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.
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.