Just an hour’s drive from the gite La Rochelle is a lively, stylish resort with something for everyone. Relax on the beach at Chatelaillon, explore the markets including the night market of Minimes in the summer, people watch as you drink cocktails in one of the many cafes and bars, enjoy a boat trip around the bay or go shopping in La Rochelle’s pedestrianised area.
The aquarium at La Rochelle is open every day until 11pm in July and August, pop along in the evening to discover this tranquil place and avoid the queues!
For the history buff there are a number of museums including The Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum), Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), Musée des Automates et Modèles réduits (Museum of Automatons and Scale Models).
You can also visit La Rochelle’s bunker. Built in the middle of La Rochelle’s city centre in an incredible 300m² bunker that dates back to 1941 and explore the history of La Rochelle during World War Two.
Saintes was once the Roman capital of Aquitaine and the town still bears evidence of their occupation, from the Gallo Roman Amphitheatre to the Arch of Germanicus and find out more in the museum of Archaeology. There are numerous other buildings worth visiting including Saintes Cathedral and the Basilica. Wander through the public gardens down to the riverbank and then take a cruise down the Charente.
Rochefort is a great day out, the highlight is the Rope Museum at the Corderie Royale which is a lot more interesting than it sounds! You can buy a ticket for EUR18 that allows you to visit the Corderie, the replica frigate Hermione and the Maritime Museum. The town itself is worth exploring with its elegant boulevards and architecture.
Obviously the place to visit to find out how Cognac is made and to arrange tastings. A replica of the famous flat bottomed sailing barges which transported barrels of cognac and other local produce sails regularly from Cognac’s ancient quayside, you need to buy tickets form the Cognac Tourist Office. The town also preserves stately 16th century mansions built by wealthy merchants. You can also cruise the river on a traditional gabare.
If you want to find out more about Cognac there are a number of options. Hennessy offer a range of visits from 1 hour including tasting up to an in-depth tour of the distillery visiting areas usually not open to the public but these can be very pricey – up to EUR200.
With a heritage dating back to 1809 Courvoisier is based at its magnificent chateau in Jarnac. There are a number of visits to choose from – The Courvoisier’s Classic is a 1 hour introduction including a cognac tasting. The Premium Visit lasts two hours and includes 4 tastings.
The nearest large town to us with plenty of parking to make exploring the town easy. Places to visit include the Donjon d’Alenior d’Aquitaine begun by Henry Plantagenet and completed by Richard the Lionheart. Les Halles des Niort holds markets every morning (except Monday). Other places to visit include the Eglise Notre Dame with its 75m spires. Fine art and natural history collections in Le Musee Bernard D’Agesci and La Porte Bleue, shopping areas and places to picnic in the landscaped place de la Breche.
Melle has been designated a Petite Cite de Caractere. It has ancient silver mines which once supplied the French Mint, plus three Romanesque churches – the Eglise Saint Hilaire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Encircling the town is the Chemin de la Decouverte an award winning arboretum and rose walk. Nearby Celles sur Belle has a magnificent Abbaye Royale and just behind it is the Musee Pierre Certain which displays a collection of historic motorcycles.
Jarnac is a picturesque town on the Charente, best known as the birthplace of Francois Mitterand and where you can visit the Mitterand Museum, home to many of the objects he was given by foreign leader and well as other tributes, photos and memorabilia. Much of the town centres along the river banks and the quais along the Charente river. If you want to shop, there are plenty of specialist shops at the Place du Chateau and along the Grand Rue. Jarnac falls within the region defined as the Cognac Appellation Controlee and includes the world famous Courvoisier which is open for visits during the summer