Also known as the French “Green Venice” (Venise Verte) the Poitou Charentes region (north of Bordeaux, south of the Loire, by the Atlantic is another of those under-valued regions, which can be well worth visitng. Other than Cognac, it is not particularly well-endowed with fine vineyards, although the local white wines are often very palateable – the one exception being the excellent wines of Haut Poitou (especially Sauvignon) – although these wines in the north of the region tend to be an extension of the Loire vineyards.
Cognac of course is well worth a visit, with an attractive location on the banks of the Charente river. However, it is rather dominated by the big Cognac houses (Martell, Hennessy, Remy-Martin etc) – and there are plenty of smaller distilleries throughout the region which can provide a good introduction to the mysteries and joys of fine brandy.
The Poitou-Charentes region is sliced through by rivers such as the Charente and offers great opportunities for walking and cycling – see www.poitou-charentes-vacances.com Poitou-Charentes has endless signposted footpaths and cyclepaths by the Atlantic Ocean, along rivers, across nature reserves, marshes such as the Marais Poitevin and through pretty hamlets..The website has walking and cycling guides to download.
La Rochelle is an impressive fortified harbour town with some good beaches within easy reach – and the islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron are both very attractive with lots of sandy beaches and flat walking of cycling – not to mention the very best and freshest seafood.
Several low-cost airlines fly direct to La Rochelle and Poitiers – see our page here