What to see and do in the Charente Maritime

What to see and do in the Charente Maritime

charentemaritime2The Charente Maritime region is famous for its Cognac and Pineau production. There are many tiny villages and hamlets to explore. Quaint chateaux are common. Local delicacies include mussels in cream, goats cheese, honey and cake with angelica. Swimming, fishing, horse riding, golf, tennis and rowing are all available during the summer months in the local area. There are also many lovely country walks all year round. The landscape is gently rolling and ideal for cycling. Below we have listed some of the things there are to see and do for families, for children and for adults. the blue links are to blogs we have written on the subjects to give you more insight.

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There’s little need to venture further afield than our local town of St Jean d’Angely, just 10mins away, but if you do there’s a huge range of places to visit and things to do to suit all ages. Details of days out can be found in each of our gites, cottages and villas and you can always ask us too if you run out of ideas.

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At La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies we are just an easy 1 hour drive from the coast, beaches and the famous coastal resorts of La Rochelle, Royan and Rochefort. Its also about an hour to the inland towns of Angouleme, Niort and the area around Poitiers, so we are vey centrally located for the whole Charente Maritime Region. Closer to our gites, cottages and villas you will find Cognac, Saintes, St Savinien all within just 30mins drive.

If you would like further details on any of the places listed just ask. We also have many activities going on at some of our holiday cottages. We hold professional wine tastings on a regular basis throughout the summer, every week we have a walk through the vines that the whole family can enjoy. We hold large barbecues, where everyone joins in and for our younger guests we hold teddy bear picnics and pottery painting and even scuba diving at our child friendly properties.

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What to do with Children in the Charente Maritime:

  • Atlantys Swimming Centre in Saint Jean d’Angely – play pool, dive pool, swimming pool, big slide and hot tubs, great fun when its a rainy day or even when it’s too hot.
  • St Savinien – a must for the young ones, ride on the hand made electric boats around the lake
  • Aquarium – in La Rochelle, a great rainy day thing to do but top tip, go early or very late (it’s open until 11pm in summer)

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  • La Palmyre Zoo – the best in Europe, well known for it’s breeding and rescue programme and its interactivity with the animals
  • Futuroscope – perfect for older children, not so worth while for little ones though, a theme park with rides and a vision of the future
  • Fort Boyard – have you seen the programme ? Take a boat trip to view it (can’t go in but a lovely trip all the same)
  • Nautilys Water Park – a great day out for the whole family . Near Angouleme and with indoor and outdoor pools and slides, perfect for all weathers.
  • Donkey Sanctuary – See the famous shaggy haired Poitou Donkey
  • Valley des Singes – Surround yourselves with Monkeys and learn all about them.
  • ViviLnkPaleosite – watch Dad turn into a Neanderthal, learn to make fire and throw a spear
  • Playgrounds – are numerous in the area, St Jean d’Angely has a good one next to the lake so you can feed the ducks too
  • Karting – in St Jean d’Angely for the teenagers
  • Canoeing and Pedaloes – at the local loisier near the play park in Saint Jean d’Angely

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  • Chateau Branch or Acrobranch – tree top adventures for all levels of ability
  • Chateau des Enigmas – maze and quiz
  • Noahs ark – run by the world parrot trust
  • Puy du Fou – amazing – what can I say ! A couple of hours drive from us but perhaps worth stopping over on the way down or back home. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.
  • European zoo – at Chize for a quieter and closer zoo visit than the one at La Palmyre. European animals. Well laid out.
  • Iles aux serpents – discover reptiles
  • Comic Museum and Chocolate factory in Angouleme

For all the Family in the Charente Maritime

  • Markets – Thrice weekly in St Jean d’Angely
  • Beaches – From La Rochelle down to Royan
  • La Rochelle – for its shopping and amazing aquarium
  • Cognac – with its world famous distillery tours

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  • Saintes – a beautiful Roman town with a fantastic ampitheatre
  • Poitiers – with the superb ‘Futuroscope’ park
  • Bordeaux – and its world famous vineyards, beautiful city
  • Angouleme – has a great water park, museums and shopping
  • Niort – for its history and shopping
  • Rochefort – with the Hermione reconstruction and corderie royal

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  • Royan – with its European awarded animal park.
  • St Jean D’Angely – our local town, shops, markets, park and tourist office
  • Venis Verte – hire a boat and explore the waterways on a canoe or hire a guide
  • Glassworks – in Cognac
  • Cafes, bars and restaurants – in St Jean d’Angely and all the local towns

What to do in the Charente Maritime for Adults:

  • All the above of course plus
  • Golfing – there a number of golf courses within an easy drive
  • Fishing – from river and lake to fishing in the sea. Passes/permits readily available

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  • Concerts – are regularly held throughout the summer season, Cognac Blues and Francofolies in La Rochelle are two of the bigger ones but our local town of St Jean d’Angely regularly holds open air concerts and shows.
  • Scuba Diving – we regularly have discover scuba sessions for children but adults are welcome to join in or if you prefer we can organise private sessions and courses.

