So Poitou Charentes is rated number 10 in the places Lonely Planet recommend you visit in 2012. Thats pretty good and as some of the places are a long way away, well they are if you live in Europe, then it is a good idea to follow their recommendation.
What they say is this; With quiet country roads wending through vine striped hills and wild stretches of coastal sands interspersed with misty islands the Atlantic coast is where the French get back to nature. Much more laid back than the Med.(but with almost as much sunshine) and ideally suited to familly holidays,this is a place where you can slow the pace right down. And there are numerous ways in which to do this. You could spend a morning quietly greeting curious ducks as you kayak down the glowing green canals rivers and streams of the Marais Poitevin. You could cycle over the lazy landscapes of the dreamy Ile de Re or raise a glass in the pretty town of Cognac. Or soak up the salty air of the white city, La Rochelle, after exploring its fascinating museums and breathtaking aquarium. Poitou Charentes is far from undiscovered- French tourists have been flocking here for years – but aside from the city of La Rochelle (an increasingly popular weekend break destination thanks to arrival of budget airlines), the area is woefully undervisited by foreigners. Stuart Butler.
It is good that they put the region in their top ten list, but I would not give Stuart ten out of ten for either his grammar or his knowledge of the region….
Twenty years ago the region might have been ‘woefully undervisited by foreigners’. Today in my local Intermarche there is a section devoted to selling English food, so you can get Marmite, Cornflakes, PG tips and Pukka Pies! Also in Bricomarche there is a chap who speaks perfect English so all the poor Brits who can only say ‘Deux bieres si vous plait’ can seek him out and ask for their tap washers or five metres of flex. The region has a huge population of British and Dutch who live there, as do I some of the year. Numbers increase in the school holidays when relations from GB come out to spend time with Nanny and Grandad. Having said that it is a big area and you can do your own thing so if you want to share a beer with someone else who speaks your language you can and if you want to avoid them then that is equally possible.
If I might be so bold as to suggest Poitiers as a place to fly into and in which to spend some time, the city has some excellent restaurants and pavement cafes along with a market which I defy you to visit and not buy some delicacy. Close by is the major attraction of the Futuroscope, a great day out for young and old alike. Just up the road is the wine region of Haut Poitou, not as famous as some of the Bordeaux regions or the Loire wines but very good drinking and not expensive. The white sauvignon blanc is dry and crisp and goes down far too easily on a hot day. Just a short drive south is the Vallee de Singes, not a zoo but more of a wild life sanctuary dedicated to monkeys.
In the south of the region is Angouleme another city that is a popular destination. If you are into motorsport visit on 14th to 16th September for the Circuit de Remparts which is where old classic cars race round the ramparts of the town, sort of the inner ring road. The surrounding countyside has much to offer as well – try Barbezieux and the superb Plan D’eau called Etang Vallier at Brossac, just one of many throughout the region.
Finally curious ducks? Well not in my experience. They are normally fairly shy and keep their heads down for fear of the orange sauce that might come their way.