Saint Jean d’Angély
In the heart of Saintonge Dorée, Saint-Jean-d’Angély awaits you on the Camino de Santiago. From the Le Pilori Fountain to the clock tower, the historic city unfolds along narrow winding streets, where half-timbered houses dating back to the Middle Ages jostle with private mansions. The city is home to a magnificent abbey, built to accommodate the skull of St John the Baptist. Today, this royal abbey is the cultural heart of the town. From the tops of the towers, you can admire the view across the Saintonge area, which is bathed in gold by the late afternoon sun.
The rolling green countryside of the surrounding area is ideal for nice walks and fishing on the Boutonne. Another stop on the pilgrim’s route is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Aulnay-de-Saintonge – a must for connoisseurs of Romanesque art. Don’t miss your chance to take in the remarkable sculptures at Saint-Pierre Church, considered to be one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in France. Behind the church, you can enjoy walks in the medieval-inspired gardens.
If you have children with you, take the path from Dampierre-sur-Boutonne to the Asinerie du Baudet du Poitou, a nature reserve devoted to protecting local breeds of donkeys. When the sun illuminates the remarkable Romanesque heritage of Saintonge Dorée, the vineyards around Matha are made particularly beautiful. There are lots of great places that promise to immerse you in the magical world of Cognac. The Ecomusée du Cognac in Migron traces the incredible journey of this famous spirit and includes a visit to an old distillery and the unusual chance to sample a range of fragrances. At the Cep Enchanté in Macqueville, the whole family can enjoy wandering among the vines.
In Matha, the magic of the vineyards meets the exoticism of the Bambouseraie with its many types of bamboo and tropical flowers. From churches to châteaux, bucolic countryside to rows of vines, Saintonge Dorée lends itself brilliantly to relaxing holidays.
The Charente winds its way through the area. In one of its loops is Saint-Savinien-sur-Charente, a popular river stop for boaters and a charming place to break up your stay. The Petite Cité de Caractère (Small Town of Character) has artists’ ateliers, as well as the miniature port on Île de la Grenouillette… So what kinds of things are there to see and do in and around Saint-Jean-d’Angély? There are endless discoveries to be made!
On the banks of the Charente, Saintes offers numerous trips themed around history, water and music. Founded by the Romans, « Mediolanum Santonum » was the capital of Aquitaine in the first century. It still has a spectacular and immense amphitheatre known as the Arch of Germanicus dating from this period of prosperity, in addition to the ruins of thermal baths and an aqueduct. Any visit to Saintes invariably includes the Abbaye-aux-Dames and Saint-Eutrope Church.
Here, you’re in the land of cognac, pineau des Charentes and Charente wines. Rows of vines shape the landscape and offer something different to do. From Place François 1er to the quaysides of the Charente, you can explore Cognac, Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History), by wandering its cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses and 19th century mansions.
The town’s destiny has been inextricably linked to its world-renowned spirits. Find out exactly how it is made at one of the prestigious cognac merchant halls. Choose from Baron Otard, Camus, Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell and Meukow in the city centre, or Courvoisier in Jarnac. In winter, venture into the warmth of the distilleries where passionate winemakers offer visitors the magical opportunity to get up close to the stills.
Encouraged by the air of adventure and faraway lands, head out on the water in Rochefort Océan. The renowned spa resort of Rochefort opens onto the Charente estuary (straddled by the latest transporter bridge in France), the ocean, Île d’Aix and Île Madame. Chosen by Colbert to become the largest military arsenal in the kingdom, this Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) was also the home port of the famous frigate Hermione. Spend some unforgettable moments with the family high up on the Accro Mâts, and don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Royal Ropery before you leave either