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So as you can see the Charente Maritime has a host of fabulous things to do and see and to keep you entertained on your family holiday to France

Content by Wendy Blakeman

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Coolongalook adventure park, Royan

On Tuesday it was Thomas’ 11th birthday and he requested a day at a climbing adventure park. We have previously been to one at Aytré near La Rochelle but had heard about Coolongalook parc and thought we’d give it a go .

Coolongalook adventure park, Royan

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It’s just under an hours drive to Coolongalook parc from our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime and well worth the trip. We booked in advance as it was recommended but the day we went was very quiet and for the first hour or so we were the only family there which was great !

The main attraction of the park is the climbing. You get fitted into a climbing harness and then given instruction on how the system works.The adult and some of the teen courses are not for the faint hearted, if you don’t like heights it may not be the day out for you.

 

Koala continuous belay system

At the previous parcs we had been to there was an element of risk with the climbing as you had to hook and un hook the carabinas at various points along each climb and unless you carefully followed the instruction of always being hooked on with at least one at any time there was always the possibililty of being 3m (or more for older kids and adults) above ground and not being hooked onto anything. At Coolongalook parc they have the ‘Koala continuous belay system’ where you hook on at the beginning and cannot remove the hook until you are safely on the ground again – far safer when you have adventurous kids to supervise.

12m above ground

12m above ground

There are 4 childrens courses suitable for those of 4 years and a meter tall (there are also some non harness courses for even littler ones; then another two courses for tweens of 1m30 or above and a further 2 courses for the adults. We had 6 courses of increasing difficulty to choose from having purchased the Junior ticket and Chris and I have to admit the last two were far too challenging for us !! Thomas and Benjamin managed them but at 12m above the ground and freely swinging blocks to cross it was tough going and both physically and mentally challenging – Thomas loved it !!

Skyfall

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There are loads of zip wires included in courses – the final one is 250m long and starts at 13m above the ground. For adults there is also a 15m free fall jump called skyfall (we didn’t do that one !!) included in the adult ticket

We spent around 2hrs30 completing the 6 courses and although you have unlimited time to do them all again we were shattered and ready for an ice cream at the café. The café does only sell ice creams, soft drinks, chocolate bars and crisps though, so take a picnic with you as there’s no where to buy lunch. There are picnic tables located all around the park and it’s a lovely woodland setting.

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TOP TIPS

  • take a picnic, water and snacks
  •  mossie repellant  is essential
  • go early to avoid the crowds

Laser Battle

The park also has a small area set aside for a laser battle in the woods. We purchased an adventure pass which includes the unlimited climbing, one game of laser battle (20mins) and the ‘man vs wild’ orienteering  course which takes about an hour. Individually we personally did not think the laser battle (10€ pp) and man vs wild course (6€ pp) were worth their individual prices but we were happy with the value for money of the adventure pass which included them.

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For the laser battle you are given a laser gun each and put into teams, you then have 20 mins to shoot each other. It’s a bit hit and miss as the only target that registers is on the gun (unlike indoor laser games where you get a jacket with various targets over the body) Benjamin loved it, Thomas got fed up as it was hard to target people – even still, I came last !

Man vs Wild

At 6€ pp this would be a bit disappointing on it’s own and really should be included when purchasing a climbing pass in our opinion. However we did enjoy it. We were given a list of 12 questions and a compass. We had to pretend we were on a camping trip and various situations arise at each marker which you have to choose the correct response (eg you have very little water left, what do you do a, drink it all at once because you are thirst; b, ration it throughout the day; c, drink only at night ) You mark down your answer then have to use the compass to find the next marker and question.

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We were quite tired and didn’t think we’d actually follow through the whole course but actually it kept our interest as the woodland was quite thick, the trails quite small and climbing over fallen down trees etc made us feel as though we really were in the wild far from anywhere. We finished the whole course and checked our answers at the end (we got over half wrong so probably would of died !!)

