Located on a plateau at the top of a hill overlooking the meandering Charente River, Angoulême is the capital of the Charente department. The city has a large historical, religious, and urban heritage, and is classified as a City of Art and History. Angoulême is surrounded by boulevards above the old city walls, from which there are fantastic views in all directions. The ‘old town’ has been well preserved and is largely reserved for pedestrians. It has a cobbled restaurant quarter, with several galleries and boutiques. The city is internationally renowned as the ‘Capital of the Image’, especially comic strips or bandes dessinées (BD). Comic strip fans may be interested in the Musée de la Bande Dessinée that houses a unique collection of 8,000 original drawings. Le Plan d’Eau de Saint Yrieix swimming lake and lake beach is also worth a visit (for more information see the things to do / see section).
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages in France) and is a very picturesque town with beautiful houses arranged like an Amphitheatre on the hillside. The name Aubeterre is derived from Albaterra meaning “White earth” which comes from the white chalk rock face overlooking the village. As well as many nice restaurants and small shops, a highlight of the town is the Saint-Jean underground monolithic church, which was carved out of the rock by monks in the 12th century. There is also a popular river beach in the town.
Barbezieux -Saint-Hilaire (25km)
Barbezieux is a fortified hill town with narrow streets of unspoilt, typically Charentaise buildings. The city has preserved its architectural heritage and has two interesting historical buildings - the castle, dating from the fifteenth century, and St. Mathias Church built in the eleventh century. The village of Saint-Hilaire is located about 1 km southwest of Barbezieux.
The city of Bordeaux is the ninth largest city in France, and is the capital of the international wine industry. There are many chateaus around the city where it is possible visit for wine tasting. The city is classified as a City of Art and History, and has 362 monuments historiques (only Paris has more in France) with some buildings dating back to Roman times. It is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Bordeaux has many shopping options mainly located on the Rue Sainte-Catherine, a pedestrian only shopping street with shops, restaurants and cafés, which is 1.2 kilometers long - one of the longest shopping streets in Europe.
Brossac is the nearest town the gite. It is a small sleepy hill top town with a small Roman church dating from the 11th century. Etang Vallier swimming lake and lake beach is located only 1km outside of town.
The nearby town of Chalais is dominated from its chateau, which stands on a rocky outcrop and originally dates from the 11th century. The town has a number of restaurants and shops, including an English second hand book store. There is an excellent market on Monday mornings.
Cognac is situated on the Charente River between the towns of Angoulême and Saintes. The town gives its name to one of the world’s best-known types of brandy, which must be made in certain areas around the town of Cognac, according to strictly-defined regulations to be granted the name Cognac. The process of Cognac distillation can be viewed in one of the many “Grande Marque” Cognac houses which all have visitor centres. Most central in the town are Hennessy, Martell, Otard, Camus and Remy Martin. The narrow cobbled streets of the old town contain many unusual buildings, built between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Jonzac is built on two hills on the banks of the Seugne, a tributary of the Charente River, which meanders through the city. The south-east part of the town is protected because of its rich ecosystem, which includes mink and otters, and several walking trails have been marked out in this part of the city. There is a chateau dating from 1449 and the old city gate dating from the 15th century survives.
La Rochelle (155km)
La Rochelle has beautifully maintained its historic architecture, making it one of the most picturesque and historically rich cities on the Atlantic coast. The main feature of the city is the picturesque old harbour, which is located at the heart of the city and is lined with seafood restaurants. The city has a large aquarium and a small botanical gardens.
Although Montguyon is small, with less than 1500 inhabitants, it is the chief town of the district of Haute Saintonge. The town has many historical monuments including a dolmen (a structure consisting of two or more large upright large stones set with a space between them and capped with a horizontal stone) that is thought to be 4500 years old, a chateau dating from the 11th century and a Roman church dating from the 12th century (located in the hamlet of Vassiac next to Montguyon). There is also the swimming lake of Beau Vallon that has a nice lake beach.
A seaside resort, Royan is the capital of the “Côte de beauté”, and is located at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, the largest estuary in Europe. Royan has five sandy beaches that stretch for several kilometres either side of town, and a nice marina and a fishing port. It has many foreign visitors, but many French also holiday here and it has a very French feel. La Palmyre zoo, one of the largest zoos in Europe, is close to the city.
Saintes is located on the banks of the Charente River. When the Romans conquered much of France in the first century BC, they established their regional capital, Mediolanum, on the site of modern day Saintes, and during Roman times the town became very prosperous. You can still see remnants in the Arch of Germanicus, the Amphitheatre and the Thermal baths. Today the town retains its rich history and it a world famous centre for art and culture. The St Pierre district in the heart of the old town is full of chic shops and many restaurants and cafes.
Saint Aulaye is a small fortified medieval town built in 1288 and some of the original ramparts still exist. Narrow streets lead to the 11th century Roman church, and a chateau that dates back to the thirteenth century, and is now the town hall. The village is also known for its rare 11th century bridge spanning the river Dronne. A popular river beach is also located in the town. There is a museum of cognac and wine in the village - the Musee du Cognac et du Vin.