Restaurants

We love our food and wine and love to eat out. We are very lucky to have some excellent restaurants in the area, some we regularly visit, some are for really special occasions and others have been recommended by families who have stayed with us at our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France.

Restaurants for a special occasion

Le Scorlion restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

Le Scorlion is a superb restaurant located in the centre of Saint Jean d’Angely and overlooking the Abbey cloisters. Perfect for an intimate dinner for two. Excellent service, delicious food and superb price. Listed in the Michelin guide. Well worth asking me to babysit so you can have a grown up meal out one evening whilst staying with us.

menus from 27€ to 40€

Read more about Le Scorlion restaurant here…..

La Goule Beneze restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

 

 

 

 

Located just on the edge of Saint Jean d’Angely, La Goule Beneze is a small family run hotel and restaurant. Subsequently it offers a superb childrens menu and there may be families present who are staying in the hotel; however it still offers a grown up atmosphere with linen tablecloths and lovely table settings, so worth a special occasion.

The couple have travelled extensively and speak excellent English if you are struggling with the menu. The menu itself is well thought out, changes regularly with the season and has unusual flavours mixed with classic dishes.

menus from 26€ to 40€

childrens menu

Read more about La Goule Beneze restaurant here….

Les Pigeons Blancs restaurant, Cognac

Located on the edge of Cognac in beautiful grounds, Les Pigeons Blancs restaurant offers a lovely setting for a sunny outdoor meal or an intimate evening meal inside. The cheese platter is fantastic and you have to choose a minimum of 3 desserts – so make sure you are hungry !

menus from 27€ to 60€

childrens menu

Read more about Les Pigeons Blancs restauarant here…..

Christopher Coutanceau, La Rochelle

With 2 michelin stars, this is one for a very special occasion. I’d say it would be difficult to find a restaurant in the UK of such a high standard at such a reasonable price and pretty much impossible to find one with a high chair !

Located overlooking the beach in La Rochelle and at the entrance to the port area, you can watch the yachts sale in and out of the harbour whilst enjoying a superb meal.

Businessmen and woman frequent this establishment to impress their clients but we have eaten here with the children (because they love their food as much as we do !) and they are treated with the same respect as everyone (but they are very well behaved of course !)

menus from 68€ to 230€

Read more about Coutanceau restaurant here ….

Restaurants for all the family

The closest restaurants to our family holiday cottages can all be found just a short drive away (10mins) in Saint Jean d’Angely. All our local restaurants welcome families with well behaved children. All the following restaurants have a childrens menu.

Le Petit Bouchon restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

Le Petit Bouchon restauarant is located in the centre of our local town, Saint Jean d’Angely, just next to the indoor market ; so the perfect spot to eat after an hour or so browsing the market stalls on Wednesday and Saturday market days.

 

 

We have so far never eaten there but many of our guests have. One said he always eats there as it’s the best steak he’s ever eaten – quite an accolade. It has good reviews on Trip advisor

Le Cabanon restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

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We have eaten here at lunch and dinner and also for a coffee in the morning. The great thing about this restaurant is it’s open on Monday evenings when everything else is closed ! Plus it’s open all day for coffee. We experienced great service (as do most of their clients according to the excellent reviews on Trip advisor )

Le Moulin de la Baine restaurant, Chaniers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has been a favourite of ours for many years. Set in a Colbert appointed water mill over the river Charente it provides a stunning setting for a long lunch on sunny Sunday afternoons. We often go for birthday celebrations with the whole family as the service is always excellent as the staff are used to waiting on large groups.

The restaurant is teemed with the Bernard Palissy boat which offers a mini cruise down the Charente river from Saintes ending at Le Moulin de la baine for a set menu and return trip from Tuesday to Sundays. Their speciality is a huge baked alaska, sometimes requiring several staff to carry it in for large groups.

They welcome families and children too and have a pleasant childrens menu. When they were very young we used to take it in turns between courses to take them exploring beneath the bridge through the tunnels where the river water rushes through – they loved it and it kept them happy during a long grown up lunch on sunny afternoons.

It is also lovely to walk over the bridge to the island where the canal meets the river and you can watch barges negotiating the lock.

Visit their web site here

Batia restaurant, Saintes

Located on a boat moored on the river in Saintes the Batia restaurant has a superb location. The menu is upmarket burgers and steak frites plus a few other more refined dishes. Nice ambience, especially on deck on a sunny day and it’s nicely decorated.

 

 

 

When we ate here the service was very slow but trip advisor reviews vary from excellent to awful so it obviously varies

Menus from 15€ to 27€

childrens menu

Visit their web site here

Saint Jean d’Angely restaurants

Saint Jean d’Angely only has a population of around 7000, the size of some villages in the UK; yet it boasts 3 large supermarkets and numerous smaller ones, an A&E unit/hospital a thrice weekly market and numerous bars and restaurants. Here’s a selection of the main ones.

