Why this lovely region is an off-peak paradise
Charente is one of the busiest regions in France, mainly due to the sunny climes and miles of sandy shoreline. Popular destinations include La Rochelle – a lovely port town which is not only picturesque but has wonderful restaurants and shops to visit too, or some of the delightful islands just off the coast, such as Ile de Ré or Ile d’Oleron.
But the best time to explore this beautiful region is outside of peak season, when the crowds have dispersed and you can leisurely explore the nature and scenery around you. And what better way to do that, in this instance, than on two wheels? There are plenty of cycle paths in the region, some following the river Charente, some exploring the châteaux, and some lovely little tours of the islands off the coast.
And some of the best sights to see are away from the tourist trail, away from the coastline where life is quieter, more tranquil. Here you are likely to come across pretty villages and sleepy hamlets, interspersed with small châteaux and other fortified buildings. All surrounded by wonderful fields of sunflowers.
Of course, a visit to the region can’t be considered complete without a visit to Cognac, what better opportunity to try the famous liqueur in its place of birth?
So here are a few places, some popular, some off the beaten track which would be on our recommendations list.
Ok, so of course this should be on the to-do list, not just for the tasting, but it’s actually a really pretty town too. In fact, the old town is a lot quieter, away from the shops and cafés, but it’s definitely more interesting. For example, the buildings are mainly made from white stone, local to the whole region, which gives the whole town a distinctive character. Attractive houses from the 15th to 18th centuries line narrow cobbled streets, and down by the riverside you can walk along a promenade where many of the distilleries can be found. A truly enchanting place to visit.
Our Classic Cognac cycling tour is a perfect way to explore the region.
Angles-sur-l’Anglin has not only been called one of the most beautiful villages in France, but it has a pretty interesting history too. It was the last stronghold of the English in the Hundred Years War. Sights to see here include the clifftop castle ruins which dates from the 11th century. Although the ruins themselves are closed to the public, they are a sight to behold.
Also a must-see is the Roc Aux Sorciers, or Witches Rock, the site of some incredible pre-historic carvings dated from about 14 000 years ago. They are some of the most important carvings in Europe, 3D representations of animals that was only discovered in 1950. A replica of the carvings has been made so that the public can finally enjoy them, which is great news!
Verteuil is a pretty little village which is on the pilgrimage route on the banks of the river. Of course there is the obligatory castle which is a staple in these Charente picturesque villages, but this is a stunning version, situated on the river, giving a perfect picture postcard image. It was originally built in the 12th century, and then built on in the 15th Century, with round towers with distinct conical roofs.
There’s an interesting part to the village, as in the middle of it, there’s no village square, but the river splits and forms an island which is home to several houses and a hotel which was once a 15th Century convent.
Other sights include 12th Century church and 16th Century decorated pottery scene.
You can visit this village as part of our Chateaux of the Charente cycling tour.
Charente is truly a picturesque region, well away from the tourist trail is where the real beauty lies. Which is why our three holidays in the region all explore the best bits, and the three suggestions above only touch the surface. If you want to know, find and explore more, then get in touch and we can help you organise the perfect trip for you.
Castle Ruins - By Jochen Jahnke, CC BY-SA 2.0 de
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