Get away from it all in Poitou-Charentes
Here, natural resources and history live side by side! From the islands of Charente-Maritime to the Bressuire woods, the landscape of Poitou-Charentes will appeal to all your senses. Beach or mountain? Forests or gorges? Numerous walled towns "of art and history" are also scattered across the region. The perfect destination for getting away from it all for a weekend, a week or even longer.
Serge Baron has been the manager of the INTER-HOTEL Foncillon, a beautiful 3-star hotel by the sea in the Bay of Royan, since 2006. Hailing from Paris, he discovered the region in 2000 while on holiday, It was the "sunny coastal climate, similar to that in the south of France" combined with "the sea air" that attracted him to this region. The nature, where ocean and waves mix, is one of the many reasons that led him to put down roots in Poitou-Charentes.
A stay on the Charentes coast
"There are plenty of things to do in the popular holiday resort of Royan. In winter, get your skates on and take to the ice rink on the beach. In summer, many festivals are organised, such as Violons sur le Sable, a classical music festival on the beach, or Royan Jumping International, an equestrian event with the leafy Coubre forest, one of the most beautiful sites in France, as its backdrop. La Palmyre zoo is one of the must-see attractions in the surrounding area; one of the most beautiful animal parks in France," Mr Baron tells us.
Along more than 275 miles of coastline, Charentes has fine sandy beaches, limestone cliffs and wild expanses. Although summer is the best time for exploring the coastline and the beaches, "the Beauté coast reveals its timeless charms to anyone who looks hard enough," adds the hotelier. The beaches of Le Platin or Pontaillac, the Suzac troglodyte caves on the Gironde estuary, "here everything has a view of the sea... The many lighthouses dominating the coast are a fantastic way to see this coastline." The Renaissance era Cordouan lighthouse is situated near to the town of Royan. "It is considered to be the 'king' of all lighthouses." The beaches of Royan and Chatelaillon-Plage are the dream location for a seaside break, as a couple or with the whole family, due to their sheltered location with no waves or current.
Go further along the coast and you will find the walled city of La Rochelle, near Puilboreau. Its rich heritage is reminiscent of the splendours of a maritime city. It is a great departure point for excursions to one of Charente-Maritime's four islands, for instance the Ile-de-Ré, connected to the city of La Rochelle by the longest bridge in France.
Relaxation in a historic region
During your stay in Poitou-Charentes, make a detour to Rochefort. This unmissable destination is home to the emblematic Fort Boyard. Marvel at the impressive walls of this famous fortress as you take a boat trip. Visit Saintes and it will reveal to you the treasures of its heritage and its cultural life. You can take a cruise to the Charente valley on a barge, a boat that was once used to transport goods and is now used for tourists.
Angoulême, whose renown is well established, has really taken advantage of its international comic festival: great cartoonists such as Franquin, Moebius and Zep have come here to decorate 22 frontages in the town! An unusual way to wander the streets of this historic town.
Head out to the department of Deux-Sèvres and you will discover the extraordinary richness of this green setting, where valleys and watercourses intertwine. The towns of Bressuire and Chauray are great places for setting off to explore the mysterious Marais Poitevin marshland. In the department of Vienne, Poitiers, a centre of the Hundred Years War, owes its current fame to Futuroscope, which has become France's second largest theme park over the last 20 years. Futuroscope is situated in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, a commune that has been awarded green holiday and tourism labels.
A true gourmet, Mr Baron loves the food of this region, which is not very industrialised and draws mainly from the land and the sea: "...Charentais melon, oysters from Marenne d'Oléron, sole, prawns, wedge sole, Bouchot mussels..." A myriad of flavours to carry you away. And don't miss "the Cognac wine route". Who knows what you might discover about this famous "brandy of the gods"?