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Drinking liquid sunshine in France

Writer and Editor, Judy Leaver, recently tried out our Classic Cognac walk with some friends

Here's her experience of the trip:

Francois Premier Hotel, Cognac

Victor Hugo described Cognac as the Nectar of the Gods. Pineau des Charentes might be called the younger, more delicate sister of Cognac. It doesn’t burn its way down your throat the way Cognac does. Pineau is served chilled and can be ordered blanc or rouge. Because of its golden colour, white Pineau is sometimes called a glass of liquid sunshine. It is produced in the region of France that my friends and I are hiking this week—called Classic Cognac by BelleFrance, the British company that arranged our trip.

We started our journey in Angouleme, the municipal center of the Charente region where cognac and its cousins are produced. We are generally following the Charente River as we walk. There are six of us - women of a certain age – who have been hiking somewhere in Europe annually for nine years. We are determined to continue doing so until hips, knees, and vital organs fail us.

Our hike the first day plunged us into the vineyards that produce the sweet white grapes for Pineau. Some of us took the shorter route—9 miles—and saw both white and red grapes.

The remaining three of us took the long route (15+ miles!) and saw only white grapes as we walked.

From this ...

Green grapes

To this!


We were sorely in need of Pineau when we finally arrived at the historic Hostellerie du Maine Brun, a country inn that was originally a mill. Although the wheel is gone, the river rolls beneath the main dining room. A quick dip in their freezing swimming pool followed by a hot bath and elegant three-course meal meant a deep sleep for all of us.

That restful night prepared us for our 13-mile hike on Thursday.

These treks are long but not difficult. And they take us through jaw-dropping countryside of softly rolling hills with orderly rows of grape vines…laden with white, red, and dark purple grapes that are ready to be harvested.

The city of Cognac is our destination today….after a meandering 13-mile walk, mostly along the river. It is indescribably ‘delicious’ to walk through this fertile land, enjoying it in every conceivable way.

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