POITIERS - CAPITAL OF POITOU-CHARENTES
The Vienne Département is rich in culture, attractions and activities. In the heart of La Vienne lies the Romanesque city of POITIERS, the largest town in the department and the capital of the Poitou-Charentes region. Poitiers is full of something for everyone: many buildings of historical interest, a lively city centre, stunning architecture, cosmopolitan shopping and regular markets. To relax take a stroll around BLOSSAC PARC, the BOTANICAL GARDENS and the Promenade du Pré l'Abbesse.
Poitiers has been the provincial capital since Gallo-Roman times and its architectural heritage is outstanding. The Chemins de Notre Dame will guide you through ancient neighbourhoods as you discover the city's historical treasures. Exceptional monuments include Notre-Dame-La-Grande church with its evening polychromatic laser light display; Saint-John's Baptistry (the oldest example of Christian architecture in France) and Saint-Hilaire's church, a World Heritage Monument.
FUTUROSCOPE - POITIERS
The theme park of FUTUROSCOPE celebrates the moving image and is a fascinating mélange of theme park, big screen cinema and illusion. Futuroscope offers extreme thrills, images in giant-screen format, breath-taking shows, interactive adventures that will delight your senses, and much, much more. Discover over 25 different experiences for all the family that offer a new way of exploring the world in a lush green setting.
There really is something for everyone and one day will not be enough! This year Futuroscope is offering a whirlwind of attractions including the thrilling cinematic ride "La Vienne Dynamique", the breath-taking "Danse avec des Robots", Astromouches, the EcoDingo simulator, Les Animaux du Futur, the eye-opening "Les Yeux Grands Fermés" and the universe of "La Monde des Enfants". Don’t miss the sound and light show at dusk as The Blue Note Mystery is a truly magical experience.
MONTMORILLON, the City of Books and the Written Word, is a charming medieval town with winding streets to explore and pavement cafés.
There is a well-equipped tourist office here with a comprehensive selection of local guides. Montmorillon hosts a market on Wednesday morning. It has two large supermarkets and can also offer crazy golf, tennis and an equestrian centre.
The abbey of SAINT-SAVIN lies close to Montmorillon and was made a UNESCO World heritage site in 1983 thanks to its exceptional Romanesque wall paintings.
These are displayed amidst fibre-optic lighting, stained glass windows and wrought iron lamps. You will also find a scenographic tour in the monastic buildings, including films, dioramas and multimedia activities.
ANGLES SUR L'ANGLIN
ANGLES-SUR-L'ANGLIN (north of Saint-Savin) is officially recognised as one of the most beautiful villages in France and is very close to Saint-Savin so there is no excuse not to visit. Its narrow winding streets interspersed with workshops and cafés are simply captivating.
The village is also home to the "ROC AUX SORCIERS", a sculpted frieze dating back 15,000 years and discovered in 1950. The visitors' centre offers a fascinating multimedia presentation.
CHÂTEAU DES ORMES - LES ORMES
The CHÂTEAU DES ORMES is a huge presence in the Vienne valley. It was built during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in 1642 and extended in 1729. It was a regular haunt of many famous writers and philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment.
The castle has now been opened to the public and a visit is highly recommended. The imposing marble gallery, the elegant reception rooms, the original 17th and 18th century kitchens and the refurbished 17th century ice house should all be seen.
DÉFIPLANET - DIENNÉ
DÉFIPLANET at Dienné is a 25 hectare leisure park concentrating on the theme of sustainable development. A unique combination of education and entertainment, this park aims to raise awareness and provides an insight into the life of ancient villages. This is particularly suitable for children as it has many animations and videos as well as "Petit Sabot", the park's mascot.
Petit Sabot shows how man has transformed his way of life and highlights the consequences for the future through the park's five recreated villages complete with gardens and animals. The Magic World of Elves helps us to understand why we must change our lifestyles. We can then pass through the Door of The Future in order to enter interactive kiosks which calculate our carbon footprint.
