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 PARK, 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 melange 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.
LA VALLEE DES SINGES - ROMAGNE
LA VALLÉE DES SINGES in Romagne is home to 30 species of apes in a natural setting and gives you the opportunity of feeding them too. You will find the largest concentration of chimpanzees in Europe. There are 30 primate species in an area where more than 350 animals roam within 15 hectares of natural wooded parkland.
Watch feeding-times throughout the day. Since it opened, Monkey Valley has seen over 350 births, including 9 baby gorillas. It is a great way to spend the day and highly recommended.
LA PLANÊTE DES CROCODILES - CIVAUX
Vienne is a great place for anyone interested in animals and nature. LA PLANÊTE DES CROCODILES, 40km away in Civaux, is set under a huge glass dome 20m high and covering an area of 5000m2.
It houses 8 species of crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gavials from 4 continents, all in completely natural environments.
LES GÉANTS DU CIEL - CHAUVIGNY
Chauvigny is an ancient medieval town with a fabulous castle perched on top of the cliff. This is the showcase for a wonderful show LES GÉANTS DU CIEL - birds from all round the world fly over the ruins of the imposing Bishops' Castle.
Discover kookaburras from Australia, snowy owls, great horned owls, white storks, condors, American parrots, eagles and vultures. It is a great opportunity to get as close to these majestic birds as possible while eagles and falcons fly past over your head.
LA DOMAINE DE DIENNÉ - DIENNÉ
The DOMAINE DE DIENNÉ is only 20 minutes from Poitiers and Futuroscope and is well worth a visit. It occupies an extensive natural site among valleys and woods. It's a fantastic day out for all the family and, apart from the variety of activities on offer, it also provides unusual tourist accommodation in horse-drawn caravans, yurts and treehouses.
Dienné offers an eclectic mix of activities including: a relaxation centre with sauna, steam room, hot tub, fitness gym; a Wellness restaurant; a hairdresser; a Tyrolean cable adventure park for adults and children; hiking trails; bike trails; fishing; the enigmatic Domain mysteries; a riding club with more than 40 horses and ponies and a three-star pet hotel.
LE VIEUX CORMENIER - CIVRAY
Discover the history of this rural family from the birth of Pierre at the beginning of the 20th century to the First World War. As an actor in the scenes, LE VIEUX CORMENIER will transport you to the early 1900's thanks to exciting special effects that will reveal all the secrets of the past!
The visit features 16 scenes enhanced with realistic sets, dialogues and lots of sound and visual effects. The rooms are air-conditioned and translations in English are available. It's a great interactive way to discover the traditional rural culture of the area at first hand.
LE PARC DE LA BELLE - MAGNÉ
In 10 hectares of beautiful valleys on the banks of the river Belle in MAGNÉ, this diverse and verdant park offers a wealth of flowers, shrubs and plants in any season of the year. Stroll along the paths, lined with ancient trees to enjoy the hundred different varieties of flora. You can experience a typical 19th century Poitou manor house where you will find a traditional baking oven, greenhouse, washhouse, lord of the manor's quarters, priest's garden, and ornamental vegetable garden.
This garden houses more than 20,000 plants, many trees and different varieties of flowers. The lower meadows and glade are landscaped, which enhance the woods and the naturally marshy areas of the gardens. The park offers exhibitions and themed weekends. The Autumn Scents weekend is always a highlight. There is a big play area and a small petting farm for children. There is also a maze created from living bushes. For your convenience there is a small restaurant and souvenir shop.
LE PARC DE SAINT-CYR
SAINT-CYR is a very large recreation park near Poitiers that offers a raft of different activities for all the family. In fact it's the closest thing to the seaside without driving to the beach. There is a large lake surrounded by a beautifully soft sandy beach. It offers great swimming for everyone including supervised swimming and beach club activities for children aged 6 - 12 in July and August.
A sailing centre offers windsurfing, catamarans, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats. There are also mountain bikes available to rent. Saint-Cyr also offers several sports areas: beach volleyball, beach soccer, sand ball, ultimate, beach rugby, football, tennis, and a children's playground. If you're a keen fisherman there are plenty fishing areas to enjoy. Saint-Cyr has a snack bar, and four-star camping facilities.
LE VÉLORAIL - CHAUVIGNY
Chauvigny is a beautiful medieval town with the ruins of an imposing castle perched on the cliff. It is the location for a really unusual adventure using a unique means of transport, called LE VÉLORAIL. It's a great way for the family to get some exercise together while seeing the best parts of the town.
These "rail-bikes", where you pedal in a specially constructed vehicle on the railway tracks, will take you on a journey around the medieval town of Chauvigny. These tracks once transported men and stone from the famous quarries nearby. This 2 hour journey takes you over a 17 km trail.
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 fireworks, the ‘Un Violon sur le sable’ (A Violin on the Sand) event, International Jumping…. All along the coast of Royan, there are a large number of walks and bike rides. Finally, located 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.
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