Hotel Restaurant de la Place restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located on the central place near the Maire. Good for an evening out ‘sans enfants’ . it is a hotel restaurant so will have families staying in the holidays but the restaurant is stylish and has large picture windows looking out onto the central square (although this is a car park)  With crisp linen tablecloths and a quiet atmosphere it is ideal for an intimate meal out. We ate here years ago before we had the children and really must go back as it has great trip advisor reviews

menus 25€ – 35€

childrens menu

Les Jacobins restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

 

 

 

 

 

This is a pizzeria restaurant serving wood fired pizzas for takeaway as well as to eat in but it also offers some great down to earth Italien and  French basics like steak frites, spaghetti bolognaise, confit de canard and carbonara. Perfect for a relaxed meal out with the children. It has a good sized inside restaurant plus a smaller outdoor terrace.

A la carte menu, pizzas around 8-10€; pastas around 8€

childrens menu

Le Mareyeur restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Mareyeur restaurant is principally a fish / seafood restaurant but with a couple of meat dishes thrown in . Not eaten here yet but has good trip advisor reviews and several of our families have had very enjoyable meals here so looks like it’s on our list to try out. Located on the furthest square from the centre but still only a few minutes walk from wherever you park in town. Has a nice terrace to the front for summer evenings.

menus 15€ to 30€

La Creperie de l’Abbeye and L’ancre Marine restaurants, Saint Jean d’Angely

La creperie de l’Abbeye and L’ancre marine are both creperies. Not my idea of a ‘meal’ but obviously very popular in this town. Great for a simple lunch maybe after the market.

Carottes et Gingembre vegetarian restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carottes et Gingembre (Carotts and ginger) is a vegetarian restaurant which is quite a novel thing in rural France so is subsequently quite popular. It also has vegan and gluten free options. It’s number two on trip advisor after Le Scorlion. Find out more on their web site here

menus 15 – 20€

These are just a selection of the main restaurants found around our family friendly holiday accommodation here in the Charente Maritime region of South West France.

Most families who stay with us tend to have lunches out when they are sightseeing then come back to the cottages and light up the barbecue or have a simple alfresco meal of fresh crusty bread, patés, cold meats and salads together with a crisp chilled glass of wine whilst sat watching the sun go down on their terrace. Occasionally they’ll have an intimate meal out one evening whilst I look after their children in their cottage or pop out with the kids to one of the bistros in Saint Jean d’Angely I’ve mentioned above. I’d love to receive comments from families who’ve stayed with us on how they enjoyed any of these restaurants . Thank you.

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Ernest le glacier, La Rochelle

Whenever visiting La Rochelle we recommend popping into Ernests ice cream shop; we always make time, usually after a meal at Andrés seafood restaurant

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It’s always busy and there’s often a queue but it’s worth it. There is an array of ice creams to choose from,(100 apparently) too many really – it’s often really hard to choose which one or ones to have !

 

 

 

 

The flavours range from strawberry, vanilla and chocolate to lime with basil, bubblegum, fig and melon in Pineau – yumm.

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They now have two shops in La Rochelle and one in Niort too. They do ice lollies, cornets and ‘pot Italien’ which you can fill with up to 10 different flavours and share with friends !

The scoops are always really generous – these double scoops below cost 4€

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Le Scorlion restaurant, Saint Jean d’Angely

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We have been frequenting the Le Scorlion restaurant in Saint Jean d’Angely for 20 years and have enjoyed the food there from all the three restauranteurs that have owned it during that time. We are incredibly lucky to have such a top class restaurant in our little town of St Jean with it’s population of just 8000 people.

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Thomas and Claire Routhieau

Le Scorlion and it’s present owners Thomas and Claire Routhieau are really pulling out all the stops to really put the restaurant on the map. Having travelled all over the world and working at the Georges V in Paris no less, Thomas is putting all his experience into his menu and dishes and it really shows. The food is becoming more and more refined and has this year been awarded the new ‘ l’assiette Michelin’ for recognition of a really good quality meal.  The restaurant also has two knives and forks which recognises ‘good quality’ in terms of the restaurant itself – table setting, greeting, service etc

Worth a babysitter

We always recommend this restaurant to our families staying with us in our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime. It provides a lovely grown up ambience all year and in summer has a delightful wooden deck terrace at the front, inside the old Abbey cloisters – perfect for a warm summer evening. If our families ask for a recommendation we generally send them here as the quality of the meal is worth paying the babysitter (me !)

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Recent visit

We ate here quite recently with the boys and had a lovely Sunday lunch. It was very busy with both the terrace and inside full so it’s important to make a reservation (we will do this for you when staying with us)  We all chose the Menu Gourmand at 39€ (there’s no childrens menu and our two wouldn’t choose it if there were !) which includes ‘La Surprise’ if you are adventurous – which we are and it was a delicious piece of …………. (shan’t spoil the surprise) They will suggest a wine to accompany the surprise if you ask.