GENÇAY CASTLE - GENÇAY
GENÇAY is a charming town north of Availles and it highly recommended for a visit. The 18th century fortress was built on the rocky cliff overlooking the River Belle and the River Clouère. It was a supreme defensive location and the castle is an exceptional example of medieval architecture.
There is a small fortified castle at the entrance to the main chateau and evidence of curtain walls and towers. The castle made full use of its battery of defences and was almost impregnable. The drawbridge has recently been rebuilt to connect the town to its fortifications.
LES GÉANTS DU CIEL - CHAUVIGNY
Chauvigny, just to the west of Saint-Savin, is a breath-taking sight. The ruined Medieval Chateau des Eveques is perched high on a hill and is the showcase for LES GÉANTS DU CIEL.
This is a wonderful show - birds from all round the world fly over the ruins of the Bishops' Castle. You can discover kookaburras from Australia, snowy owls, great horned owls, white storks, condors, American parrots, eagles and vultures.
ETHNI'CITÉ - SAINT-RÉMY-SUR CREUSE
The Rémy-Sur-Creuse cave dwellings at ETHNI'CITÉ are a fascinating experience. You will learn about the history of the caves from the time of Richard the Lionheart. There are lots of outdoor exhibitions on a site full of flora and fauna. Ethni'cité is home to the Primitive Technology Centre where you can learn all about the techniques and tools used by our ancestors.
There are plenty workshops for both adults and children. Learn how to make ceramics, jewellery and fire! Use natural pigments to produce colour. Shape and polish flint stone tools and arrowheads. Build wooden dwellings covered with animal skins. Discover the science behind archaeology on the dig site. Try your hand at hunting with javelins. The Garden of Elves and Fairies is a great place for the younger ones to search for the little people.
THE COAST - LA ROCHELLE AND ROYAN
The sophisticated coastal town of LA ROCHELLE can be reached in two hours. It offers some of the best beaches in France, as well as cosmopolitan shops and fine dining. La Rochelle is a historic town that was once the Huguenot capital. The old port in the middle of the town with its two towers symbolises its rich past. Taking time out on a sunny café terrace is a moment of pure pleasure that sets the tone of your holiday. The old town behind the port is perfect for a stroll and is a real voyage of discovery. After passing under the Grosse Horloge (Main Clock) entrance to the city, you can wander through the small streets and under the arches, discover the medieval houses with timber-framed walls and slate, the private luxury residences of the ship-owners and the old market halls. The historic town centre is today bustling with activity with its many shops and events jostling for your attention during the summer days. The University, aquarium (one of the finest in Europe), and large number of events such as the Francofolies, the International Film Festival, the Grand Pavois all bear witness to the vitality of La Rochelle.
At the mouth of the Gironde, ROYAN has been a seaside resort for nearly two centuries. Backing onto the long beach of La Grande Conche – facing due south – the town centre of Royan stands out by virtue of its architecture. The town also has a marina and fishing harbour as well as the landing stage of the ferry for Le Verdon, in the Médoc region. Destroyed during the bombardments of 1945, the town was reconstructed during the 50’s. Largely inspired by the Athens Charter, dear to Le Corbusier and other modern architects, Royan was built around an airy urban space, underlined by wide perspectives. The church of Notre-Dame, the central market and the Palais des Congrès are the main witnesses to this. Royan also has a few ‘Belle Epoque’ villas, spared by the bombs. The sea front, with its restaurants, cafés and shops is particularly lively during the holidays and especially so in the summer, reinforced with the holding of major events such as regular firework displays, the ‘Un Violon sur le Sable’ (A Violin on the Sand) event and international show jumping. All along the coast of Royan, there are a large number of walks and bike rides. Thanks to its location in the middle of a magnificent tourist and seaside resort, Royan is an ideal departure point to explore this exceptional environment and enjoy the many activities on offer.
