Les Hiboux

The Region of Poitou-Charentes

Explore the Poitou-Charentes region to sip Cognac and sample massive oysters. The region exceeds expectations for the avid golfer and watersports lover.

Small historic hamlets and chateaux are tucked away in once of France’s loveliest countrysides. Visit Poitou-Charentes, a holiday dream come true.

Northwest & Poitiers

Thouars is a picturesque town of half timbered homes, the exquisite Romanesque St Medard church and a 17th Century chateau. Nearby is the 16th Century Chateau d’Oiron of reputed loveliness. Visit France’s second largest livestock market on Wednesday mornings in the otherwise sleepy village of Parthenay, also an important stop on the pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela.

Marais Poitevin is an extensive marshland extending from Niort all the way to the ocean. The most visited part of the wetlands is called Venise Verte, so named for crisscrossing canals coloured by pastel waterlilies. Start in the village of Coulon for canal cruises. West of Niort are the burial mounds called Tumulus de Bougon, dating as far back as 4,500 BC!

The village of Melle is famous for its churches and abbeys, making for a lovely afternoon of exploring. Heading a bit north brings you to the chief city of Poitou-Charentes, Poitiers. Poitiers has played a vital role in the control of France with many key battles fought here.

The historic centre of Poitiers is charming and rich in heritage. The city is home to many important and fascinating buildings, such as, Notre Dame la Grande, Palais de Justice, Mediatheque Francois Mitterrand and St Pierre Cathedral. Other churches of note include Ste Radegonde, Baptistere St Jean and St Hilaire le Grand originating in the 6th Century.

The Hotel de Ville is centrally located and is intricate to the city. For relaxation and perhaps a picnic, the huge Parc de Blossac is a massive green area that is well kept and clean.

Northeast Poitou-Charentes

If your travels take you to the northeast of the region you will be in for a treat. The Abbaye de Nouaille-Maupertuis is gorgeous sitting peacefully alongside the Miosson River. As old as the 8th Century, it is a rare gem.

Also beautiful is Angles sur Anglin. This tiny hamlet is all charm built from the earth with an old fashioned watermill in the fore ground. This area east and northeast of Poitiers is dotted with intact and ruined medieval castles. Exploring these sites is surely an intriguing day out.

Not fitting in at all to the serene landscape is the startling Futuroscope Park. The park is designed to show the future of the earth and technology. The 11th Century church and its extensive wall paintings have put St Savin on the map.

Central and Southern Poitou-Charentes

La Rochelle has been an important port for over one thousand years, cementing its status as an important trading and commercial city. La Rochelle is also a holiday paradise for yachtsmen. Its chic historic harbour is worth exploring. The best view of the city is from atop the Tour de la Lanterne where you can appreciate the sprawls of cobblestone streets and the red tiled roofs leading to the water’s edge.

Head off the mainland to the picturesque Ile de Re. The chalky white cliffs have earned the island the nickname, White island. Find serenity amongst the thousands of bird and nature habitats and enjoy swimming. Cap off the day by sitting outside at one of the many seafood eateries serving the absolute freshest oysters!

Rochefort is La Rochelle’s ancient rival. Rochefort was built entirely to be the biggest shipyard in France. Rochefort was able to produce a staggering 300 vessels each year! Thus, the maritime history is rich and the cultural ties to the sea are worth exploring. Ile d’Aix is reachable by ferry and is famous as a holding ground of Napoleon before his formal exile.

Ile d’Oleron is the largest French island after Corsica, and like Corsica is a fabulous holiday retreat. Oyster lovers need to head back to the mainland to Marennes. Just south is the beach city of Royan. White sand is offset by colourful parasols and sunning tourists covering the beaches. The coast is stunning dotted by lighthouses marking the shoreline.

Heading inland brings you to the city of Saintes. This was a major village along the route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The town also has the vestiges of an ancient Roman past. Cognac is beautiful and worth a visit for the city itself, but it has gained world notoriety from its heavenly beverage of the same name.

Much like Champagne can only come from that region of France, a brandy is only a brandy unless it comes from Cognac. Even if you are not a lover of the heady, sweet drink, you will come to appreciate it through the Angel’s Share. Sample the best Cognac at Otard, Hennessey, Courvoisier and other legendary Cognac houses in the area.

Poitou-Charentes Golf

There are over 30 courses throughout the region with the heaviest concentration by far in the Charente-Maritime department in the northwest of the region. One of the best courses in the region is the Golf Club du Chateau des Forges in Les Forges. Book ahead in the high season, as this 18-hole challenging course can book up.

Haute-Poitou has a tricky back nine with lots of trees and some water hazards to make you think twice about your next club selection. It is located north in Saint Cyr. Golf de Cognac is not only a joy to play, but is so easy on the eyes. The fairways run along the Charente River and alongside the Cognac vineyards. Another course surely worth mentioning is Golf de Royan, near the popular seaside resort. The course presents a challenge to any handicap with fast greens and plenty of trees to get in your way.

Poitou-Charentes Sports & Leisure

Getting out into the great outdoors in Poitou-Charentes is an absolute joy! Hikers, walkers and cyclers will all be drawn to the Mouliere Forest and the Reserve du Lilleau de Niges, which will also draw the avid birdwatcher. The island of Aix is the least visited with a fantastic bird population.

The entire region of Poitou-Charentes is dedicated to cyclists. Over 2,000km of trails, paths and roads are clearly signposted for cyclers across the region. The expanse of canals, rivers, bays and oceanfront property means that all manner of watersports abound in the region. Kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, sailing and scuba diving are all prolific around the water. Also fishing still captivates a large audience. The main leisure activity along the coast is simply swimming and sunning.

Poitou-Charentes Dining Out

Feasting is a way of life on Poitou-Charentes. The fruits of the sea and of the earth are plentiful. Along the coast, one of the best dishes is Oyster Marenne d’Oleron, and snails are considered a great delicacy here. Bouchot Mussels are a fabulous addition to any menu. For drinks, obviously you must order Cognac at least once, but also sample Pineau des Charentes, Cognac’s accidental cousin. If you are looking for a regional specialty to take with you, buy Poitou-Charentes butter, a bottle of Cognac and some sea salt from Ile de Re.

Poitou-Charentes Restaurants

In Angouleme, Le Terminus has an excellent fresh seafood selection at good prices. Try the monkfish and definitely save room for dessert. In Cognac, the same family has run Les Pigeons Blancs since the 17th Century. In La Rochelle, Le Boute en Train uses ingredients from the local market, and Le Comptoir des Voyages on rue St Jean du Perot has an intoxicating atmosphere and a beguiling menu.

The rustic Le Poitevin in Poitiers has a menu that represents the best of the region and their mussels are particularly worth mentioning. Also in Poitiers is Maxime. It is classy to say the least, and all are welcome to dine on this delicious menu with equally adequate desserts and wines.

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