Amuse Bouches

We love restaurants where they bring you the bite sized hors d’oeuvres and we always get at least two at Le Scorlion. It makes you feel like you are getting really good value for money ! They change regularly so it’s always a treat as you never know what they’ll be.

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The Menu

Thomas has three menus: menu de l’abbaye at 26€; menu Gourmand at 39€ and their mid week lunch menu is just 16€50 plus their occasional brunch menu individually priced dishes such as eggs benedict, pancakes, grilled fish with potatoes, ceasar salad with confit of duck and a variety of desserts

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The future

We’d love to see some home made rolls of different flavours – walnut and fig for example and butters to go with them as we have experienced at some Michelin starred restaurants and a dedicated wine waiter too.

We love their themed nights with Jazz and their regular brunches where they offer a completely different menu and hope those continue.

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K-bane restaurant – seafood lovers heaven, Ile d’Oleron

Leave early !!

We rarely have the time to visit the coast in summer but since last weekend was our wedding anniversary , Chris fancied some Gillardeau oysters so we cleared our schedules for the Sunday and headed out for the Ile d’Oleron where Gillardeau has its oyster beds, shop and 24hr oyster vending machine !

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We had planned to spend an hour or so on the beach before some lunch and before it got too busy but unfortunately we didn’t get going until 11am and should of known better We ended up in a 40 minute traffic jam – at this time of year the coast is a nightmare and we vowed never to attempt the journey again so ‘late’ in the day ! Top tip for summer excursions to the coast LEAVE EARLY !!

K-Bane restaurant

By the time we escaped the jam it was lunchtime. We had heard of a seafood place just after the bridge that is famous for it’s mussels ‘eglade’ (or eclade as it’s known on the mainland) Jean – Patrick, the owner and ‘ostréiculteur’ (oyster harvester) has been selling his oysters to the Paris restaurants for 20 years but wanted to get back to his roots and conserve his links to his original customers on the Island so opened a restaurant in a cabin just across the Ile d’Oleron bridge and next to his oyster beds; the  ‘K-bane’ seafood restaurant was born.

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Eglade or Eclade ?

The Ile d’Oleron is also famous for it’s mussels as well as it’s oysters and a well known Oleron recipe is the ‘Eglade’ . This consists of a tray of mussels standing upright and covered with pine needles from the many pine forests on the island. These are then set alight and the mussels are cooked in the heat and take on a smokey flavour. It’s quite a spectacle to watch and the preparation for each plate takes around half an hour so must be ordered in advance. We were a little confused at first as to the correct name as we had seen signs for both Eclade and Eglade – was it two different recipes ? Apparently not – Eglade is the ‘correct’ name originating on the Ile d’Oleron; Eclade is what the ‘mainlanders’ call it !

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The restaurant is a seafood lovers heaven – it’s for purists – nothing other than oysters, mussels, crab, lobster, bulot, langoustine and prawns on the menu. All dishes are served with sauteed potatoes and the desserts are simple (ice cream, galette charentaise and iles flottantes) We had hoped to try the famous Eglade but the dish has to be ordered in advance, so we had to content ourselves with oysters, fish soup, moules marinier and lobster !

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We had a delicious meal and thought the quality, freshness and value were all excellent, we’d highly recommend the K-bane and will definitely be returning.

That day was quite an oyster fest as on the return we picked up the Gillardeau oysters we had come for and enjoyed those with a few bottles of delicious white wine back at home.

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The service at K-bane was excellent, very friendly and efficient too. The restaurant is open from Easter to the end of September. Full details and opening times can be on their web site  here .When staying at any of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime we can organise the Eglade experience for you. We shall definitely be going again, but this time we shall leave much earlier to avoid the traffic and also we shall reserve our ‘Eglade’.

For details of all our properties here in the Charente Maritime region of south west France visit us at www.french-gites-and-villas.com

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Jean Balluet – the alternative Cognac tour

Each week at our barbecues I bring out my now famous ‘chocolate chip cookie’ dessert and Chris brings down a frosty bottle of ‘Tempete de la mer’ (stormy sea) This delicious liqueur drips into your glass and then glides down your throat with the ease of melted chocolate and just as gorgeous. Its sweet and chilled with a slight ‘petillance’ and 30% alcohol,so its pretty lethal !

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The cries of ‘wow’ and ‘that’s delicious’ are heard every week and inevitably at least one family will make the 30 minute drive a day or so later to stock up on this ‘sparkling Cognac’ as we call it, to take home with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cognac houses have never heard of it. It can only be found exclusively from Jean Balluet, the producer in Neuvicq le chateau, east of Saint Jean d’Angely.