 

 

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We had a great day out, we survived with a few aching muscles, the kids loved it and we’d highly recommend giving Coolongalook parc , Royan a go. When staying at our family holiday cottages in the Charente Maritime, France we can reserve your place for you. Visit their web site here for full details of opening times and prices. For more information about our child friendly holiday cottages visit our web site here .For more information on all our cottages, gites and villas visit our web site here

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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Beaches along the Charente Maritime coast

The Charente Maritime department on the west coast of France boasts the second most sunshine hours after the south coast and has literally hundreds of miles of coast and safe, sandy beaches and they are all just an easy hours drive away from our family holiday accommodation (and please note that this is a driving time within the speed limits !) There are safe sandy beaches all along the coast from La Rochelle down to Royan and beyond but we shall just be mentioning the ones you can easily get to for a day out when staying with us.

Child-Friendly-Beaches

The islands of Oleron and Ré are very popular for their beaches. They take slightly longer to get to particularly in summer as traffic over the bridge – particularly to Ile de Oleron, can be quite heavy. Top tip – go early ! The Ile d’Oleron is linked to the mainland by a road bridge, so you can easily visit the island and enjoy the beaches, the fishing or the forest. The three main towns of Saint –Pierre, Saint – Denis and to the south Le Chateau are definitely worth exploring. There are also two forests the Forest of Saint- Trojan and the Saumonard Forest which are both attractive to visit and being on the east side have more sheltered beaches suitable for the younger families staying at our child friendly holiday cottages, La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies. The Oyster farms provide the main source of income to the island and are a tourist attraction in themselves (Read about Gillardeau oysters in our blog) There are numerous footpaths in the forest where you can explore or a favourite with children – Le Petit Train Touristique Forestier which will take you along the dunes and the beaches and through the forest. we-were-here

To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park. St Martin de Ré is a beautiful small town – a mini La Rochelle with its port, restaurants and pretty shops. At the end of the island is the Phare Des Baleines is one of the tallest lighthouses in France (55 meters) and has 250 steps to the top, where you have a great view of the mainland and the islands salt marshes. The island’s still produces around 2,000 tons of salt every year. The islands also boasts some fine churches and well preserved fortifications from the Middle Ages.

The Ile de Ré is a wonderful place to hire a bike (and tag along or child seats too) and take a leisurely cycle along the quiet cycle tracks and lanes. The whole island is set up for cycling with lots of places to hire bikes and lots of cycle routes. To visit the Ile de Ré requires you to pay a toll over the bridge. This makes it a much more peaceful and slightly less touristy island to visit. It has a wide variety of flora and fauna and boasts more than one wildlife park.

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The Il de Ré has no shortage of beaches; the inland side tends to be more sheltered whilst the Atlantic side enjoys some great body boarding waves. Le-Bois-Plage-en-Ré , Plage des Gollandières and La Plage de la Conche are just a few choice and popular beaches.

 

 

 

Chatelaillon de la plage just south of La Rochelle is a popular place for its beaches and probably one of the closest. In summer it has a fun fair starting every afternoon, plenty of restaurants, bouncy castles on the beach, sunbeds to hire and always lots of activities going on for the children. You could spend a morning and lunch in La Rochelle then head down to Chatelaillon de la plage for a couple of hours on the beach.

Fouras1The peninsula of Fouras stretches from Yves Bay to the Charente River. It is also historically interesting and has long been a heavily, fortified area. Originally the fortifcations were needed to fight off the Normans and then the British. Nowadays, the only invaders at Fouras are tourists ! There is a great view from the fort, along the coast to La Rochelle and across to the islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d’Oleron.

Just south of Royan on the coast road  to Meschers are some lovely beaches. At Meschers you’ll find the famous ‘Grottes’ well worth a visit but be warned there are lots and lots of steps ! The beaches south of Royan are far less touristy with fewer facilities but quieter and also because of the cliffs along that area of coast, there is some shade, large caves to explore and rock pools, ideal for when the tide goes out.

La Palmyre coast line north of Royan and of course Royan itself also have some excellent beaches lined with pine forests. At la Palmyre (just past the La Palmyre animal park) Dunes have been man made to provide salt water lakes, so when the tide is out
(it goes out along way) there is still water for the children to swim in and the adults to cool down in.

280908 027We have the local high and low tides listed on our noticeboard so you can plan the best time to visit the beach but be warned it really is very very busy in summer in the afternoon so unless you want to be stuck in a traffic jam looking for a parking space you really are better going first thing in the morning. After a fun filled, hot sandy day at the beach you’ll be glad to get back to the peace and tranquility of our family holiday cottages here in the Charente Maritime department of France.

 

 

google+By Wendy Blakeman

For great family friendly holiday cottages, gites and villas visit us at La Grange du Moulin and Les Vallaies or French gites and Villas

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