Set between the Loire and Aquitaine on the Atlantic Coast, Poitou Charentes is an area of sunshine and pine forests which slope down to sandy beaches. Just off this coast are four islands, Aix, Madame Oléron and Ré. The two biggest Oléron and Ré are connected to the mainland by bridges. The region produces wheat and corn and has many herds of cattle.
Departments and Main Towns
Charente - Capital: Angoulême (16), Charente-Maritime - Capital: La Rochelle(17), Deux-Sèvres - Capital: Niort (79) Vienne - Capital: Poitiers (86)
Angoulême spans the River Charente and has many beautiful medieval buildings.
Cognac is the birthplace of the brandy that is enjoyed around the world.
La Rochelle on the Bay of Biscay, is a fishing port with great tradition and attracts a variety of pleasure craft to Les Minimes, its harbour. Its coastal location and charm make it very much a tourist attraction. 14th Century towers - Tour de la Chaine and Tour St. Nicolas - are to be seen at the harbour entrance. The streets are cobbled. You can cross the toll bridge, constructed in 1988, to Isle de Re and enjoy the charm of this little island - capital and main port St Martin. Other ports on the island are Rivedoux and La Flotte. This island is as sunny as the South of France but the maritime breeze tempers the heat. For sandy beaches go over the separate road bridge to the Isle de Oléron.
Jonzac is a wine and brandy producing town.
Marennes. is on the Charantais coast and is famous for its oysters. These plump molluscs develop in profusion in the salt marshes that have been a part of the region for centuries and have a unique and delicate flavour.
Poitiers is justifiably proud of Futuroscope. Apart from the many, many futuristic cinemas and interactive entertainment there is a 2 hectare area specially for children. www.futuroscope.com Going back to the past, the Romans left many relics in the form of baths and amphitheatres.
Pineau des Charentes. It is said that in 1589 a wine producer poured unfermented grape juice innto a barrel of brandy by mistake and forgot about it. Some years later he discovered this and found he had created a wonderful new drink. Pineau des Charentes is white or rosé. It has to be aged for years in oak barrels and its production and sale is strictly controlled by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine).
Cognac First created as a brandy in the 16th century. Apart from the quality of the grapes used for its production- Folle Blanche, Colombard and Ugni Blanc,, it is aged skilfully in oak casks which due to their porosity blend with the liquid to give it its colours. The oldest Cognacs are kept in a special dark cellar known as "The Paradis".
Melons from Charentes.
Oysters These are in abundance in the Marennes-Oléron basin which is the largest oyster-producing area in France
Snails These come in various varieties, the Charentes snails are traditionally named "cagouilles" and in Poitou, they are called "lumas".
Legends and Traditions
The Counts of Poitou were also the Dukes of Aquitaine and Eleanor of Aquitaine loved Poitiers and grew up in the Palace there and subsequently lived there for some some when she was Queen of England. To find out more about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Click here to go to her story which is on the page devoted to Aquitaine.
Not historic but folk lore the "Grand Goule": which was half a snake and half a dragon lived below the Abbey of Sainte-Croix, in Poitiers and terrorised the town until it was conquered by Sainte Radegonde