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You can visit the Chateau too

Since many of our guests at our family holiday cottages visit Balluets, we rarely make the journey ourselves these days, we just ask them to buy a few bottles for us when they go, however last week we were completely out and since we were on our way back from Angouleme we popped in. This time our eldest son was with us. He hears the stories every week about Jean Balluet and his ‘alternative Cognac tour’ but has never been himself . It’s been about 15 years since we ourselves have done his tour around the distillery – we usually just pop in buy what we need and leave; but today we had some spare time and decided it was time Benjamin had the pleasure.

You would need to know where it was to find it, blink and you’d miss it. No big sign (I don’t think there’s any sign) and not much to look at. A few stainless steel tanks at the back, but those can be found all over the area, as many farmers produce wine to sell to the large Cognac houses to distill since we are in the fin bois region of Cognac vineyards. 2016-06-21 11.20.10 2016-06-21 11.20.45

Jean wasn’t there that day, it was Arlette, a neighbour and friend of Jeans who took us on the tour. (probably a good thing as Jean is quite the comedian but his jokes are a bit on the rude side – our 13 yr old would die of embarrassment !)
She starts the tour by getting you to look in the mirrors which are straight from the fairground – making you fat or thin or very short (they don’t do that on the Hennessy tour !)

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Arlette then locks the front door and takes you passed rows of barrels in a dark passage to where you have the tasting session. We passed by the next part as Benjamin was with us and it was only 11am ! This tasting of the Balluet Cognac and Pineau is legendary. You get to taste everything and you get huge glasses of the amber liquids – make sure you have a dedicated driver !!!

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The Cognac barrel is next – you get to take a big sniff and as you do Arlette blows through another hole so you get blown away by the Cognac fumes up your nostrils – certainly clears the airways (I always remember Jean asking for the lady with the largest chest and lowest cut top to bend down to the barrel for this trick !)

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You get to see where the grapes come into the distillery and the grapes are separated from the stalks in the grappoir. You are shown the maceration and storage tanks, the swan neck copper still and finally row upon row of barrels filled with eau de vie, maturing and waiting to be blended into Cognac. You are shown the whole process from beginning to end . This isn’t the glossy, slick tour of the famous Cognac houses – it’s the ‘real’ tour of a real working distillery. The floors are sticky, cobwebs hang in every nook and cranny, you bend to walk under pipes and past stainless steel tanks.

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La ‘piece de resistance’ is the tower ! Four flights up a dark, wooden staircase to a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. 15 years ago it was just the view, now there is a big orientation map and two telescopes.

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Our son felt very privileged to of done the Jean Balluet tour that he had heard so much about; we are privileged to have such an excellent local Cognac producer who thinks outside the box and has developed new products to attract new business. Unfortunately they had run out of sparkling Cognac until the 10th July, so we shall be going back very soon. We did however buy some of his sparkling Pineau which is just as delicious (and slightly less deadly) the problem is it was so delicious we went through two bottles before the barbecue even got going !

To make a day of it, you should also visit the Siecq winery just a few minutes away. No tour but you can have a tasting of all they produce. We have a chilled bottle of their Sauvignon for our guests when they first arrive and use their Pinot noir on our Taste du Terroir evenings. They also do a superb sparkling wine (champagne method) for just 6€ so well worth a visit.

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If you have travelled to us in the car rather than flying you can also fill up plastic bottles of your own with their vrac wine sold by weight .

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In fact trying and buying local wines, Pineau and Cognac and being able to take some home with you is one of the main reasons we recommend driving to us here in the Charente Maritime ! For more information about our family holiday cottages visit our web sites

www.grangedumoulin.com

www.lesvallaies.com

www.french-gites-and-villas.com

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Ten reasons to love (and visit) the Charente Maritime

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We love the Charente Maritime ! After 20 years here, it is most definitely home to our family and we thought you should know why we love it and why you should love it too – or at least visit ! Stay in one of our family friendly holiday cottages located centrally within the region – ideal for visiting all the fabulous places the Charente Maritime has to offer.

Top ten reasons to love and visit the Charente Maritime

 

10, WEATHER

 

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The Charente Maritime has the most sunshine hours per year after the cote d’azur but it’s a lot closer ! It is recognised as having a superb micro climate with mild winters and gorgeous summers with much less rain generally than the Loire to the north and the Dordogne to the south but just enough to keep it lush and green most of the year rather than the dry south coast.

