The Charente Maritime region is typified by glorious sandy beaches running into a backdrop of pine forests bordering the coast. In the heart of the coastal region is Ile d’Oleron, which has some of the finest beaches in France. The weather in the region is very special, the area regularly receives more hours of sunshine than even the Mediterranean coast of France thanks to its own local micro climate.
The cosmopolitan resort of Royan is the largest in the region and plays host to many fine hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants, night clubs and extensive shopping in addition to some great beaches and a marina. Nearby La Palmyre – Les Mathes and its world famous Zoo de La Palmyre is well worth a visit.
La Rochelle, with its fortified walls and fishing port is a must for a day trip whilst holidaying in the area. With daily flights with Ryanair, Easyjet and Flybe it makes for a convenient arrival point for those interested in fly drive holidays. La Rochelle now hosts one of France’s most spectacular Sea Life Aquariums which perfect for all the family.
Throughout France food and drink is all important, most regions have their own specialities and this one is no exception. Our personal favourite is Pineau des Charentes, legend has it, during the harvest of 1589, a winemaker accidentally added grape must into a barrel that he believed was empty but in fact contained Cognac eau de vie. The mixture was duly returned to the cellars for fermentation. A few years later, the barrel was retrieved and was found to contain the drink that is now associated with artisanal producers throughout the region of Charentes Maritime.
The local ‘fruits de mer’ can be sampled at restaurants throughout the region, fresh oysters from the world-renowned oyster beds of Marennes feature prominently. A short trip inland will take you to the town of Cognac which lends its name to the drink, the famous distilleries of Martell, Courvoisier and Hennessey can be found among many smaller elite names, most of the distilleries arrange guided tours in English and offer the opportunity to purchase discounted products.