THE COAST - ÎLE DE RÉ
ÎLE DE RÉ has been linked to the Continent since 1988, but remains an island in every sense of the word. Jewel of the Atlantic Coast, the Île de Ré has preserved all its charm and authenticity. Classed as a protected site, it will win you over with the beauty of its preserved landscapes and villages of green-shuttered white houses, criss-crossed with little alleys where hollyhocks abound. With more than 100km of cycle tracks, the whole of the Île de Ré is accessible by bike. Cycling across the marshes in the north of the island, between Ars-en-Ré and Loix is a unique, unforgettable moment. In the middle of these fascinating salt marshes, where a large number of salt makers still work, you will discover an abundance of flora and fauna native to the area.
The reserve of Lilleau-des-Niges at the Portes-en-Ré groups together nearly 300 bird species. The light here, alternately bright or gentle, is also a real enchantment. The long, sandy beaches of the East coast are as much places to relax as to enjoy the wide range of activities on offer, such as sailing, surfing and kite-surfing, that is becoming highly popular here. The forests of maritime pines that line the beaches are also to be discovered. Inland, there are vines, market gardens and forests. Right up in the North, an immense beach awaits you, not far from the famous forest of Trousse-Chemise, mentioned in the song by Nougaro. Île de Ré also has the very pretty harbours of Saint-Martin and La Flotte – unmissable stopovers on the dream voyage that is the Île de Ré.
The Limousine city of LIMOGES, world famous for its exquisite china and craft shops, is only an hour away. Limoges is a town of art and history as well as being the regional capital of Limousin. World famous for its porcelain, Limoges is also a city full of other riches waiting to be discovered. Its parks and gardens are amongst the most beautiful in France and its fabulous monuments are breath-taking.
The Benedictine monastery, the Adrien-Dubouché museum, and the cathedral must not be missed. Its streets are full of history and its centre between the "grandes halles" and the Denis-Dussoubs square is magnificent. A visit to the Abbessaille quarter and the port of Naveix gives a glimpse into the rich history of the city.
PARC BELLEVUE - LIMOGES
PARC BELLEVUE is situated just north-west of Limoges near Bellegarde Airport. It is a great day out for all the family with all sorts of games and amusements, akin to a traditional amusement park. No matter what age you are, you will find something here for you. It is especially suitable for younger children.
There is an outdoor swimming pool, a small train track, a go-kart track, a four-lane slalom piste, trampolines, boats, dodgem cars, mini golf, motorised carts, an aerial assault course and all the traditional fairground rides. There is a large café and plenty of picnic areas as well as a small animal farm.
CHATEAU DE FOUGERET - QUEAUX
The CASTLE OF FOUGERET dominates the Vienne valley with a prominent elevated position. Its first mention dates back to 1337 and, although it underwent a period of restoration during the Second Empire, it still retains many of its medieval elements. During the Revolution it served as a High Court. It boasts a neo-gothic interior with wonderful spiral staircases, frescos and fireplaces.
It was classed as a historic monument in 2010. The castle has a 10 hectare park bordering the banks of the River Vienne. Since 2009 it has undergone a major restoration programme after being abandoned for half a century. The most intriguing fact about the castle is the abundance of paranormal activity.
In 2010 it was the subject of a TF1 documentary "La Soirée de l'Étrange. The castle is open to visitors and offers dedicated night visits to hunters of the paranormal.
Visit at your peril!
MORE PLACES TO VISIT
For those who love the classical world, the Gallo-Roman site at Sanxay to the west of Poitiers is a listed National Monument and the abbey at Nouaille-Maupertuis is also worth a visit. Other towns that offer a fascinating insight into the Poitou-Charentes region are: Loudun with its old town around the 'square tower'; Moncontour, a small town with a fascinating history and the nearby Chateau Oiron; Civray, for its magnificent medieval buildings and the Saint-Nicolas church and Chatellerault, 'Descartes town' for the Saint-Jacques church and the 17th century bridge.
ALL PHOTOS AND INFORMATION COURTESY OF THE VIENNE TOURIST BOARD
PLEASE VISIT THEIR SITES FOR DETAILS OF THESE ATTRACTIONS AND MORE