It is usually warm and sunny from Easter until the end of October but rarely gets unbearable. June is our favourite month – all the crops are fully grown, the sunflowers are in full glory and the temperatures are just perfect; hot and sunny during the day but cool enough overnight to be able to sleep comfortably.`

9, FOOD

P1110427-250x187I can’t really claim that the Charente Maritime is the only part of France that has great food; as all French people will tell you, France has the best food in the world ! I shan’t argue, we love our food and we love French food ! We particularly love the local Charente Maritime food of course. Gillardeau oysters are a particular favourite; goats cheese from Melanie Boursin in La Villedieu, Pineau from the Cartauds in Corpeteau and the local galette with angelica dipped in honey from l’abeille galante in Cherbonniers (all just a few km from us)

Every town, however small, has a market at least once a week where the locals buy all their fresh produce – meat, fish, fruit, veg and of course cheese. The Charente Maritime is no exception. There is a market somewhere every single day. France has literally hundreds of cheeses. President Charles de Gaulle was famously quoted as saying (in French of course) ”How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” (others claim it’s actually more like 450 !) The Charente Maritime is famous for its goats cheeses and we have a number of local producers who sell from their farms or at the local Aulnay and Saint Jean d’Angely markets.

France is renowned for its patisseries, it’s pastries and of course its bread. Local bread deliveries are still made to the outlying villages that can no longer support a boulangerie. There’s no experience that makes you feel more like a local than the bread van stopping to give you your daily baguette, you can also catch up on the local gossip !

France is also home to the Michelin guide which awards ‘stars’ to top restaurants around the world. The Charente Maritime boasts 45 Michelin selected restaurants, two of which have star ratings but we know of dozens more restaurants that are absolutely superb. One of our favourites is Andrés in La Rochelle.

Our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely has a great selection of restaurants from family friendly creperies and pizzerias to superb bistros and top class dining worth a babysitter too. Whatever your taste and budget you’ll find something that suits you in the Charente Maritime.

8, LA ROCHELLE

2015-12-22 12.15.48Our county town, La Rochelle is known all over the world. It’s where the rich and famous pull into port in their yachts and gather to eat in Michelin starred restaurants and shop for jewellery. It’s also where you and I can watch the world go by whilst enjoying a coffee in one of the many cafés or eat moules frites in one of the hundreds of seafood restaurants.

Just an hours easy drive from our family holiday cottages, this beautiful city has something for everyone. Families will enjoy the great aquarium, a play on the beach and a walk through the park.

History buffs will enjoy the maritime museum, climbing the port towers and wandering the cobbled streets of the old town with its half-timbered medieval houses and Renaissance architecture and passageways covered by 17th-century arches.

Gourmets will enjoy the hundreds of restaurants, heavily dominated by seafood around the port but foods from around the world can be found down any street. The markets are overflowing with fresh fruit, vegetables and of course fish, oysters and mussels.

Find out more about La Rochelle here

7, WINE

2015-07-22 11.35.49This area is mainly known for it’s Cognac and most of the vines you see in every direction will be used for the production of Cognac. However we are just a boat ride away from the top end of the Medoc, the vineyards for Cognac soon merge into the vineyards of Bordeaux and the top names of Pauillac, Margaux and Saint Emilion . The world famous city of Bordeaux is just a 1hr30 drive from our door.

Small independent wine producers can be found all over the Charente Maritime. We have a number of local wine makers within 30 minutes of our holiday cottages that we highly recommend; Chris has worked in the wine industry all his life so he knows what he’s talking about too !

Whilst driving along the quiet country lanes you will often come across a sign to a local wine and Pineau producer (Pineau is the local tipple – an off shoot of the Cognac industry) Stop and taste their produce, meet the man (and/or woman ) who makes it and buy some as a souvenir of your holiday in the Charente Maritime.

6, COGNAC

IMG_0697A family holiday to the Charente Maritime would not be complete without a visit to the world famous town of Cognac – home to the celebrated brandy – All Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac – only the spirit produced in this area is allowed to given this prominent name.

Just cheating slightly Cognac is just a 30 minute drive from our family holiday cottages and centrally located within the Poitou Charente (it’s actually just on the Charente side rather than Charente Maritime but I’m claiming it as it’s so close !)

Cognac is home to renowned distillers such as Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin and Otard.

All the houses offer tours to the public giving vistors an insight into the history, production and taste of their product. There may be other towns in the world called Cognac but this is the only one that can make it and it’s (nearly) in the Charente Maritime !

Find out more about Cognac here

5, BEACHES

280908 045The Charente Maritime has literally hundreds of miles of coastline and sandy beaches. With the four islands, Ile de Ré, Ile d’Oleron, Ile d’Aix and Ile Madam that are also included in this department plus the famous beach resorts of Royan, Chatelaillon plage and Fouras to name just a few, you won’t be short of beaches to relax on.

The mainland offers calm, shallow waters, ideal for families with younger children. For the older and more adventurous, just head over to the Atlantic side of the larger islands for body and wind surfing with big breakers.

Many beaches are protected through the Conservatoire du Littoral (the coastal protection agency) so remain unspoilt. The most popular beaches will have lifeguards on duty and the safer places to swim are marked .

