See classic cars tackle Angoulême’s winding streets in the annual Circuit des Remparts race. Photo: Guy Hibbert

Head to the coast for seaside fun, boat rides and island life, or go inland for fast cars, gentle cycle rides and history…

Related article: Double the Fun in the Two Charentes

MUSEUMS AND HISTORY

With Romanesque architecture, generations of grand dukes, Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Hundred Years War and Napoleon’s forts there is culture and history to engage all tastes here. Highlights include the Abbaye aux Dames, the Corderie Royale, the Saintonge historical treasure route, the maritime museum and the military bunker at La Rochelle. Websites: www.corderie-royale.com, www.larochelle-tourisme.com, www.monuments-saintonge.com

The Marais Poitevin is, after the Camargue, the second largest marsh area in France. © Gilbert Bochenek

ACTIVITIES

Learn to fish in the calm wetlands of the Marais Poitevin. Horse-riding is also popular with over 1,200km of bridle paths and tracks available through beaches, forests and vineyards. Ride the waves with the wind – try kite-surfing on the Île de Ré.

Saujon is dedicated to water-sports including traditional activities like water-skiing and wind-surfing but also wake-boarding, wake-skating and knee-boarding. Hire a sailboat at one of the many nautical centres along the coast.

Golfers are well served with 15 courses.vThere are also marvellous cycle routes in this region that are suitable for everyone from beginners to enthusiasts. Cyclists should check out the local tourism office for vélo routes – there’s even an app to guide you on your way. Websites: www.randonnee-equestre-sud17.com, en.francevelotourisme.com, www.teleskisaujon.fr

Angoulême has a rich history, yet it is also a vibrant town full of youthful vigour. © JLPC

DAYS OUT

La Rochelle Aquarium was founded in the 1990s, and this year the premier private aquarium in France will host a new exhibition entitled ‘Coral reefs: millions of years in peril’, which looks at the degeneration of coral reefs around the world. Website: www.aquarium-larochelle.com

The town of Cognac is the heartland  of Cognac and Pineau des Charentes production. Try a sampling visit – learn about the history and the production process or just enjoy some memorable dégustations of the great brands such Camus, Rémy Martin, Hennessy and Martell. Websites: www.visitesremymartin.com, lesvisites.hennessy.com, www.cognac.fr, www.martell.com.

Established in 1966, Palmyre Zoo celebrated its golden anniversary last year. There are 1,600 animals in the zoo with 115 different species represented. It is one of the most visited private zoos in France with over 700,000 visitors every year. Website: www.zoo-palmyre.fr

The Phare des Baleines. © Olivier Issaly

COASTAL ATTRACTIONS

To get out and savour the fresh sea air, take a boat trip to one of the islands. There’s no better place to embark than La Rochelle, from where you can board pleasure boats to the islands of Ré, Oléron and Aix, or to the historic Fort Boyard, and hire speedboats or skippered yachts. Website: www.larochelle-tourisme.com

LIGHTHOUSES

Throw some light on the maritime history of the region with a visit to one of the four historic lighthouses along the coast and on the islands: Les Baleines, Cordouan, Chassiron and La Coubre. The views are worth the climb! Website

Twenty years ago an enthusiastic project built a replica of General Lafayette’s frigate, the Hermione. This year the ship is back again in Rochefort, where you can visit her before she sets sail again. Her next trip is at the planning stage so come and see the craftsmen working on the ship – carpenters, sail-makers and artists in their workshops – or look out for other events taking place throughout the year. Website: www.hermione.com

La Rochelle harbour is the gateway to the islands of Ré, Oléron and Aix. © William Scot

FESTIVALS & EVENTS

From September 15-17 this year Bugattis and Aston Martins will roar into life along the winding rampart streets of Angoulême in the annual Circuit des Remparts race. Buy
a ticket for the paddock to enjoy the cars and characters up close. Website

Comic-book fans flock to the famous Bande Dessinée festival in Angoulême to meet authors, graphic designers and publishers. The next one takes place from January 25-28, 2018. Website: www.angouleme-tourisme.com/bulles-de-bd/bulles

For other events taking place in Charente, go to www.lacharente.com/Je-prepare/Un-evenement and Charente-Maritime, visit www.en-charente-maritime.com/tourisme/ activites/sortir-faire-la-fete/agenda-manifestations

From France Today magazine

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