galic and vegetables. Abundant fresh fruit and vegetables in season and the wines, cheeses and charcuteries of all regions of France are used. Pineau, is a delicious brandy based wine, usually taken as an aperitif.


Good sailing, swimming and water sports on the coast and the offshore islands of Noirmoutier, Oléron and Ré have splendid beaches. There are several golf courses, inexpensive and easily accessible. Good cycling country. Each town and village has a market on different days of the week and there are numerous bric-a-brac and brocante (country antiques) fairs from May until September. Fresh water fishing in the rivers. Village fetes, music, theatre and dance festivals throughout the summer.
The river Charente is navigable from Angoulême to the sea and there are many opportunities to hire boats or take excursions along the river.


A warm, balmy, maritime climate, an early spring and a long dry summer with temperatures often reaching 30 degrees C. or more. The influence of the Gulf Stream produces winters as mild as the Mediterranean.

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