Whatever your requirements for a day at the beach – be it sunbeds for hire, top restaurants, shade and toilets or natural beauty, peace and quiet you will find it on the beaches of the Charente Maritime.

Find out more about the beaches here

 

4, LOCATION

charente maritimeThe Charente Maritime is located about half way down France on the left ! South of the Loire, north of the Dordogne.

We are just a 4hr30 drive from the port of St Malo; 6hrs from Caen or 8hrs from Calais – far easier to reach the sunshine and beaches than having to drive all the way to the south coast.

The region is well supplied with a number of airports – La Rochelle is our closest at just 1hrs drive, then Poitiers at 1hr20 and Bordeaux at 1hr30; all the low cost airlines fly to these cities during the summer months.

Our local town of Saint Jean d’Angely is on junction 34 of the A10 motorway so links to all the major towns and cities easily.

Find out more about the location here

3, SIGHTSEEING

20150211_141139The Charente Maritime has endless places to visit and things to do. You may of already heard of La Rochelle, the Islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron (certainly if you’ve been paying attention you will of !)

Maybe you’ve also heard of Royan and it’s beaches, Rochefort and the Corderie Royal (as well as the Hermione) Poitiers too but the Charente Maritime is also home to Saintes and it’s Roman ampitheatre, La Palmyre and its animal park, the citadelle de Brouage, la cite de l’huitre, grottes de regulus, and numerous chateaux, ports and museums to visit as well as parks, churches (above is our local Aulnay 12th century church) woods and forests and endless country lanes and cycle paths.

All the towns have an office of tourism where you can pick up local information on where you are staying and what there is to do close by.

Find out more about what to see and do in the Charente Maritime here

2, FAMILIES

Child-Friendly-BeachesThe Charente Maritime is the perfect location for families. The weather is just perfect – lots of sunshine but not unbearably hot. The location is perfect as it’s not too far to drive and is well supported for airports too.

The French are so welcoming here in rural France. They love children and they are welcome in restaurants – even the 2 star Michelin restaurant in La Rochelle has a high chair !

There’s something for all the family; beaches, animal parks and aquariums for the kids, history, culture and shopping for the adults  but you can also escape to the peace and tranquility of the rural French countryside.

Relax by the pool or sit under the shade of the vine reading a book whilst the children play with new found friends here at our family holiday cottages.

Find out more about a holiday with children here

1, US !

chris50BWe couldn’t write a top ten list of reasons to visit the Charente Maritime without including ourselves ! Our family holiday cottages, gites and villas are ideally located within the Charente Maritime to take advantage of all the above reasons to visit.

Our properties are all owned and managed by ourselves so you know you will receive excellent, personal service – just read some of our reviews on our web sites and on trip advisor to see why families return again and again to stay with us in the Charente Maritime .

They love the Charente Maritime and we are positive that you will love it too.

Visit our web site now for more information

For families – www.grangedumoulin.com and www.lesvallaies.com

For groups of adults or families with older children – www.french-gites-and-villas.com

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Wine tastings at our family holiday cottages

When staying at our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France we can offer exclusive wine tastings and other wine related activities. Professional wine tastings, Family vineyard tours and Taste du terroir social evenings which all add to mum and dads holiday enjoyment.

Our wine tastings and other wine related activities are organised by Chris Blakeman – our very own professional wine expert. He has made his living in the wine industry teaching ‘wine’ to employees, wine tasting as a judge at the international wine challenge and working within the hospitality industry for over 20 years. It is also a passionate hobby and he enjoys sharing his knowledge to all who are interested and dispelling some of the mystery which surrounds wine.

Wine

We are ideally situated in France, here in the Charente Maritime, the family holiday cottages are in fact in the heart of the Fin Bois region of Cognac and vines can be found in any direction. Bordeaux and its world famous vineyards are only a 1.5hr drive.

 

 Professional wine tastings at La Grange du Moulin

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Six fine wines will be selected to give a well rounded and enjoyable tasting. The evening is intended to be an informal and friendly chat about wine where you feel at ease and able to ask any questions you wish about wine. Chris will go through in detail how to taste a wine including appearance, nose and taste. You will have the chance to make notes and discuss what you see, smell, think about each wine. No one will be put on the spot and you can say as much or as little as you wish. In all it lasts about 3 hours. Held in our front garden, baby monitors should reach from your cottage.

8 per group, no children. 30 euros per person.

