The Poitou-Charentes region of South West France is still almost completely unspoilt and is a true gem. There is virtually no industry and it is one of the most tranquil areas of France. Poitou-Charentes lies between the rivers Loire and Gironde, spreading inland from the Atlantic at La Rochelle to just north of Poitiers. It benefits from a superb micro-climate and is second only to the Mediterranean.
This produces a warm, balmy, maritime climate. Spring comes early and summers are usually long and dry with temperatures often reaching more than 30 degrees C. The Gulf Stream ensures that winters are relatively mild. Rain, in winter and spring takes the form of a steady drizzle, although it seldom rains all day.
The landscape of Poitou-Charentes is largely gently undulating wooded agricultural land with rolling fields of bright sunflowers chasing the sun.
The main town is Angoulême, a busy centre with fantastic shopping. Angoulême offers an interesting old quarter and a huge variety of restaurants.
A trip to Angoulême should also include nearby La Rochefoucauld.
Its château is reminiscent of the chateaux of the Loire. In fact the Italianate Grand Courtyard there is one of the finest in France.
A few kilometres away you can find LUSIGNAN with an ancient ruined castle said to have been built by the fairy Melusine.
ANGOULÊME lies at the head of the navigable part the River Charente. The Charente flows along a wide valley 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.
This is the CHARENTE-MARITIME, an area of marshland that runs along the coast known as the Marais and famous for its oyster beds.
The MARAIS POITEVIN in particular, is best explored by boat. ROYAN is a relatively modern town and seaside resort with excellent beaches.
The busy port of LA ROCHELLE caters for both huge ocean-going commercial ships and a large fishing community.
Despite this industrial presence, the town, with its old harbour defences, arcaded houses and parks, has preserved much of its character and is a popular holiday centre.
Here you will find great shopping, an excellent fish market near the Old Harbour and numerous bistros.
THE VIENNE DÉPARTEMENT
Poitou-Charentes comprises the four Départements of Charente (16) in the south east, Charente-Maritim (17) in the south west, Deux Sèvres (79) in the north east and Vienne (86) in the north west.
The Vienne Département lies in the north east of the region and is a land of beautiful contrasts.
It has a rich historical and architectural landscape and is the perfect destination for families, cyclists and anglers.
The Vienne is bursting with numerous architectural treasures throughout its length and breadth, a breathtaking reminder of how events and vision have shaped this beautiful area.
The beautiful ancient villages of ANGLES-SUR-L'ANGLIN, CHARROUX, CHAUVIGNY and SAINT-SAVIN are prime examples of the Vienne's architectural heritage and should be included in your stay.
In fact Angles-sur-l'Anglin is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France.
But it's not just the abbeys and castles that lie testimony to the past. The charm of a simple windmill can leave a lasting impression too.
The Vienne offers many magnificent rivers, such as the Gartempe, the Charente and the Vienne with gently undulating hills and calm, cool valleys.
Contrast this with the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of POITIERS. Situated on a rocky plateau above two rivers, it is a subtle and intriguing mélange of history and technology. Poitiers embraces both its past and its future.
It is rightly proud of its ancient Roman heritage, but equally so of its theme park, FUTUROSCOPE, which is dedicated to the theme of new technology.
Poitiers offers superb shopping, dining and stunning architectural riches.
As you would imagine, the area offers wonderful dining experiences. Excellent fish, shellfish and oysters can be found almost everywhere.
Abundant fresh fruit and vegetables and the wines, cheeses and charcuteries from all regions of France are available as each town and village has a market on different days of the week.
Pineau, a delicious brandy based wine usually taken as an aperitif, is very popular.
Good sailing, swimming and water sports are on offer throughout the area. There are several golf courses, inexpensive and easily accessible.
The Vienne is wonderful cycling country and anglers are well catered for with fresh water fishing in the rivers.
For those seeking a bargain, there are numerous bric-a-brac and brocante (country antique) markets from May until September. Music festivals, theatre and dance events happen throughout the summer.
ALL INFORMATION AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF FRENCH CONNECTIONS,
PLEASE VISIT THEIR SITES FOR MORE DETAILS ON POITOU-CHARENTES AND VIENNE