Poitou Charente

With sandy beaches, pine forests, and a fine crop of churches and museums, the Poitou-Charente area is a holiday haven. This region gets an almost Mediterranean amount of sunshine, and there’s plenty to inspire you to enjoy the great outdoors. Birdwatching, fishing, cycling, rambling and horse-riding are just a few of the activities on offer here, and as this region is bordered by the Atlantic, there’s often a good breeze, making it ideal for sailing and other watersports.

Poitiers, the regional capital, is a city whose picturesque streets are steeped in history. Don’t miss the church of Notre Dame la Grande - this 11th century building is the oldest Romanesque style church in Europe. Just outside Poitiers is the Futuroscope, a popular science and technology theme park which offers a fun and informative day out with the family.

In La Rochelle, famous among UK schoolchildren thanks to the Tricolore textbooks, the Old Harbour of La Rochelle is a pleasant place to explore. Stroll along the old city walls, and stop off at one of the many seafood restaurants around the harbour. Sailing is big in this area, and the wide, sandy beaches are popular with holidaymakers. For a truly quiet and relaxing get away, head to Ile-de-Re, not far from here, an island of sandy beaches and fishing villages, with the Unesco listed town of St Martin de Ré. The famous Fort Boyard of the TV show is just along the coast here.

Edible specialities of the region include seafood, especially oysters, and truffles; and of course that most famous variety of brandy, Cognac, which is produced in the town of that name, in the department of Charente.

In the town of Cognac you’ll find a picturesque medieval quarter, and you can visit the distilleries where Cognac is made, or stop by the Cognac Museum for more insight into the culture of Cognac. The other local liqueur is Pineau des Charentes, which is said to have been the product of a mistake: grape must was put in a barrel containing eux-de-vie, or unaged brandy, and the result was rather tasty. Try a chilled glass as an aperitif.

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