 

 Family Vineyard walks at La Grange du Moulin

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Our family vineyard walks are held each week. We start with a cold glass of Pineau – the local tipple, for the adults and a short chat about this locally made drink. We then take a gentle stroll along the country lanes and tracks towards the vineyards. Stopping regularly along the way, Chris talks about the countryside, its history and uses today, how vines grow and why wine tastes like it does, plus anything else you would like to know. Lasts about 2hrs. Not strenuous, can take prams although a bit bumpy through the vines.

min 4 adults, 8 euros per adult, free for children

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Taste du Terroir evenings at our family holiday cottages

If you can’t make on of our wine tastings we have Taste du Terroir evenings as an alternative (or as well as !) or as an extra social evening. Here we have a selection of local produce, wines and food all sourced from within 20km of our gites and produced by small family owned enterprises. Held early evening and in the garden so the children can play whilst mum and dad enjoy the local delicacies – not a meal, more of an aperitif, very relaxed and informal. You can chat to Chris about the wines and Wendy about the food or just chat to the other guests about anything at all.

min 6 adults, 15 euros per adult

2015-06-17 18.04.43For full details of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime, France visit our web site www.grangedumoulin.com We have a range of cottages to choose from for all the family or if you prefer we also have several stand alone private villas which would be ideal for a group of adults wanting to enjoy a relaxing wine themed holiday. Find out more at  www.french-gites-and-villas.com

content by Wendy Blakeman

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Rémy Martin Cognac house

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It was my Birthday on Wednesday and we had cleared our schedule for the day so we could have a ‘day out’. After 20 years of living in the Fin Bois region of Cognac we have visited many of the large names – Otard, Martell and our favourite – Hennessey but since Hennessey is closed for the summer this year we thought we’d try one we had never been to before and a little harder to get to – Rémy Martin.

It is located just a few km from the center of Cognac, on an industrial estate. The web site recommends booking a tour in advance and indeed if you just turn up there didn’t seem anyway of accessing the reception as the gates appeared to be kept locked, security also was quite tight with hand bags being checked on entering – very different to Hennesseys relaxed ‘open door’ shop and tour reception area. Still we had booked so were let in by the security guard. We were on the 11am English tour and there was another at 1.30pm. The 1.30pm tour seems to be a regular event but the 11am one is ‘on demand’ depending on numbers of anticipated or booked visitors.

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The tour lasts 1hr30 which is split into a 1hr tour and then 30 mins in the tasting room and shop. We had heard there you tour on a ‘train’ which goes into the vines – we thought this might be a great Cognac tour for our guests at our La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies family friendly holiday cottages since most have young children so a tour about Cognac needs to be fast moving and visually stimulating enough to keep the children happy whilst Mum and Dad learn about this delicious drink ! The Hennessey tour starts with a boat ride across the river and the Remy train ride sounded just as good !

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Our guide Max was excellent, he spoke perfect English with a wonderful accent. He regularly asked if we had understood and made a point of saying we must tell him if we don’t – I suspect they receive numerous complaints from foreign tourists moaning that the tour guides don’t speak perfect English – likely a reflection of the ignorant tourist rather than the tour guides. The tour started with a description of the Cognac region, terroir and the history of the Rémy Martin company, a company founded in 1724 by a young wine grower in the region and is now in its 5th generation. We took our ‘train’ which actually turned out to be a row of electric carts which we hopped on and off throughout the tour as it took us to the different ‘chai’ on the large estate. We did pass some vines located on the estate, but just a few – we have far more within a short walk of our family holiday cottages.

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 We were told about the barrel making process, visited one of their many chai and told about the ageing process and also visited their oldest chai filled with barrels containing eau de vies over 100 years old and from which they make their most prestigious Louis 13th Cognac at 2600€ a bottle – we didn’t get to taste this one ! They do however do a Louis 13th tour which is by appointment only and includes a full day including a gourmet lunch and of course a tasting of this very special Cognac – I suspect it costs a little more than our 18€ ticket.

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Our tour ended with a tasting of their VSOP and XO cognacs which were each paired with an ‘amuse bouche’ – A parmesan galette with roquefort cream for the VSOP and a divine passion fruit macaroon with chocolate filling with the XO – they really worked well together with the Cognacs. The children were given a fresh orange juice with some biscuits and a few sweets.

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All in all we had a lovely day. It was a professional tour including everything you needed to know about Rémy Martin and Cognacs in general however although our children aged 12 and 9 were welcome (and free) and the tour held their interest, for much younger children it wasn’t as visually stimulating (for little ones) or as fast moving as the Hennesey tour and the ‘train’ wouldn’t hold muster with even the youngest of kids !

content by Wendy Blakeman

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Aulnay market

2015-07-05 11.20.49  The Sunday morning market in Aulnay de Saintonge in the Charente Maritime department of SW France has been a regular haunt of ours over our 20 years of living here and it’s still as popular as ever.

This bar/restaurant ‘Le Colombier’ on the market square is where we sit and enjoy a drink and watch the world go by both on a hot summers day and a cold crisp sunny day in mid winter. The first time we went we asked for a croissant (or three) to dip in out hot chocolate, as all good French people do. To our surprise they did not (and still don’t) serve croissant and suggested we pop over to the boulangerie on the other side of the square to purchase some – which of course we did and still do.

