Poitou-Charentes has a great coast line with some wonderful destinations, but for those of us who live on the eastern side of the region it is a long haul over to the coast. Over the years the roads have improved and we no longer have to trail round St Jean d’Angely and there is a short stretch of motorway which enables you to avoid Tonnay Charente. The use of the sat nav has arguably made the route more straightforward. Ours will save us 5 miles by cutting across from Sauze Vaussais to Aunlay, thus avoiding the aromas of Melle. However it is a wonder to me that in Chef Boutonne, a commune little bigger than a village, the sat nav makes takes a route through involving a seemingly endless series of right and left turns. Nevertheless with all the improvements in navigation and roads we can now get to our nearest bit of coast in about two hours at Fouras. We have visited many times over the years and like it very much for a number of reasons, See my blog……http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/fouras/
If you want to explore a bit further afield, then to do it in a day involves quite a lot of driving. I like Ile d’Oleron. I prefer it to Ile de Re partly because the bridge is free and partly because I feel that on the Ile de Re they are bicycle friendly to the point of being car unfriendly. whereas on Ile d’Oleron I think they have the balance right. This week we went to La Cotiniere, and so as to avoid the drive there and back in one day we booked into a hotel for the night.
I would highly recommend the Hotel de la Plage. It is about 7 minutes walk from the harbour and town area - although it took us 10 minutes to walk in as I am suffering from a torn calf muscle due to an over exuberant game of squash a few weeks ago. The hotel is modern, charming and clean, and the rooms are fine. The hosts are very friendly, breakfast was excellent, with a decent choice and there is a nice clean swimming pool with loungers all round in the garden which also offers table tennis and table football -and to top it all it is only 30 seconds walk to the beach which is, or was when we were there, virtually deserted and long and sandy. The price is very reasonable so give it a go! There are several other attractive looking hotels nearby. Click here for the Hotel de la Plage web site, and here is a photo I took of the front which is not terribly inspired - it’s the inside of the hotel and its grounds which are its best feature.
La Cotinière is Charente-Maritime’s leading fish and seafood harbour. In 2005 no less than 4800 tonnes of fish were unloaded on La Cotinière docks, which represents a 21 million euro sales turnover.
At La Cotinière Harbour 250 to 300 fishermen work year-round on some 100 fishing boats.
This traditional fishing harbour now uses a modern computerized auction system and has a boat lift.
Produce diversity is what best characterises La Cotinière Harbour. Over 90 species can be found on the market stalls such as bass, langoustine, céteau (La Cotinière is France’s leading céteaux fishing harbour).
You can observe the fish being unloaded on the quays at any time of the year and also watch the enthusiastic trading from the gallery overlooking the auction hall.
It’s good to have a working harbour at the centre of the community. It is a tourist attraction as well as an industry in its own right and of course it provides for the local restaurants . We did notice, on our way towards La Cotiniere, a sign advertising Fish and Chips, and thought, oh no! with visions of English fish and chips and Watneys red barrel a la Benidorm and Torremolinos . But no- it is a small but very busy little bar where people collect their fish and chips and all the fish is fresh and caught locally. It seemed to be very popular and smelt good. We should have had their fish and chips on Thursday evening, instead of the meal we did have - more about that soon.
There are lots of eating establishments in La Cotinere and we went to two of them. Firstly we went to La Chaloupe on a Thursday lunch time, it was very busy and very good, I will not go into details as my wife will write a full review of it shortly. In the evening we had a couple of beers in the warm sunshine at La Gaiete, on the pleasant pavement terrace which overlooks the harbour. We decided to eat at their restaurant next door which looks very attractive. As we had eaten a full meal at lunch time we decided to have a main course only. It was very average and fairly expensive and I would not recommend it - as I said, on reflection we might have been better off with fish and chips!
The next day we went back to La Chaloupe where I had a very good assiete de Fruits de Mer. We couldn’t help noticing onr of the day’s specials being brought out - some giant fish kebabs with langostines, red mullet, scallops and lots lots more- most impressive and that’s what I will have next time should it be available!
My photo of La Chaloupe does not do it justice as I took it at about 9am and at that time they did not have their tables and chairs set out and no customers. They must take in and stack up all the tables and chairs every night - what a chore that must be after a busy days work.
There is a good collection of shops, selling clothes sun umbrellas, buckets and spades etc, but again the 9am photo shows it fairly empty and shut. La Cotiniere is a good place to visit. It has extensive, easily accessible sandy beaches all the way along. I did not take any photos of the beaches as there were a few people on the beach, some of them with not a lot on, some of them with nothing on, and they may have taken exception and, besides it was too hot and too sunny to bother with photos! Finally I must mention the road system around the port. It is confusing, as at one point you find yourself driving on the left as in GB which is most disconcerting!