- Countryside Grand castles, sandcastles
- Country life Brandy-soaked suppers
Topped by the Loire valley, tailed by Bordeaux, cooled by Atlantic breezes, Poitou-Charentes is the home of cognac, and a coast-to-country destination par excellence.
Beautiful beaches are the main draw, with bucket-and-spade Royan and yachtie La Rochelle the star-billed sands, and Ile d’Oléron
and Ile de Ré the offshore jewels. Meandering from north and east, a network of rivers once vital for paper mills and vineyards is now populated by kingfishers and canoeists. Gourmets will easily fall for this green and fertile land, where oysters and sirloin of beef are equally prized, and eaux de vie flow sociably. Whether you take your apéritif countryside or seaside, it’s the region’s easygoing calm you’ll raise a glass to.
Do go/Don’t go
When schools break up for summer, the region’s beaches fill with families; only go in July and August if you don’t mind sharing with them. Autumn is a great time to visit: the Atlantic is as warmed by the summer sun as it will ever be, and the grape harvest (September to October) brings festivals.
- Planes The region’s smaller airports include Poitiers | Limoges and La Rochelle. For internal connecting flights | try Airlinair (www.airlinair.com) and Brit Air (www.britair.com). For direct flights from the UK | Bordeaux is less than two hours away from Angoulême | and BA and EasyJet can take you there from London.
- Trains Poitiers and Angoulême are on the TGV route from Paris to Bordeaux (www.tgv.com). UK travellers should take the Eurostar and connect at Lille (eurostar.co.uk).
- Automobiles Angoulême is four and a half hours by road from Paris | seven hours from Calais. You can rent a car at Bordeaux airport or book car-hire pick-up at Poitiers rail station.
- Taxis It should be easy to hunt down a cab in bigger towns such as La Rochelle, Rochefort and Angoulême. In villages, c'est pas évident, though your hotel should be able to organise one for you.