The market itself is quite small – I often tell guests they could hold their breath walking around it ! Its not quite accurate but it isn’t a huge market – but it’s quality not quantity that matters and in this delightful small market town you can purchase anything from a mattress to mussels, or fennel to flowers.

2015-07-05 11.50.19 Over the years a number of British ex pats have started up businesses here, you can buy English books from Bens book store to beautiful hand painted cards from Angela Berry designs; even the famous ‘Popsy’ started out here selling takeaway Indian – she now has a thriving restaurant in St Jean d’Angely with a good mix of both British and French clientele.

The Brits have not in anyway taken away from the French nature of the market at all, there is still a majority of very French owned stalls selling oysters and octopus; garlic and grillon, saucisse and snails.

 

The flower stall is one of our favourites and you’ll always be faced with a long queue to purchase a beautiful bouquet for an amazingly low price, the owner does the Saturday morning market in Saint Jean d’Angely too. Just ask him to make up a bouquet for 20€ and you’ll be amazed at what you get.

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The flower stall is one of our favourites at the Aulnay de Saintonge Sunday market

This is also the place to purchase your Sunday ‘fruit de mer’ platter, choose from an array of delicious seafood, fresh fish, oysters and mussels.

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An ideal Sunday morning outing when staying at our family friendly holiday cottages La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies here in the Charente Maritime, France. Then why not have a leisurely lunch at your holiday cottage with all the delicious charcuterie, fresh salads and seafood you have purchased before heading over to St Savinien ‘port miniature’ – an absolute must for families with young children.

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content by Wendy Blakeman   wendy@childfriendlygites.com

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les Pigeons Blancs – restaurant Cognac

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Today we were celebrating a friends birthday and decided to try a new restaurant – well new to us any way, the restaurant and hotel have been in existence since 1973 but we have only just got around to going and we are so glad we did.

Les Pigeons Blancs is set on the edge of the town of Cognac (of the drink fame) which is an easy 20-30 min drive from our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime region of France. The hotel has been home to the Tachet family since the 17th century and has been a ‘relais de poste’ since Francois 1st. Family member, Jaques Tachet is the chef.

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It is set in beautiful gardens filled with oak and walnut trees, rose bushes and well manicured lawns. We visited on a perfect day, the sun was shining, the temperature a very pleasant 28c with a gentle breeze – perfect for a long lazy birthday lunch.

We chose the 5 course degustation menu at 59€ a head with one of us choosing a supplement of 16€ for the lobster – the menu was excellent value but the lobster supplement was not, it was a very small lobster dish and not worth the extra 16€ on top when the perfectly cooked sea bass alternative was included in the menu. We had a foie gras starter, the fish course, then duck, cheese and dessert.

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It was a refreshing change to find the cheese course included as so menu restaurants these days seem to be offering it as a supplement.

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We also had a childrens menu (19€) which was a delicately cooked piece of salmon served with risotto followed by a choice of desserts from the dessert trolley – we always think its a sign of a very good restaurant when they offer a grown up childrens menu which any adult would be happy to eat.

The dessert trolley was fab – we were told by Jean-Michel that we had to choose a MINIMUM of 3 desserts so here is our youngest with his strawberry creme brulee, raspberry charlotte and coffee meringue !

 

One of our party also chose the 38€ ‘le nez du marché’ menu which is described as  1/3 of fresh produce, – 1/3 of Skill, – 1/3 of Friendship … Jean- Michel describes the options in detail and it is all the more charming and feels more ‘spontaneous’ than being written on a board. Catherine and Jean – Michel are so relaxed and friendly, you feel very welcome; despite it being a ‘gastronomic restaurant’ there is no stuffiness; we had a very relaxing and enjoyable meal.

Since we welcome families with children, toddlers and babies to our holiday cottages here in France it would not make sense to simply go for a gastronomic meal and then go straight ‘home’ again so we recommend working off some of those desserts with a walk around the André Mermet park, just a couple of km away from the Pigeons Blancs restaurant. Its a bit far to walk with young children although you could take the river bank walk with a buggy which would be beautiful on a sunny day (we were lazy and took the car !)

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Being a very sunny Sunday the park was very busy, filled with families barbecuing, picniking and  eating in the onsite café/bar . There are bouncy castles (optional extra fee)

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a play park, petanque court, huge sandpit, football ground, zip wire, lots of trees, park benches and tables and lots of space to run around and work off that lunch

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all set on the edge of the Charente river where you can hire pedaloes and canoes, go swimming or go for a walk

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All in all a lovely family day out, you could really make a full day out by visiting one of the many Cognac houses in the morning before lunch !

For full details of all our family holiday cottages in the Charente Maritime department of France visit our web site 

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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